Altior, the highest-rated chaser in training, stretched his unbeaten run over obstacles to 17 when he won the Matchbook Clarence House Chase by seven lengths from Fox Norton in the gloom at Ascot on Saturday.
If you expect perfection then you are almost bound to be disappointed and, though he was sent off at 1-10, the shortest odds of his career, against two inferior rivals, Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old had to make his own running for the first time in a while. When we reflect on his greatest wins, the 2019 Clarence House will not be up for consideration.
He jumped left at a few fences, which cost him a bit of ground, and he had to be given a slap down the neck a couple of times by Nico de Boinville to remind him this was a race worth £65,000 to the winner and not a half-baked schooling session.
But there was never any danger of defeat, he hardly took a deep breath afterwards and, as far as the trainer was concerned, it was job done, next stop Cheltenham.
“He was a bit too chilled,” said De Boinville. “He stood half a second at the start and it’s the first time for ages that he has had to do his own donkey work. There was nothing to get him competitive today. But the end result was good and we can freshen him up for Cheltenham now.”