Saturday Newbury Preview: Altior And Native River On Course To Kickstart Their Seasons
Two of last season’s big Jumping stars – Altior and Native River – have failed to see a racecourse so far this season but the pair look poised to join the present campaign at Newbury on Saturday afternoon in the Betfair Exchange Chase and Betfair Denman Chase respectively.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior is unbeaten in five runs over hurdles, the most significant being a comfortable victory over Min and reigning Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air in the 2016 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and six starts over the bigger obstacles. The son of High Chaparral looked the obvious candidate for this season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase following his easy win in the 2017 Racing Post Arkle, particularly after the surprise defeat of Douvan in the championship contest 24 hours later.
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"I was very pleased with Altior. It was absolutely excellent – as good as ever."— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) January 29, 2018
Things have not gone to plan for the eight-year-old however due to a breathing issue which came to light back in November, which resulted in minor surgery and an interrupted training schedule. Providing the ground does not deteriorate, Henderson is keen to get the gelding back on track after a ten-month absence in Newbury’s extended two mile contest, registered as the Game Spirit Chase. Put in as the 8-13 favourite with the sponsor Altior could face a serious challenge in an effort to keep his unbeaten record with both Politologue ( 11-4 ) and Fox Norton ( 3-1 ) among six possible rivals. The outcome is sure to have a significant bearing on the Champion Chase betting for which Henderson’s superstar is a top price 11-8 with Sportingbet and 188Bet.
Last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National winner Native River has not been seen since finishing a fine third behind Sizing John and Minella Rocco in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March and is one of five horses entered for the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase, the others being Cloudy Dream, Saphir Du Rheu, Fountains Windfall and Traffic Fluide. Available at 4-6 with the sponsor the eight-year-old will do well to get off to a winning start having to give weight all around and on the back of an absence of almost eleven months. A 10-1 chance with several firms including Ladbrokes, Boylesports, Betvictor and BetBright for the Gold Cup, odds which are sure to contract if the Colin Tizzard-trained gelding was to come through his prep victorious on Saturday.
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📽| Native River is back!— James Stevens (@JamesStevens180) February 6, 2018
The Hennessy and Welsh National hero returns in Newbury's Denman Chase on Saturday.
He won last year before finishing third in the Gold Cup.
Could he land the big one at Cheltenham next month?