Preparations for the hotly anticipated Cheltenham Festival certainly stepped up a notch on Saturday as two of the meeting’s leading contenders, Altior and Native River, triumphed in style at Newbury Racecourse.
Altior, trained by the industrious Nicky Henderson, is now odds-on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase following his superb performance at the weekend. The 8-year-old Bay Gelding eased past Paul Nicholls’ Politologue at the final fence to secure an impressive victory in the Betfair Exchange Chase.
The win, which saw Altior extend his unbeaten run over jumps to 12, was hailed as ‘perfection’ by trainer Henderson.
It was also a day to remember for Gold Cup hopeful, Native River. The Colin Tizzard-trained Chestnut Gelding, who had been absent from the track for 330 days in total, showed no signs of fragility as he pulled well clear of the chasing pack to become the only horse to win the Denman Chase twice.
It was the 8-year-old’s first race since finishing third in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, but the impressive runner, ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, delivered a commanding performance, to win by 12 lengths.
Trainer, Colin Tizzard, was delighted with the showing, stating “It was ideal preparation for the Gold Cup and as long as he’s OK in the next 10 days, the dream is still alive.
“He’s a good jumper and when Richard asked he went away almost effortlessly. He’s such a good horse.”
Gold Cup rival, Cloudy Dream finished second on Saturday with Saphir Du Rheu last of the three on his first start after falling in the Grand National last April.
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