Altior’s magnificent display at Sandown’s Tingle Creek on Saturday, was cause for celebration for fans of Nicky Henderson’s gelding, fending off a valiant effort from Un De Sceaux.
However, the victory came with news from the Champion National Hunt trainer that Altior was unlikely to be entered into the prestigious King George VI race at Kempton Park this Boxing Day.
With victories already at Kempton Park, Sandown and Ascot the very success suggest Nicky is looking to step up the trip for Altior from the usual 2m mark.
All signs point to the staying power of Altior and so a longer distance next season is almost a refreshing outlook to really see what this outstanding horse can deliver on new challenges and tests.
Unbeaten in the last 15 runs is no mean feat, the 3m King George Chase looked a tempting offer at 14/1 having not been ruled out completely yet. But coming off a victory at Sandown a 3m trip may be the challenge Henderson isn’t comfortable with.
Speaking at a launch of the 32Red Festival at The Pheasant Inn in Lambourn, Henderson said: "We sat down after racing on Saturday as I knew on Sunday morning I was going to bombarded with 'will he or won't he' questions about the King George.
"The owners were flying out Sunday morning and we sat down for a good hour after racing and chewed it over. I know Pat was very keen and she is braver than me, but I'm not for it and I think it is very unlikely.
"He was very sore on Sunday and was lame because he lost a shoe and pricked his foot, but this morning he was 100 per cent sound.
"He won well but in that ground I can't believe he didn't have a hard race - when Un De Sceaux is burning it up on heavy ground you know you are going some gallop.
"I just think trying to go three miles at this stage would be the wrong moment."
Being safer with Altior and hopefully a well-earned rest for Cheltenham Festival means the King George VI chase makes way for Might Bite to be the main focus on Henderson’s horses on Boxing Day, in which he looks to settle the disappointing run at Haydock and retain the King George.