March 12, 2019 News
ALTIOR is the headline horse of the entire Cheltenham Festival as he lines up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Unbeaten over fences, he is going for a third straight success at the meeting and an 18th victory in a row.
Few people know him better than Jerry McGrath, a Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey who has been part of the team at Nicky Henderson’s since 2012. We spoke to him about the superstar’s prospects, and also got the views of some other key players on Wednesday.
Altior is the star of the show at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. What is it like to be involved with a horse like him?
You’d like to treat him like any other horse but he’s such a good horse you probably end up treating him differently in the end. He’s a one of a kind and horses like him are so hard to find. He’s going to the festival in the very best form and has had a great preparation for it. He’s versatile when it comes to ground so we’re massively looking forward to it.
With horses like Altior, what is the build up to the Cheltenham Festival like?
About a month beforehand the excitement really ratchets up but the last couple of weeks have been nerve wracking as you know if something goes wrong then they miss the festival. But Altior has not had a problem at all this season and he’s in super shape for the race.
Altior jumped to his left at Ascot last time, quite dramatically sometimes. What did you make of it?
I spoke to Nico de Boinville about it in depth afterwards and they made a very valid point in saying he’s only made the running on maybe one or two occasions in his career before then. I think he wasn’t concentrating that hard and finding it all too easy. I wouldn’t worry about it for Cheltenham because he’ll be taking a lead and I suspect he’ll jump as straight as an arrow. It’ll take a very good one indeed to beat him.
Champ is one people are looking forward to in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. What do you think of his chances?
He’s done nothing wrong and was impressive at Newbury both times. He’s in good form and he’s got plenty of speed. I think he’s got a very good chance.
Santini has had a less than ideal preparation for the RSA Chase. Can he overcome that?
Everyone knows his well documented issues with his foot over the last few days. However, if Nicky is happy to run him that means the horse is able to do himself justice. Cheltenham will suit better than Kempton and he’s a very good horse at his best.
What the others say of their key day two runners…
Min – Queen Mother Champion Chase: We’re not looking forward to taking on Altior. Min has had two goes at him and not got close, so you’d need something to go wrong to beat him. That said, I didn’t like the way Altior jumped left last time.
Uradel – Coral Cup: He didn’t get any daylight last time. He’s got a few pounds in his locker and I think this trip is just what he needs.
Blue Sari – Champion Bumper: We has a fantastic temperament and only ever does enough. He’s got a good bit of experience for a four-year-old and I’d expect a very good run from him.
Topofthegame – RSA Chase: He’s a very high-class horse with a big future. I can’t see him not running a very big race. He travels strongly, which will help him, and he stays incredibly well too. His prep has been good and he’s one we’re really looking forward too.
Friend Or Foe – Boodles Juvenile Hurdle: Friend Or Foe has had just the one run for us but he’s totally unexposed. He’s just the right sort of horse for the race and has a bit in hand in the handicap.
Battleoverdoyen – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: He’s a lovely horse. He’s been good over hurdles so far this season and I think he’s got the talent to be running well in races like this. He’s a big horse and he’s going to be better over fences in the long term, but that’s not to say he can’t run a very good race in the Ballymore. I’m not concerned by his relative lack of experience and I hope he can run very well.
Delta Work – RSA Chase: The thing with him is that he jumps extremely well. Sure, it’s no good jumping well if you have no ability to go with it and he’s got class as well. He’s a solid horse who you can trust to go out there and give his all when he races.
Tiger Roll – Cross Country Chase: He’s unreal. He’s one of the best horses around and can seemingly turn his hand to anything and run equally well; there’s not many horses able to do that at the level he does. It was some performance when he won last time and what was even more incredible that after winning the Grand National he could come back to hurdles and give them just as inch and go round there like he was a Champion Hurdle horse! How was he able to do that? The aim is the Grand National again with him but it’s hard to look past him in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham.
Envoi Allen – Champion Bumper: He’s not a horse I know a huge amount about. I’ve sat on him a couple of times at home and he’s a horse that gives you a nice feel and has plenty of range and scope. He’d be a different type of horse to Fayonagh, who Gordon won this race with in 2017, but he’s got a good bit of speed and his runs show he’s got a lot of ability. Whatever happens at Cheltenham he’s one for the future.