Cheltenham 2019: Altior writes history with consecutive Queen Mother Champion Chase triumphs

The Nicky Henderson-trained 4/11 favourite and defending champion did not have things all its own way but was able to win and equalled Big Buck’s 18 consecutive victories over jumps

Nico de Boinville celebrates following victory aboard Altior
Nico de Boinville celebrates following victory aboard Altior

Altior wrote itself into racing’s record books after winning a consecutive Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in dramatic fashion.

The Nicky Henderson-trained 4/11 favourite and defending champion did not have things all its own way but was able to win and equalled Big Buck’s 18 consecutive victories over jumps.

Nico de Boinville mistimed a leap over the water jump midway through the race and a late challenge from Politologue and Sceau Royal had Prestbury Park holding its breath, but Altior delved deep into its repertoire of talent to find some extra pace and win by two lengths.

There was some suggestion that Altior had become a victim of its own success in being so unbeatable that it takes something away from the achievement when it does win, the quality of the field it faces seems so inferior given its grand stature. However, it’s fourth Cheltenham Festival win has placed it as one of jump racing’s greatest ever horses.

It seemed fitting that earlier in the day Henderson’s legendary Sprinter Sacre was paraded to the Cheltenham crowd hours before Altior surpassed its career earnings.

“You can compare them,” said winning trainer Henderson. “I said nobody will ever do that to have had two horses consecutively come into your life like these two is we’re just very lucky people.”

Henderson added that victory was never in doubt despite a below-par start and challenges from Politologue and Sceau Royal, but it did not make watching it any easier.

“It’s nice when it’s over. It’s like hitting your head against a brick wall. The only nice bit is when it’s over,” he said.

“I was a cracking good race for everybody else, for me it was hell.

“The other horses looked to be landing running and getting ahead of him. I just wondered if he was getting a bit lonely out there, then said ‘okay come on, let’s go.’

“You’ve seen him before here go for a bit of a lull two out, and then as you say ‘go on, pick it up and go’ the gears worked.

Saint Calvados set a strong early pace and threatened to disrupt Altior’s tactics, but de Boinville held his nerve and safely brought it home to the delight of the Cheltenham crowd.

“What an absolute monster and aren’t we lucky to be in an age where he’s here,” said the triumphant jockey. “We should just celebrate him. He’s a phenomenal athlete – he doesn’t know how to lose.”

Altior’s win was a welcome one for punters and was just the second clear favourite to win at the Festival this year. Tiger Roll then justified its 11/10 odds in the Glenfarclas cross country and has been given odds as short as 6/1 to defend its Grand National crown at Aintree next month.

The popular Gigginstown horse gave Gordon Elliott his first win at this year’s festival with a fine performance to beat Josies Orders by 22 lengths.

“It’s been a rough week,” said Elliott, who had seen four of his horses backed as favourites fail to deliver before Tiger Roll won.

“Our horses haven’t been running up to par this week, but we have got to keep our head up, keep smiling and going forward.

“I have a good bunch of horses, I haven’t lost faith in them and hopefully my owners won’t lose faith in me.”

Paul Nicholls got his first win of the Festival with victory in a thrilling RSA Chase. Harry Cobden judged his ride well and timed Topofthegame’s attack on Santini and Delta Work to perfection.

In the first race, Mark Walsh won his second of the Festival onboard 8/1 City Island for Martin Brassil in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to upset the odds in the day’s first race. 28/1 William Henry won the Coral Cup with the imperious de Boinville-Henderson combination behind it and it initially appeared that fortune was favouring the outsiders was on the cards for a second day.

However, Altior was on the punters’ side and delivered to begin a run of four favourites taking victory. Tiger Roll delivered in the next before 7/2f Band Of Outlaws won the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for 25-year-old trainer Joseph Patrick O’Brien, then 2/1f Ennvoi Allen duly delivered in the Champion Bumper.

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