One of the biggest names in the Cheltenham Festival 2020 has been withdrawn. Altior, trained by Nicky Henderson was the favourite to retain his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown for the third year in a row. On Sunday, Henderson announced that Altior has suffered a minor setback. He cited Altior was lame following a splint problem.
On Monday 9th March, Nicky Henderson tweeted an update stating that Altior had definitely improved over the last 24 hours. They had declared him although he was not 100%. The horse was still working twice a day on their water treadmill and wasn’t missing any crucial gallops. They were monitoring the situation and the vets were very happy with his progress. It was most definitely a wait and see game.
Some positive news this morning regarding Altior. We are not out of the woods yet but things are definitely looking up. ?? pic.twitter.com/3oTz78hDSL
— Nicky Henderson (@sevenbarrows) March 9, 2020
With hopes high that Altior would make the line-up, bookmakers were still offering odds on his chances. Though, it should be pointed out that those odds did slip and he was no longer the race favourite. However, today Nicky Henderson has ruled him out completely, again making the announcement on Twitter.
Henderson On Altior
A clearly frustrated Henderson said: We’re going to have to call it a day for the Champion Chase with Altior, sadly.
“It’s very frustrating as he’d made such good progress the night before last until yesterday morning.
“We were then genuinely optimistic we’d get there, but he hasn’t maintained that progress and would not have run yesterday, and is in the same boat today.”
Some really disappointing news this morning, but we are determined to get Altior back out this season. It’s not Game Over for the season just yet. pic.twitter.com/0rJnrH7g7n
— Nicky Henderson (@sevenbarrows) March 10, 2020
He added: “We’ve tried to keep Altior moving to a point, with treadmills and spas, but I think what he really wants is to be left alone all together for four or five days and let it rid itself.
“God willing, with all the troubles that are going on in the world, but there is Aintree, Punchestown and Sandown and we have every intention of getting back for one of those.
“It’s very disappointing that this hotly anticipated clash between three great horses isn’t going to take place and we’re reluctantly lending our crown to someone else, and we wish all involved well.”
The Champion Chase 2020
So with Altior now out of contention all eyes have turned to the rest of the field. The Champion Chase is one of the most prestigious races in the Festival. Run over 2m it is a Grade 1 race with the winner taking home £225K for connections. And now it looks like the Philip Hobbs trained Defi Du Seuil will go off as favorite. Owned by JP McManus and ridden by Barry Geraghty, Defi Du Seuil was the winner of the JLT Novices Chase at the Festival.
He goes into this race on excellent form with three seasonal wins on ground similar to that of Cheltenham so he should relish the trip. Odds of 11/10 are particularly low but with the main competition no longer running and only six horses looking set to run, it’s easy to see why there is so little value in the betting markets.
Following on from Defi Du Seuil is Chacun Pour Soi for Willie Mullins. He will be ridden by retained jockey Paul Townend for owner Rich Ricci. This will be the horse’s first trip Cheltenham and with only two starts this season, including a second-place finish, he is just marginally edged out into second favourite position.
The odds then take a massive leap for the next three runners in the betting, all of whom are on 14/1. They are Politilogue, Dynamite Dollars, and Sceau Royal. lastly is Bun Doran form trainer Tom George on odds of 50/1.
Barring a major upset, and with bookmakers only paying two places, this race looks set to go to either Philip Hobbs or Willie Mullins.