Ed Chamberlin reflects on a simply stunning performance from Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek in his latest Saturday wrap.
It was horrendous weather, they were drenched down at the start. But Saturday's Tingle Creek at Sandown lived up to its billing.
We'd been talking all week that he’d been working like a Rolls Royce, and it was just so great that Altior delivered on the big day.
Whatever the conditions – he’s a winning machine.
Before the race memories came flooding back of January 2017 as it was a monsoon at Sandown, all our notes got washes away as it wasn’t forecast at all.
You could tell the Henderson camp were worried as the ground was getting deep in the previous race, but Altior doesn’t seem to mind one jot.
The race was everything you wanted as Un De Sceaux was the nine-time Grade One-winner against Altior, the six-time Grade One-winner, in a proper set-to up the Sandown hill. But a hill is when Altior really comes into his own – Cheltenham and Sandown, he absolutely loves the places.
ITV colleague Mick Fitzgerald had said before the race that in 25 years it was the best and slickest he’d ever seen on the Lambourn gallops when Altior was put through his paces in the week. And Luke Harvey, who works his point-to-pointer on Henderson’s gallops, told the viewers that Altior works better than Buveur D’Air. That made me want to hop off the podium and have the lot on.
I think we can safely talk of Altior as one of the greats. He's 15 from 15 over obstacles and unbeaten since his last bumper at Punchestown in 2015.
Whatever the ground, whatever the conditions, he just wins.
I recall last season Nicky Henderson saying Sprinter Sacre’s are giant hooves to fill. Well, he must be getting even closer now.
I thought Un De Sceaux was magnificent in defeat. I love this horse. Though Ruby Walsh said he doesn’t like losing and even at the age of 39 he’s still a bad loser.
I wore my Un De Sceaux scarf with pride after the race and it was great to hear he’ll be aimed at the Clarence House Chase again. A fourth victory there at Ascot would bring the house down.
The atmosphere was electric all day at Sandown and I loved the way they clapped the horses round on the first circuit in the big one.
For the last three weeks now we’ve had a mini Gold Cup, a mini Champion Hurdle and now a mini Champion Chase. And I purposefully didn’t make a big play of Cheltenham quotes after today as these are huge races in their own right.
It isn’t all about the Cheltenham Festival – the last three weeks have been magnificent for NH racing. Which has been reflected by the viewing numbers on ITV – last week 977,000 watched the Ladbrokes Trophy, which is amazing.
These are great races in their own right and that race today may well prove to be better than the Champion Chase come March, as it was certainly better than a couple of recent Champions I can think of.
Meanwhile, it was brilliant to watch the races back over the National fences at Aintree and both were thrillers.
In the feature it was great to see Walk In The Mill win in his famous silks as he was unlucky to miss out last year in the Grand National itself. This Becher display suggests he could definitely be a player come April, with most firms going 25/1 and 33/1 in their antepost lists.
The big eyecatcher in the race for me was Ultragold, who jumped and travelled like a dream. Dropping back in trip, he should be in line for a third Topham victory come the spring.
I’ve got to tip the hat to my old friend One For Arthur, who unseated early on in the Many Clouds, but he’s fine and will go to the Rowland Meyrick next on Boxing Day.
Definitly Red – what a joy he must be for the Martins to own – the chances are he’ll always come unstuck at the absolute highest level, but he’s a wonderful horse who probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
It was definitely a red day with Liverpool beating Bournemouth 4-0 at the time the race was off.
He goes straight to Cheltenham in March and you can only wish all connected with this dour stayer the best of luck.