A second Champion Chase would equal Sprinter Sacre, the horse by which any two-mile chaser at Seven Barrows will always be measured, and in terms of achievement it would put him up there with Master Minded, Moscow Flyer, Viking Flaghsip and the two great two milers of the 1980s, Barnbrook Again and Pearlyman.
This season his only deviation from perfection was to jump left-handed, markedly so at some fences, in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot last time out in January. It still did not stop him winning with his head in his chest and, though it can occasionally be a sign of some muscular problem, Henderson was quick to dismiss it as an irrelevance.
Last year his preparation for the Champion was hurried after a wind operation and he hit a flat spot turning in, adding a dramatic pause to an otherwise certain result, before he sprouted wings between the last two fences and stayed on up the hill so strongly that he beat Min by seven lengths. There have been no flat spots this season.
Though this is traditionally one of the Festival’s great championship races, it nevertheless appears that only Altior could fabricate his own defeat. If the forecast high winds stop him they will have stopped everyone else and merely delayed the inevitable. He is the nearest thing to a certainty this week. Min must be favourite to follow him home again.
Altior is not the only equine superstar on show today. Some racing professionals still dismiss the Glenfarclas Cross Country as an opportunity to find a nice cup of tea but for Gordon Elliott it is just another opportunity for a winner.