Altior has won the last two renewals of the Game Spirit Chase – run this year as the Win Bigger On The Betfair Exchange Chase – at Newbury.
Having landed this en route to Cheltenham Festival glory before, he cannot be opposed in Saturday’s 2m Grade 2 contest now down in trip (14:25).
Nicky Henderson’s stable star lost little in defeat when finally beaten over obstacles at the 20th attempt last time out.
Altior was out of his comfort zone and in unknown territory when tackling 2m 5f in the similar grade 1965 Chase on reappearance.
He was far from disgraced when held by Ascot specialist Cyrname at that other Berkshire racecourse. It is the only blemish in an otherwise faultless career over jumps.
The return to going left-handed and dropping back in distance are obvious pluses here.
Altior has been given a mid-winter break, although Henderson did intend to run him in first the Desert Orchid and then the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.
Connections have instead given Altior time to recover from his Ascot exertions and an abscess.
He is 11lbs and upwards clear of his five rivals on adjusted ratings, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t resume winning ways.
As the only course and distance winner in the Game Spirit Chase line-up and four-time Cheltenham Festival winner, Altior still commands tons of respect.
He is fully expected to justify odds of 8/15 with William Hill here and make it 20 wins from 21 starts over hurdles and fences.
Unexposed Dynamite Dollars makes return
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won seven of the 18 renewals this century, so sole representative Dynamite Dollars is a fascinating contender after a year off.
The Ditcheat handler admitted in the week that this is a fact-finding mission with the seven-year-old.
Dynamite Dollars won four of his five novice chase starts last season before injury cut his campaign short.
He beat subsequent Betfair Chase winner Lostintranslation over hurdles, but anything he achieved in this sphere was always going to be a bonus.
The son of Buck’s Boum has only found Lalor on a going day too good over fences so far.
After winning his chase bow at Market Rasen and chasing that one home in the Grade 2 Arkle Trial at Cheltenham, Dynamite Dollars took the step up to the highest level in his stride.
As he collared front-runner Ornua in the last 100 yards and landed the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, he emerged as a leading Arkle contender.
Dynamite Dollars then followed-up in two Grade 2s under a penalty.
The re-opposing Kalashnikov was turned away in the Wayward Lad at Kempton and they now meet off 5lb better terms for Dynamite Dollars.
Although conceding race fitness here, his rival was a poor eighth last time out when not fluent and never travelling. It means Dynamite Dollars could well confirm form.
With Nicholls’ stable on a 33 per cent strike rate in the last 14 days at the time of writing, and jockey Harry Cobden also in fine form, everything looks in place for a big reappearance run.
Dynamite Dollars is open to plenty of further progress and may be the one to chase Altior home at 8/1 with Unibet here. He may need the run though, and is thus only value for a place.
Sceau Royal looks best of rest in Game Spirit Chase
Others have claims of hitting the frame too. Chief among them is Sceau Royal, who placed behind Altior on his last two Grade 1 starts.
Given the Alan King trained eight-year-old’s tendency to jump left, running at Newbury in the Game Spirit Chase is likely to see him in a better light.
Sceau Royal was a disappointing sixth in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on reappearance.
There were excuses in the Desert Orchid last time out when he lost a shoe and finished third to the re-opposing Bun Doran.
As Sceau Royal now meets that rival on 6lb better terms and only has about three lengths to find, he should reverse the form going this way round.
The Doctor Dino gelding needs to give a much better showing in this if he is to have any hopes of being in the mix for what looks like a red-hot renewal of the Champion Chase.
Sceau Royal is 9/1 with Betvictor to give a better account of himself on a sounder surface.
There are reasons to take on the other three Game Spirit Chase runners. Bun Doran is rather flattered by his Grade 2 success last time out in a weak renewal of the Desert Orchid.
This is tougher and it looks as though trainer Tom George found a great opening for him last time out.
Kalashnikov, meanwhile, is hard to fancy on his poor display in handicap company at Cheltenham over further.
Popular veteran Simply Ned is a 13-year-old and making the long trip down to Berkshire from Nicky Richards’ Penrith stables.
He also has the most to find with Altior on these terms, so this represents a real opening for the favourite to bounce back.