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.

Cheltenham Festival Buzz!

The buzz is certainly in the air for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. We were lucky that the 2020 Festival took place, and once again we can count our lucky stars that – from Tuesday – we’re being gifted four days of racing excellence from the likes of Al Boum Photo, Honeysuckle and Native River. Even those with a passing interest in racing are well aware of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the significance of winning this prestigious race – or any other at the Cheltenham Festival.

And of course there’s the battle between the nations in the form of the Prestbury Cup. In anticipation of the event, Richard Hoiles hosts his very own Betway horse racing quiz version of the cup, with West Ham footballers Mark Noble and Jesse Lingard (Team UK) and Michail Antonio and Darren Randolph (Team Ireland) . With a little help from Betway ambassador Katie Walsh too, let’s see how much the boys know about racing.

Pertemps Network Final

Pertemps Network Final Inaugurated, as the Coral Golden Hurdle Final, in 1974, the Pertemps Network Final is a Listed handicap hurdle run over 2 miles, 7 furlongs and 213 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham. The race has been sponsored by the Pertemps Network Group since 2002 and is open to horses aged five years and upwards, who have qualified by finishing in the first half a dozen in one of a series of qualifying races run throughout Britain, Ireland and France since the start of the current season. The Pertemps Network Final is currently scheduled as the second race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, a.k.a. ‘St. Patrick’s Day’, in March.

Worth £100,000 in prize money, £56,270 of which goes to the winner, the Pertemps Network Final is a typically competitive Cheltenham Festival handicap, which invariably attracts a maximum field of 24 runners. Unsurprisingly, favourites have a modest record in the race, with just two – namely Fingal Bay in 2014 and Sire Du Berlais in 2019 – winning in the last ten years. The other winners in that period were returned as starting prices of 20/1, 14/1, 25/1, 9/1, 14/1, 11/1, 6/1 and 10/1, so it is not difficult to see why the Pertemps Network Final is often a fascinating, if devilishly difficult, betting heat.

The remarkable Willie Wumpkins, who won the race three years running in 1979, 1980 and 1981, as an 11-, 12- and 13-year-old, is the most successful horse in the history of the Pertemps Network. Jonjo O’Neill, with four wins, remains the most successful trainer, although Gordon Elliott has won the last three renewals, courtesy of Delta Work in 2018 and Sire Du Berlais in both 2019 and 2020.