Gutsy Altior stays unbeaten after gallant scrap
Altior is a two-time Queen Mother Champion Chase winner and now unbeaten in 18 career starts over jumps, but only after an almighty scare at Cheltenham.
The reigning two-mile champion was briefly headed after the final flight by Sceau Royal in the day two feature contest, but Altior showed his character up the hill to repel Daryl Jacob’s mount (third) and former Tingle Creek winner Politologue in second spot.
The Nicky Henderson-trained winner, now a four-time winner at Festival, was given a hero’s welcome by the Cheltenham crowd afterwards.
His Seven Barrows handler equalled the record of six Champion Chase wins and Henderson admitted that his stable star did well to prevail in the soft going.
“He’s a better horse on better ground, we’ve always said that, and he did get headed,” said Henderson. “But he very quickly found all that was needed. He’s hugely talented, but very brave as well.
“He had to have a little fight there today, but he made it exciting for everybody, including myself.”
Altior is 3/1 to make it a Champion Chase hat-trick at Cheltenham in 2020.
On a decent second afternoon for punters, there were four winning favourites on the trot to close the card.
Following Altior’s win, Tiger Roll demolished the field to retain his crown in the Cross Country Chase.
Keith Donohue’s mount raced clear turning for home and had the race won at the second last in splendid isolation, also notching the fourth Cheltenham Festival win of his remarkable career.
Following his latest score, Tiger Roll is clear favourite at 5/1 with Betfred to retain the Grand National at Aintree, something no horse since Red Rum has managed.
Next to go in was the Joseph O’Brien-trained Band Of Outlaws, who travelled like the best horse in the race and duly quickened well to win the Fred Winter under JJ Slevin.
With confidence soaring, there was a wholesale gamble on Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten bumper runner Envoi Allen as he crashed from 5/1 into 2/1 favouritism.
Jamie Codd pushed him clear two furlongs out and the leading amateur was at his best to withhold the final challenge from Barry Geraghty on board Blue Sari in the JP McManus silks for trainer Willie Mullins – without a winner on day two.
The afternoon began when Mark Walsh, hero of the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, prevailed again with a well-timed ride on City Island for trainer Martin Brassil to deny Geraghty on the Henderson-trained Champ in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The RSA Chase produced a thrilling finish as Topofthegame was produced to leap into the lead at the final fence by Harry Cobden for trainer Paul Nicholls. He outpointed favourite Delta Work and the well-backed Santini in the air and held on gamely up the hill for his first win over fences.
The smart hurdler Wicklow Brave appeared to have the Coral Cup in his grasp for Patrick and Willie Mullins, but they were denied by the flying William Henry for the De Boinville and Henderson team, setting them up the afternoon’s main event.
Odds subject to change.
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