When it comes to Cheltenham Festival victories, no horses can hold a candle to the remarkable Quevega, who amassed six consecutive victories in the Mares’ Hurdle from 2009 to 2014. It was an amazing achievement, one that will probably never be beaten. Indeed, the only horses who have come close to that record, the four-time winners Arkle, Sir Ken, Istabraq and Willie Wumpkins, are regarded as legends of British national hunt racing.
However, on 13th March, Altior will try to join that second group, by becoming a four-time Cheltenham Festival winner. He contests the Champion Chase, which he won last year, adding that Grade 1 accolade to the Arkle Chase in 2017 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016. It’s an incredible feat to have attained that hat-trick, but some are asking: Just how far can Altior go?
The horse has now won 17 consecutive races, after what was a slow start to his 20-race career. At just-9-years-old, he probably has two years left in his prime in national hunt racing, putting Hurricane Fly’s all-time record of 22 Grade 1 race victories in danger. We aren’t just talking about a modern great of horse racing here, we may be looking at one of the all-time great equine champions.
Altior odds-on for second Champion Chase
Of course, the first order of business is getting the next Queen Mother Champion Chase in the bag. Altior, as you might expect, is the big favourite, with the best odds available seemingly the 4/7 on offer from Betfair. Although, others are as low 4/11 on Nicky Henderson’s wonder-horse.
Admittedly, that’s not a big price for such a prestigious race, but you have to remember that we are dealing with a horse that, not only has been undefeated in years, but has not even looked remotely close to being beaten. You have to go all the way back to 2015 to find a time when Altior had a close contest, a 1½ length victory over Ch’tibello in a Grade 3 hurdle.
Indeed, you should really check this guide to Cheltenham 2019 Betting offers before you consider backing anyone but Altior. There will be money for the likes of Min (12/1) and, perhaps Un De Sceaux (16/1, odds from Betfair), great horses in their own right, but it’s not even clear if trainer Willie Mullins will enter them in the race, perhaps preferring to put them against weaker opposition to chalk up a couple of victories.
Footpad needs to show more to challenge
Over the last year, there has been talk of one horse who might challenge Altior for the middle-distance chasing crown – Footpad. His odds have ranged from about 5/1 (Sky Bet) up to 9/1 (Unibet), but the younger horse hasn’t quite developed into the superstar that everyone expected – yet. Can step up and challenge Altior? Footpad will have his backers, because he is a class act and rated just below Altior by Timeform.
In a way, Altior might need Footpad to give him a big challenge if he is to cement his own legacy in horse racing. The one criticism of his record – and make no mistake, he hasn’t missed a beat – is that he has had no truly great rivals. Perhaps if he had crossed paths with Douvan or Sprinter Sacre when they were in their pomp. If Footpad raises his game and Altior wins, that will just further push his legacy to being one of the all-time greats. For the moment, let’s sit back and enjoy his remarkable career.