Altior makes eagerly anticipated chase debut at Kempton
Altior: Was unbeaten in five starts over hurdles last season
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos) Altior makes eagerly anticipated chase debut By Graham Dench 7:14AM 21 NOV 2016
RACING POST ARKLE CHASE favourite Altior faces only one opponent when he makes his debut over fences on Monday on a Kempton card that always has special significance in Nicky Henderson's diary.
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Last season's impressive Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, on whom Noel Fehily replaces the injured Nico de Boinville, meets fellow chasing debutant Black Corton in a 2m2f novice chase run in support of the Starlight Charity, for which the trainer has been a long-time fundraiser.
It might not be the ideal start for Altior, who is no bigger than 3-1 clear favourite with Paddy Power and Betfair for the Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 despite having yet to jump a fence in public, but Henderson was already resigned to a small field.
Henderson, who won the first four races on the corresponding card five years ago, plus three more elsewhere the same afternoon, said: "It was always going to happen. They were hardly going to queue up to take him on and we have to start somewhere. I didn't want to go to Cheltenham last weekend and unfortunately there isn't a nice two-mile novice at Newbury, as that would have been the perfect place to go. He's in good form and he's got to start somewhere."
The trainer added: "We'll see how it goes. I'm not going to say what I'm thinking next, but there are reasons for going here because if it goes well it does lead us into various other things. They are nice fences and Kempton is a good track, and he has a nice horse of Paul Nicholls' to run round with.
"It's also a day I always like to support as it's one of two big racing fundraisers for the Starlight Charity. I'm chairman for two racedays a year – one at Newbury and this one – and we always aim to make lots of money in order to grant wishes to terminally ill children."
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