"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If it jumps like an Altior, hits a flat spot like an Altior then finishes with the strength of an Altior, it almost certainly is Altior!"
So says Lee Mottershead in today's Racing Post and I couldn't agree more. On Friday night I was a huge Defi de Seuil fan and was talking to one of our contributors who was firmly on Altiors side... but by the end of the conversation, I had talked myself into taking the 11/4 on offer for the Champion Chase! My thoughts were that he should, and would win the Game Spirit... and regardless of how he won the bookies would have absolutely no choice but to shorten him.
His campaign this year has not quite gone to plan as it has in previous years when the season target was the defence of his crown. I won't waste words on the attempt to step in up in trip and go for the King George but it resulted in us having seen him only once this year, that run wasn't too shabby either... he finished a couple of lengths behind Cyrname at Ascot; only the highest-rated chaser in the land, on his favourite track, on ground that would have favoured the younger horse. Cyrname would also definitely have been the more forward of the two and Nico de Boinville was understandably easy on Altior when he knew that the race was gone.
So, some 78 days later he faced the tape at Newbury. Understandably a bit fizzy, he raced with visible zest in the early part of the race and gave at least 3 of the fences plenty of air. This was great to see as it confirmed to me that at the age of 10 his love for the game and the battle is fully intact. Yes, he hit a flat spot, but as Lee says he always does, and with only the one outing under his belt way back in November, this time he was entitled to! Yes, he looked to be making hard work of things in the straight but the way he visibly quickened away from them after jumping the last was tremendously impressive, and you would fully expect the race to really bring him on and have him cherry-ripe for the Festival.
Plenty of people have been quick to crab the form of the race but he finished almost exactly the same distance in front of Sceau Royal as he did in last year's Champion Chase. But you can try and crab the race but you can't crab Altior, 18 wins from 19 races, unbeaten at the Festival, unbeaten at the race distance, 2-time Champion... need I go on?
My friend Sam Boswell; the voice of BetVictor told me last year that Altior was by far the biggest loser in their antepost book, and that was for every race he was quoted for!! Such is the huge strength of his partisan following there is no way such a performance would not give people the confidence to step in and take the odds for the champ.
And should Phillip Hobbs and JP decide that The Ryanair is now the safest option for Defi du Seuil, Altior will be odds-on so that 2/1 will look great value... I can hear the groans and gnashing of teeth already!