Altior puts his tall reputation on the line as he bids to take his 100 per cent record over fences to three in the 32Red.com Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton today.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has looked an extra special recruit to the chasing game with two impressive victories.
After making a striking debut at this track in November when he trounced sole rival Black Corton by 63 lengths, the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old treated Grade One opposition with disdain as he took the Henry VII Novices’ Chase by six lengths from Charbel.
Dropping back down a little in class for this Grade Two heat, Altior is likely to be a very short price as he goes for the hat-trick.
Henderson had given Altior an alternative entry in the Desert Orchid Chase on the same card, but opted for the novice race.
“He has been very good and I’ve not looked further (than today). Every race is another step for him and we will see how we get on,” said the Seven Barrows handler.
“At Sandown, I thought he was absolutely excellent. If he does that again I would be more than happy.
“We will see what Noel (Fehily) wants to do and I don’t necessarily want him to go round on his own.
“He got a good lead at Sandown and that was the theory of going into the Desert Orchid, that he would get some good older horses that would go a good gallop and he wouldn’t have to make the running.
“If they are not going to go that quick, you know what that cruising speed is like, it is very high and so if they don’t go quick he may well have to. If he does, he does but if he doesn’t make the running that is fine.”
On the two entries, Henderson said: “It was an idea at one stage. I just thought he might have learnt a little bit more going with experienced horses and then I could have brought Buveur D’Air into the Wayward Lad.
“But Buveur D’Air only ran nine days ago so that wasn’t right. Eventually I decided to stick to the conventional route.
“It is the sensible thing to do. At the time I didn’t think it was stupid, then I woke up the next morning and thought it probably was.”
Only four horses take on Altior, with champion trainer Paul Nicholls represented by Marracudja, who was last of four behind Henderson’s ace at Sandown.
The five-year-old may have just had an off day as he had won his two previous starts over fences at Newton Abbot and Cheltenham.
“He’s already run twice this season. He’s ground dependent as he wouldn’t want it too soft,” Nicholls told www.betfair.com.
“He can get a bit hot. It’s his temperament – he’s all or nothing.”
Dan Skelton’s Stephanie Frances has looked a fair recruit to the chasing game, winning three of her six career starts over fences.
The eight-year-old has been on the go since August, but has kept her form well and was a good nine-length winner over Presenting Lisa in a Listed contest at Bangor on her latest start seven weeks ago.
Richard Rowe’s Zigger Zagger and Mrsrobin from Barry Brennan’s yard make up the quintet.