Having tasted defeat last time out after such a long unbeaten run, Altior is at something of a crossroads in his career.
There were rumours that Nicky Henderson would send his chaser back down in length to the two-mile distance, but an entry into the weekend’s Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton suggested that the ten-year-old would persevere at the longer mark.
However, it has now been confirmed that he has been withdrawn from the field on Saturday. That follows another missed trip at Kempton during the Christmas period due to an abscess.
There were whispers of Altior’s absence doing the rounds early on Tuesday, and the betting market reacted by backing in the likes of Top Notch and Frodon to push the favourite’s price out from 1/4 to 5/2 in a matter of hours.
And the bookies were left breathing a sigh of relief when the two-time Champion Chase winner was removed from Saturday’s field.
Both Betfair and Paddy Power voided bets on Altior, and Coral’s spokesman David Stevens said:
“For an hour this morning [Tuesday] we were only laying Top Notch for Saturday’s Silviniaco Conti Chase, and just after 10am we took the decision to suspend betting on the race. It therefore didn’t come as a complete surprise when Altior was ruled out of the race later in the morning.
“Incidents like this highlight the need for information to be put into the public domain as quickly as possible, in order for both punters and layers to maintain complete confidence in the sport as a betting medium.”
Stage is Set for an Ascot Return
Horse racing is a sport that moves really quickly, and so it is easy to forget that Altior once broke a world record for the number of consecutive jumps victories – nineteen – when he won the Celebration Chase back in the spring of 2019.
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He was, to all intents and purposes, unbeatable, before connections made the eyebrow-raising decision to step him up in trip.
The aim was a tilt at the King George, with the 1965 Chase at Ascot earmarked as a handy warm-up race ahead of the festive period.
But disaster struck when Altior was well beaten by Cyrname, who was a comfortable winner in the end to dish out the former’s first defeat over fences. It was notable, in many ways, for an apparent lack of gas left in the Altior tank in the final furlongs.
Students of such things will note that Altior is currently entered into the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, which would mark a return to a shorter trip for a renewal he won 12 months ago.
Interestingly, at the time of writing he was available at 6/4 in the ante-post market, with Defi de Seuil and Un De Sceaux around him in the betting. That price could disappear very quickly in the coming days.
And then what happens? Will Altior stay at the shorter trip, or will connections maintain their attempts to turn him into a middle-distance specialist?
The whispers suggest that an entry into the Betfair Exchange Chase on February 8 as part of Newbury’s Super Saturday meeting is in the offing, and that hints at a return to the mark at which Altior made history.