This looks a vintage renewal of the Champion Chase with the big showdown between ALTIOR and Douvan finally materialising – not to mention Altior and Min clashing for the first time since they finished 1-2 in an equally-vintage renewal of the Supreme Novices’ in 2016.
Throw in reigning champ Special Tiara, Tingle Creek winner Politologue and a host of other Grade 1 winners, and I can’t remember a deeper Champion Chase.
That said, it’s Altior’s name in bold and it has been all season in my eyes as this guy is the real deal.
I believe we’re talking about the best horse we’ve seen since Sprinter Sacre and I’ve always fancied him to have the better of the much vaunted Douvan, so it’s just great that we’re finally seeing it happen.
Despite being a dual-festival winner over the minimum distance, I’ve always had the hunch Douvan is at his brilliant best on flat, galloping tracks and I’m not totally convinced two miles is his trip, given how he struggled to cope with Special Tiara’s blistering pace in last year’s renewal.
He was allegedly injured in that race, with a hairline fracture of the pelvis given as an excuse for his long odds-on flop, yet I’m highly suspicious of how valid an excuse that is given we have no idea when in the race that happened.
We’ve not seen him since so, sadly for this big duel, there’s a lot of guesswork involved as to where he’s at form-wise.
His teammate Min, however, has enjoyed a far smoother prep, bouncing back from a first-past-the-post disqualification at Christmas to land a Grade 2 at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival.
He beat Special Tiara that day, but let’s not forget that horse absolutely needs good ground to be competitive, and his form with Simply Ned hardly screams Champion Chase class.
It looks like Ruby Walsh has abandoned him for Douvan, which is another negative, not to mention the six lengths he needs to find with Altior on that Supreme form from two years ago.
Altior had a belated start to the season after an unplanned wind op, before he confirmed his form and class by brushing aside the British season’s form horse Politologue in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.
That was a 10/10 performance which saw Alitor cut to odds-on for this date with destiny, yet he’s been eased to a shade odds-against in the last couple of days after a foot infection was discovered on Monday.
Apparently that’s been sorted now – I won’t claim to be an expert on such matters but I’ll trust his participation confirms it – so I see the eased price as a positive from a value perspective.
Sprinter Sacre once won this race at odds of 1/4 and I must say Altior’s price looks excellent value in comparison.
I just can’t envisage any scenario beyond that foot issue causing him discomfort, which may lead to him not travelling, that would see him beaten here.
His jumping is absolutely bomb proof, he thoroughly stays two miles and he simply seems to be quicker than everything he’s ever raced – and let’s not forget he brushed aside now dual-Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air in that Supreme.
The odds say he’s a coin flip to win; he absolutely isn’t.
3pts win Altior @11/10 or best morning price, 15:30 Cheltenham, Wednesday