Altior is chasing history and levelling the record set by Big Buck’s for most consecutive wins in National Hunt horse racing.
Granted a clear round, a fourth consecutive Cheltenham Festival victory and retaining the Queen Mother Champion Chase looks entirely at his mercy on Ladies’ Day this Wednesday (15:30).
You run out of superlatives to describe the Nicky Henderson trained nine-year-old. Altior is one of the sport’s star attractions and his fearsome reputation has scared off plenty of competition here.
When you consider he won this race 12 months ago off the back of a last-minute lameness scare, it’s no wonder. With eight Grade 1s under his belt including three subsequent to his third Cheltenham Festival success in this, Altior continues to maintain his form.
That’s something contemporaries have struggled with and younger rivals can’t take to his level yet. He has beaten Min by seven lengths over both hurdles and fences at this meeting, so there’s no reason to think things will be any different in their third encounter.
On official figures, Altior is 8lb and upwards clear of the field. His roll of honour includes the Celebration Chase at Sandown twice, the Tingle Creek and Clarence House, as well as the Arkle as a novice. At 4/9 with BetVictor, he simply cannot be opposed and those who do take him on are playing for places.
Min the obvious forecast choice
The aforementioned Min may not be able to beat Altior on all known form, but he can still chase him home again.
It must be frustrating for connections as this Willie Mullins trained eight-year-old is also a Grade 1 calibre horse – something he’s proved in Ireland winning both the John Durkan over further and Dublin Chase this season.
With stable companions Un De Sceaux and Footpad swerving an encounter with Altior, Min goes it alone for the yard. Politologue apart, he is well clear of anything else on official BHA ratings as so many rivals defected in favour of running in the Ryanair Chase.
While seeing the race cut up is a pity, there’s no shame in bagging the runners-up prize which is considerable. Min would have to run well below form in order to miss out on second place here.
There seems little point in backing him for a win or each-way, so punters are looking at the to be placed, forecast and without Altior markets instead.
Whether Min is value in any of those depends on whether any of the younger types can improve markedly on previous performances.
He is the obvious forecast choice and his claims of occupying that familiar second spot behind Altior are glaringly obvious here.
While Politologue did beat Min by a neck over 2m 4f at Aintree last spring, Paul Nicholls and John Hales’ runner has been tried over further this season.
The eight-year-old has finished no better than fourth in three previous runs at the Festival, so Cheltenham may not be his track and is worth opposing despite massive 25/1 odds with William Hill.
Veteran God’s Own vulnerable
Despite a very respectable record of snatching minor honours in the Champion Chase, Tom George trained veteran God’s Own looks as though age could catch up with him here.
The 11-year-old clearly retains ability as he won the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter for the second time in his career on reappearance.
He was then far from disgraced in trying to give Charbel 6lb in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. God’s Own is rated the same as Shloer Chase scorer Sceau Royal, who is owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s alternative to Footpad in this.
While the seven-year-old has to reverse form with Saint Calvados in-behind Altior from this season’s Tingle Creek, Sceau Royal does have course and distance form on his side.
Alan King’s runner is rated 3lb superior to the Harry Whittington trained six-year-old despite being bested five lengths at Sandown.
Saint Calvados set off at a breakneck gallop last year’s Arkle over course and distance, but simply couldn’t maintain it.
He may need riding with more restraint if he is to last home and make the frame in this. Hell’s Kitchen is pitched right in at the deep end by Harry Fry, meanwhile, and needs to make great strides on what he’s achieved.
The field is completed by two Irish raiders. Castlegrace Paddy was very impressive on a soft surface when landing a Grade 2 at Cork on reappearance, but fell last time out and probably needs cut in the ground to be most effective.
Ordinary World was last to finish in the Champion Chase 12 months ago and Henry De Bromhead’s runner has the most to find on official figures. Altior and Min make for an obvious straight forecast here.