‘End of a wonderful era’: Nicky Henderson pays tribute to Altior as beloved stable star retires

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  • Altior, jump racing’s record breaking superstar, has retired after a “fantastic innings” headlined by his world record-setting 19 consecutive victories and brace of Champion Chase titles.

    Trainer Nicky Henderson said that Altior’s owners Christopher and Patricia Pugh wanted to retire the 11-year-old “while still at his peak, fit, sound and healthy and ready for a new career”.

    The modern day Goliath of National Hunt racing will join another legend in his retirement, as he moves into the care of Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald.

    “It’s a very tough decision to make, but I am pretty sure he has enjoyed every moment of it as much as we all have,” said Nicky, in his Unibet blog today (13 September).

    “He goes out unblemished and very nearly unbeaten, and for his retirement he is going to be looked after by Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald and I know they are as happy as we are that he is going to have a long and happy retirement with them just two miles down the road from us.

    “There is no doubt you will all see him again at our open day and I’m sure he will be on parade at Cheltenham but Mick and his family will keep him entertained and busy and most of all happy which is what we all want.

    “All good things must come to an end and unfortunately that time has come. It is the end of a wonderful era we will never, ever want to forget.”

    Bred by Paddy Behan, the High Chaparral gelding, out of a Key Of Luck mare, was bought by David Minton and Nicky at the Goffs Land Rover Sale as a three-year-old. He won his maiden bumper by 14 lengths at Market Rasen and remained in bumpers for the following season owing to a “couple of issues”.

    His novice hurdling season in 2015/16 marked the start of the phenomenal gelding’s world record-breaking run of unbeaten success, which ran for close to four seasons under the expert guidance of Nico de Boinville and Noel Fehily in the saddle.

    Altior’s novice hurdling career was capped with his electric seven-length victory in the Grade One Supreme at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, leaving hot favourite Min seven lengths in his wake. He returned the following year to add the Arkle to his CV, followed by back-to-back Champion Chases in 2018 and 2019.

    The 19th victory in his unrelenting trophy hunt came at his third Celebration Chase triumph at Sandown in 2019. The 2021 running of the Grade One, in which he finished second, would turn out to be his final start.

    “He put up a blistering display of brilliant jumping at speed but unfortunately that little bit of fitness caught him out on the run in and he had to settle for an honourable second. I think everyone will agree he was a joy to watch that day even if he did get beaten in what has turned out to be his last race,” said Nicky.

    He credited Toby Lawes who “rode him pretty much every day” for years, along with Nico for his “massive role” in Altior’s career, and Noel for stepping in when Nico was injured.

    “Jumping-wise, Altior was the same as Sprinter Sacre on that score; they were both absolutely phenomenal and I don’t think either of them ever made a mistake during a schooling session or on the track,” he said.

    “Barney Clifford measured him jumping one of the last fences in a race he won at Kempton and it was 14 yards! Altior knew exactly what he was doing and simply loved his jumping because it came so easy to him. He was everything you could wish for in a race horse; he was completely faultless.”

    In all, Altior scored 21 victories from his 26 starts, including 10 Grade Ones, £1,320,795 prize money and a world record 19-strong unbeaten streak over obstacles to carry him firmly into the history books as one of the greatest equine athletes of all time.

    • What is your favourite Altior memory? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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