ALTIOR treated Ascot racegoers to a superb performance on Saturday, writes Dave Wright.
Nicky Henderson’s outstanding nine-year-old breezed home in the Matchbook sponsored Clarence House Chase to extend his unbeaten run to 17 races over jumps.
Only two other runners were prepared to take him on in the 2m 1f contest, but they were not in the same class and it was a one-horse race from when the tapes went up.
Despite tending to veer left at some of the fences, the 1/10 favourite was 10 lengths clear as they turned for home and Nico de Boinville was able to ease him down before passing the post seven lengths ahead of Fox Norton with Diego Du Charmil, the only other runner, a further 34 lengths behind.
Altior will now defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival in March when he will be bidding to equal Big Buck’s all-time record of 18 consecutive wins over jumps.
Henderson and De Boinville were back in Ascot’s winning enclosure after the final race, the British EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle
Qualifier. But this time the jockey had to work extra hard to get 4/5 fav Downtown Getaway home, by a neck in the final stride from Champagne Well.
Having also had winners at Haydock and Taunton earlier in the afternoon, Henderson was bringing up a century of winners for the 10th time in 11 seasons.
“I think that’s our quickest ever hundred,” commented the Lambourn trainer who reached three figures with a 31 per cent strike rate.
Earlier, he and de Boinville had to be satisfied with second place in the Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle with 8/1 shot Colonial Dreams finishing
a length and three quarters behind 4/1 Ballymoy, ridden by Tom Bellamy for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Third place went to the 7/2 favourite
Seddon, owned by Sonning businessman Max McNeill and his family.
Twiston-Davies was completing an Ascot double, having previously seen 11/2 Blue Flight win the Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase with Blue Flight (11/2) in the hands of Mr Zac Baker.
The Rosling King Juvenile Hurdle (Novices’ Championship Hurdle Series qualifier) saw Nick Gifford-trained Belargus (8/1) give Leighton
Aspell his first win after a month on the sidelines with a fractured upper jaw and cheekbone.
The 15/8 favourite Magic of Light, with Robbie Power on board, stayed on strongly in the run-in to win the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle for Irish trainer Mrs John Harrington.
The £75,000 bet365 Handicap Chase turned into a procession as the impressive Cyrname (4/1) – given an attacking front-running ride by Harry Cobden – cruised home 21 lengths clear of second-placed Doitforthevillage.
Having finished seventh of 13 in his previous race at the same course in November, the Ascot Stewards enquired into Cyrname’s improved form and accepted trainer Paul Nicholls’ representative’s explanation that the seven-year-old gelding benefitted from the removal of the hood and step up in trip by four furlongs to 2m 5f.