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Monday 22nd January 2018
   
Henderson Happy with Altior

Last season's Racing Post Arkle winner Altior underwent a wind operation late last year to rectify a breathing problem and trainer Nicky Henderson should soon find out if it has had the necessary effect.

Altior
© Racehorse Photos
Altior

He was due to make a seasonal debut in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 9, but Henderson detected a “whistling noise” coming from the eight-year-old and it transpired that it was an issue with his larynx, which wasn't opening sufficiently.

After winning the 2016 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Altior went on to win last season's Racing Post Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival and clinched the jumps trainers' championship for Nicky Henderson with a superb victory in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown on April 29.

The goal this season is to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, and the race is now on to be ready for Prestbury Park.

Most bookmakers have Altior as an even-money or slightly better chance for the Champion Chase however, Ladbrokes announced this week that they will be offering top price on him for a limited time only, quoting a huge price of 7/4.

There are plenty of free bets around, through either signing up for new accounts with bookmakers, or via loyalty rewards.

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The 28 races of the Cheltenham Festival are notoriously difficult betting markets to fathom, whereas the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Stayers Hurdle and Champion Chase are usually less daunting when investing your hard-earned cash.

Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux could be one to upset the party. He won last season’s Ryanair Chase and tends to excel at Cheltenham. Odds are also available on the likes of Waiting Patiently, Fox Norton, Great Field, Top Notch, Special Tiara, Top Gamble, Black Hercules and Gary Moore’s Ar Mad.

Altior’s work at home at Seven Barrows will now be cranked up with the champion trainer admitting he is very close to discovering if the procedure has done the trick.

"Altior's really good and I'm very happy," Henderson said. "He'll be stepping up this weekend, to the point where I suspect I'll nearly know whether I'll hear a noise.

"He'd never made a noise before and wouldn't be making a noise where he is now, but we're nearly getting to the point where he was making one [in November].

Henderson would probably be happy to go straight to Cheltenham without a run, but the Betfair Exchange Chase (Game Spirit) next month at Newbury could come into the reckoning as a interim outing.

The Newbury race is on 10th February and Altior may turn up in a contest he won impressively as a novice in 2017. Henderson would certainly want some work at the track if not in a race.

"Newbury could easily still be on the agenda. No promises, but one thing I would think he'd be doing is coming here for a gallop because he's probably going to need two racecourse gallops and the timing would be perfect for the first one," the trainer added.

Politologue, winner of the Tingle Creek and the Desert Orchid Chase already this season, is around 4/1 to give Paul Nicholls another Queen Mother Champion Chase success while Willie Mullins could land the race for the first time with 7/2 chance Yorkhill.