It will be good to see him line up in the Matchbook Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Some races, some horses, you just have to sit back and enjoy without a financial involvement.
We have seen Altior race 16 times now over hurdles and fences, and we have never seen him lose. Five times over hurdles and 11 times over fences now. The last time we saw him get beaten was in April 2015 at Punchestown, when he finished sixth in Punchestown’s champion bumper, behind Bellshill and Disko and Modus (who was trained by Robert Stephens then) and Charbel (who was trained by Tom Mullins).
Since then, Nicky Henderson’s horse has won 16 races, seven of them Grade 1s, a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and an Arkle and a Tinge Creek Chase and a Champion Chase among them.
It looked like he was in trouble on the run down the hill in the Champion Chase last March, but then his turbo kicked in on the run back up it, and he won by seven lengths.
On Saturday, he will face just two rivals. Fox Norton, who hasn’t run since he was pulled up in the King George in 2017, and Diego Du Charmil, who finished 19 lengths behind Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas. They are both talented horses, Diego Du Charmil is progressive, and it will be good to see Fox Norton back. But there is no betting angle to the race. It is a race for watching and appreciating.
There could be an angle into the Matchbook Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle however, because the favourite Thosedaysaregone is short enough.
Charles Byrnes’ horse was well backed when he made the journey to Wetherby last Saturday, and he duly ran out an impressive winner, but this is a much better race, and he has to cope with a handicap rating that is 9lb higher than last Saturday’s.
He may well win, and Robbie Power takes the ride, and he is progressive, but it looks like he has been priced up defensively.
Ballymoy could represent some value against the favourite at around 6.0. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse put up a good performance to win a handicap hurdle at Chepstow on his seasonal debut.
He could only finish fourth next time in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury, when he raced as if the two-mile trip was not an adequate test, and he duly confirmed that notion when he ran out an impressive winner of a handicap hurdle off the same mark at Haydock just before Christmas over almost two and a half miles.
The handicapper has raised him by 5lb for that win to a mark of 147, but he is only six and that was just his seventh run over hurdles. He has plenty of potential for progression as he gains in experience and becomes more fluent over his hurdles.
Good ground would be a little bit of a concern, but it was good to soft when he won at Chepstow in his debut this season, and it was good to soft when he won the novices’ championship final at Sandown in April. Good to soft ground should be fine for him over Ascot’s stiff two and a half miles.
Better Getalong is a danger. Nicky Richards’ horse ran well to finish second to Ballymoy at Haydock last time, and he is 5lb better off with him today. Also, that was his seasonal debut, so there is every chance that he will progress from it. But he does go well fresh, his record after a break of 50 days or more reads 2111P2. It is not a given that he will progress from that run, and it is easy to argue that Ballymoy had at least 5lb in hand.
Seddon is a danger and New Quay is a danger, but Ballymoy is the bet.
It is interesting that Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Invitation Only in front of Total Recall in the Horse & Jockey Hotel Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles on Sunday.
This is a race that has been won by Don Cossack and Sizing John in recent times, both of whom went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup two months after their respective Kinloch Brae wins, and this year’s renewal is a really interesting contest.
You can understand why Ruby Walsh has chosen to ride Invitation Only. The Flemensfirth gelding has 16 lengths to find with his stable companion on their running in the Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day, but he is 4lb better off at the weights, and he has plenty of scope for progression, an eight-year-old who has raced just eight times over fences.
He was a high-class novice chaser last season, he finished third in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, and he was running a big race in that bizarre Growise Chase at Punchestown when he was brought down at the second last fence. He is going to have to progress from his Tramore run, but there is every chance that he will.
Total Recall is a player too. Last season’s Ladbrokes Trophy winner, he was running a big race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he came down at the third last fence. He didn’t appear to take to the Aintree fences in the Grand National, and he was disappointing in the Punchestown Gold Cup, but his Tramore run was much more like it. It may have been a marginal call between the two Willie Mullins horses for the stable jockey.
That said, Tout Est Permis could be the value against the pair of them. The Gigginstown House horse has put up the two best performances of his career this season since he has joined Noel Meade.
He was impressive on his seasonal debut, his first run for Meade, in winning a handicap chase at Galway’s October meeting off a handicap mark of 128, and he stepped forward from that last time to win the Troytown Chase at Navan off a mark of 138.
A 12lb hike for that win still leaves him with 6lb to find with Total Recall on official ratings, but he was impressive in winning the Troytown, he could have been called as the most likely winner from a fair way out. Also, he is only six, he has bags of scope for further progression.
He is dropping back down to two and a half miles for Sunday’s race, and his future probably lies over further, but he won his beginners’ chase at Gowran Park last season over two and a quarter miles, and he could have sufficient pace to see him run a big race.