No worries for Nicky Henderson if Altior heads straight to Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson would have no concerns about sending Altior straight for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival without a prep run.
The seven-year-old won each of his six starts over fences last season, landing the Arkle Trophy at Prestbury Park in March before comfortably beating the Champion Chase hero Special Tiara in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April. He has not been seen in competitive action since, with a "wind problem" surfacing last month and delaying his return.
Altior has since undergone a minor procedure to rectify the issue, but is still some way off a return, with the Newbury's Betfair Exchange Chase - better known as the Game Spirit - on February 10 the only conceivable target before the Festival.
Henderson said: "The Game Spirit is probably the last chance before Cheltenham. We have got to play it by the book and we can't go any faster than the rule book says. He is not even being ridden yet. He is allowed to walk at the moment. He is as frustrated as I am. You are watching the Tingle Creek (at Sandown last Saturday) and you are about to watch the Clarence House (at Ascot in January) and it is awfully disappointing watching it and not being there. I can't believe we weren't going to be involved. It really wouldn't worry me if we went straight to the Cheltenham Festival. We have done this before. We could get there without a race and that is not a worry. If you can get one then of course you go for it, but what I don't want it is to go for a race when you are not ready. It will do more harm than good. We got My Tent Or Yours to a Champion Hurdle without a race for two years (finished second). We can do it that way if we have to. It is perfectly possible to do it."