Altior

Altior

According to Timeform, Altior is currently the second highest rated steeplechaser in training, behind only Chacun Pour Soi. Indeed, until November, 2019, when beaten 2¼ lengths by Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, on his first attempt beyond 2 miles 1 furlong, Altior had won all 14 starts over fences and extended his unbeaten sequence to 19 races.

As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Altior made his first appearance, as a six-year-old, in 2016. After justifying favouritism with an impressive, 13-length victory in the William Hill On Your Mobile Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, to take his career record over the smaller obstacles to 4-4, he was sent off 4/1 second favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He travelled and jumped well, lead approaching the final flight and readily outpaced favourite Min in the closing stages to win, impressively, by 7 lengths.

Sent over fences at the start of the 2016/17 season, Altior won his first four starts, including the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, all at long odds-on, en route to the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Defending an unblemished record over obstacles, of any description, he was sent off at prohibitive odds of 1/4 to maintain his 100% record and did so with a minimum of fuss. His task was made easier by the departure of leader Charbel at the second-last fence, but he probably would have won anyway and drew clear in the final hundred yards to win by 6 lengths.

Two routine victories later, again both at long odds-on, Altior was back at the Cheltenham Festival for his first attempt in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018. Sent off even money favourite, ahead of his old rival Min, he barely gave his supporters an anxious moment, forging clear in the closing stages to win by the same margin as he had in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle two years earlier. Back again for the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2019, Altior had to work a little harder on unfavourable soft ground, but eventually held off Politologue by 1¾ lengths to win at the Cheltenham Festival for the fourth consecutive year.

Long Run

Long Run Originally trained in France, by Guillaume Macaire, Long Run began his racing career in Britain on Boxing Day, 2009, when cruising to victory in the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park. Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, ridden exclusively in Britain and Ireland by his son, Sam, and trained by Nicky Henderson, Long Run would return to Kempton to win the King George VI Chase twice. Nevertheless, as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Long Run will always be best remembered as the winner of a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

Fresh from an emphatic, 12-length victory over stable companion Riverside Theatre in his first King George VI Chase – delayed until the New Year after the showpiece Christmas meeting was abandoned due to frost – Long Run was sent off 7/2 favourite for the ‘Blue Riband’ event. His rivals included Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander – collectively, the winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the previous four years running – but it was the ‘young pretender’, the six-year-old Long Run, who took the accolades, and first place.

 

Imperial Commander weakened quickly after a blunder at the fourth last fence and, fleetingly, it appeared that the ‘old guard’ of Kauto Star and Denman – both 11-year-olds and veterans of six consecutive Cheltenham Festivals apiece – might once again dominate the finish. However, despite jumping less than fluently on occasions, Long Run headed Denman on the run to the final fence and stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 7 lengths, with a weakening Kauto Star a further 4 lengths behind in third place.

 

Long Run contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice more, finishing third, when favourite, behind Synchronised in 2012 and occupying the same position behind stable companion, and favourite, Bobs Worth in 2013. Even so, his scintillating victory in 2011, completed in course record time, is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Will Tiger Roll Become a Cheltenham Legend in 2020?

Will Tiger Roll Become a Cheltenham Legend in 2020?

Cheltenham Racecourse” by Nilfanion (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

There are many people out there who would argue that Tiger Roll is already a Cheltenham legend, regardless of what happens in the future. However, talk is mounting that the dual Grand National winner will aim to win his third Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in 2020, which would be his fifth victory at the festival from six appearances. His only failure was when he was thrown in at the deep end as a five year old in the 2015 Stayers’ Hurdle, since then he has been foot perfect at this famous venue.

To those who are not hugely invested in the sport of racing, they are likely to see this horse as a dual Grand National winner, and nothing else. After all, that is the race that captures the attention of pretty much everyone in the UK, and it is seen as the biggest race of them all to win. However, purists will know and understand what it takes to win at the festival, never mind to win five times across three different races.

His success in the 2019 Cross Country Chase will go down as one of the best moments of the most recent festival, and seeing him come away from the field to win by 22 lengths on the bridle is something that many people will not forget for a long time. The scenes after the race showed just how much this horse means to both those who look after him on a daily basis and the fans who turned up in their thousands to watch him perform.

The one thing that could make next year even more special is retirement. After winning the Grand National in April, owner Michael O’Leary said that he would love for this horse to go and win the Cross Country Chase for a third time, before announcing his retirement in the Cheltenham winners enclosure. Those betting on horse racing at the Cheltenham Festival next year are sure to be placing bets on Tiger Roll to win again, knowing that it could be the last time we see the horse on a race track if O’Leary’s comments are to be believed. This may be a case where there is no strategy required, and people will simply bet with their hearts.

Bowing out at Cheltenham would be fitting for two different reasons. The first is that this horse would go out at a place that was special to him. Win or lose, this horse has won multiple races at the Cheltenham Festival and to retire after running their would be a great farewell for him. The second would be to see him go out at the top, running in a race at the biggest and best horse racing festival over jumps.

We all want to see superstars run for as long as possible, but there is a fine line between going out on top when there is more to give and running them for too long and seeing them decline. After giving us so many happy memories over the years, it would be great to see Tiger Roll do his thing one more time for us, before we allow him to leave for a very happy retirement.