Altior is one of the greatest chasers to ever grace the Cheltenham Festival. Few horses can ever claim at 19 race winning streak and certainly not one that includes nine Grade 1 wins.
His win record at Cheltenham is near perfect. Winning the Supreme Novices in 2016, it was followed up with an Arkle Chase win in 2017 before going on to become a dual winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018 and 2019.
By the time 2020 rolled around, he was still looking good and aiming for a third consecutive win in the Champion Chase. That was until trainer Nicky Henderson withdrew him as he hadn’t fully recovered from being lame the previous weekend.
He took a break for the rest of the season and returned in December. Racing in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, hopes were high and a second-place finish looked promising.
The only issue was that following the race, jockey Nico De Boinville did say that Altior was very tired crossing the winning line. For that reason, he dismounted immediately after the line as a precaution. Though it should be noted that the vet said post-race examination failed to reveal any abnormalities.
Queen Mother Champion Chase 2021
He hasn’t raced since and that brings us around the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. Another Queen Mother Champion Chase entry has everybody speculating – can Altior win it again?
He remains on course and right now his biggest opposition looks like Chacun Pour Soi from Willie Mullins. Despite Altior’s enormous success in the race, he is not the favourite with the bookies and can still be backed at odds as big as 6/1 against the ‘Evens’ on offer for Chacun Pour Soi.
Two races down, two impressive Willie Mullins-trained winners. Here's what the handler of Chacun Pour Soi and Gaillard Du Mesnil made of their victories at Leopardstown. #DublinRacingFestival #rteracing pic.twitter.com/srIxtFKWwh
— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) February 6, 2021
In case you’re curious, Chacun Pour Soi translates from French into English as ‘Every man for himself’. And that’s exactly what the Champion Chase will be. Racing in the pink polka dot silks of the Ricci family, Chacun will be looking for his fifth consecutive win and his first at Cheltenham.
He goes into the race with four Grade 1 wins but is two years younger than Altior which may give him an advantage. But is it really going to be a two-horse race?
Rest Of The Field
Eleven runners stood their ground at the six-day confirmation stage for the 2021 Champion Chase. While they may not have tasted the same success as their two main rivals, they can’t be written off just yet.
For example Put The Kettle On won the Arkle Chase in 2020. Henry De Bromhead’s 7-year-old goes into this with history on her side. The Arkle is traditionally a stepping stone to the Queen Mother, with plenty of runners winning both – including Altior.
Her odds of 10/1 are quite generous and would be shorter had she not already been beaten by Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown back in December.
Outside of the top two in the betting markets, Nube Negra is next on odds of around 8/1. The Dan Skelton 7-year-old beat Altior at Kempton in December and that appears to be enough to become a serious contender.
Politologue from Paul Nicholls is also still in the mix. He the current winner of the race and 2021 will see him run in it for the fourth consecutive year.
He ran in the Queen Mother in 2018 but was well beaten by an impeccable Altior so he headed back again in 2019 to have another run at it. Closing the gap was all he could manage and connections had to settle for second place.
With Altior out of the running in 2020 Politologue finally got the win. Having never run against Chacun Pour Soi and maybe a bit fresher than Altior, I think Politologue could throw up a surprise in this race.
Interestingly, Notebook from Henry De Bromhead has quite long odds at 25/1. Probably because he has been well beaten by Chacun Pour Soi twice this season. But for an each-way bet, he could be worth a shout.
Altior Or Chacun Pour Soi?
Altior or Chacun Pour Soi, that is the question? The reality is yes, probably.
It would be great to see a close run contest but I’m not sure if that’s what we are going to get.
Politilogue could scupper the party but we will just have to wait and see.