Altior: disappointing or dynamite in the Racing Post Arkle?
Altior (Nico de Boinville) streaks clear of the field in the Racing Post Arkle
Did Altior impress
in winning the Arkle? By Tony McFadden and Tom Collins 4:00PM 19 MAR 2017
Altior was one of the few festival hotpots to actually win at Cheltenham but his performance in winning the Arkle has split opinion. Was he a slightly fortunate winner in light of Charbel's fall, or did he match his pre-race billing?
Stop the Arkle on the approach to the second-last and it is possible to make a case that Charbel had Altior in a spot of bother. De Boinville was niggling Altior, Charbel was pulling out plenty and was still half a length to the good. This seems to be the basis for many of the arguments crabbing Altior's performance – that he was struggling to put the tenacious, but short of top-class, Charbel in his place.
However, while Charbel's chance ended two-out, the race did not – and what happened afterwards cannot be ignored.
One of Altior's greatest traits is the remarkable strength he shows in the latter part of his races, and here he displayed some truly blistering speed, running from the second-last to the line in a shade above 23 seconds, despite being subject to just hand riding from half-way up the run-in. That is seriously quick, even allowing for the slack early pace, and nothing in Charbel's profile suggests he is capable of such a feat.
Putting five lengths on Cloudy Dream and 13 on Ordinary World – both solid mid-140-rated horses who were running quickly themselves – from the back of the last to the line is a performance of serious substance. He is a superstar.
Tony McFadden, reporter
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What they said
"Would I still have won [if Charbel had not fallen over]? Yes, definitely, the way he's finished. If you go back to the way he won his hurdles the gears were never instantaneous. He has to go through them and once he hits top gear bang, he's off."
Nico de Boinville, rider of Altior
Charbel (noseband) had been well in contention when falling in the Arkle
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
Altior has taken everything in his stride since going down in the Grade 1 Punchestown bumper in 2015 – blowing away the extremely talented Min in the Supreme last year and not coming off the bridle in four chases heading into the festival. Everyone was expecting a breathtaking performance and unfortunately that's not what we got.
Charbel, who was coming back from a break after being readily pushed aside by the Henderson-trained superstar at Sandown in December, had dictated matters and looked to have the hotpot in trouble after three out as Nico de Boinville started to niggle away. That's not the real Altior.
David Bass was still winding the race up on Charbel when crashing out at the second last and, despite Altior's impressive finishing display when pulling away from Cloudy Dream up the hill, that rival is only rated 147 and a six-length margin really isn't anything spectacular.
I think the most disappointing part of the race was the lack of distance Altior put between himself and his closest pursuers between the last two fences – he maintained a length advantage over Cloudy Dream.
You have to think that had Charbel found a leg when Bass needed him to most, he would have held at least a half-length lead going over the last. He's a game sort as well – proved by his hard fought win over Le Prezien and Top Notch at Uttoxeter in October – and would have definitely given Nico de Boinville and Altior something to think about up the hill.
Tom Collins, reporter
What they said
"David Bass said he hadn't even moved on him. He said he was going too well really. And we know he stays. I feel convinced he'd have won."
Kim Bailey, trainer of Charbel
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