Leading British trainer Nicky Henderson has given updates on his stable stars Altior and Shiskin ahead of their next runs this season, starting with his most accomplished horse in the yard.
Altior was supposed to make his seasonal debut at Sandown at the start of December in the Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek which he won back in 2018, but Henderson decided the ground was too soft and pulled him out with less than 24 hours until the race.
Henderson was put under a lot of scrutiny for his decision, but has defended it to the high heels and has now come and expressed that Altior will start his campaign off at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase and is flying ahead of the Grade Two renewal.
(Credit ATR) “He’s been great and we’ve been delighted the way things are going,” Henderson said.
“Everybody has been saying ‘are you’re going to run him on soft ground at Kempton?’.
“Kempton soft ground and Sandown soft ground are two different things altogether. There are lots of different types of soft. This is about getting a clear run and lots of things can go wrong.
“Last year he got a splint three or four days before Cheltenham. Anything can happen, anything can jump out and bite you at the last minute.”
The last time Altior was seen on a racecourse was at Newbury in the Game Spirit Chase when winning the event for a second time and now at the age of 10 many questions are hanging over the geldings head as to whether he is as good as he once was, and his handler believes he is having been performing well at home.
He told Unibet: “We put a little clip of him schooling out the other day. Nico (de Boinville) sets off and I shut my eyes, it is terrifying. He is just so quick and fast, and he just comes up miles away. Very few horses have got the scope to do what he can do.
Following in the footsteps of Altior is Shishkin for the yard who like his stablemate went on to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival and is now been sent chasing and looking like heading to the Arkle in March.
Shishkin made his chase debut at Kempton in November with Henderson giving him a rating of 10 out of 10 and the trainer has explained what is next for the exciting novice chaser.
“You could not do anything other than give him 10 out of 10 for his first run over fences at Kempton,” said Henderson.
“I do not think he had a whole heap to beat. Not surprisingly, he jumped to the front after about three fences and it was a solo spin. It is going to be a different ball game up against talented opposition, but he has won a Supreme Hurdle under some extraordinary circumstances.
“He is a very talented horse and his jumping at Kempton was exemplary. We thought we would go back to Kempton for the Wayward Lad and then he would have one more run (before the Cheltenham Festival) in the Kingmaker or something like that.
“Him and Altior both won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and they both started their chasing careers with bloodless victories at Kempton, in the same race.
“It is possible that he could be another very high-class two-miler. If that is the case we are very lucky, because we had Sprinter Sacre and then Altior to take over. You would be lucky to see one horse as good as those two, if there is a third one then we are desperately lucky.”