Altior slams Game Spirit rivals
Nicky Henderson's Altior stepped out of novice company to slam his rivals in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury.
Altior ran out an impressive winner
Last year's brilliant winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle looks set for another Cheltenham Festival success after routing his rivals in the Grade Two chase registered as the Game Spirit.
Always prominent under Nico de Boinville, the heavily backed 30/100 favourite went clear of the field with four to jump and never saw another rival as he sauntered clear of the opposition to record a wide margin success.
Fox Norton, who was conceding 5lbs to the winner, was best of the rest on his first start since suffering a setback.
Henderson told ITV Racing: "That was great. I was very nervous about the ground. We tried to keep him out of it like we tried to protect Sprinter Sacre in those days.
"We'll try to win the Arkle first. He's been on exactly the same route. It's the way we came in with Sprinter as a novice. OK, we've got this far now.
"The thing we all miss this year is Sprinter not being able to have a game with Douvan. If everything goes right and we're all here in a year's time, maybe Altior and Douvan can meet then. It would be great."
De Boinville said: "I've just got to say a big thank you to the Pughs (owners) and the guv'nor (Henderson). He's stuck by me.
"Altior is quite a star. Just to ride a smashing horse like this is quite something
"Everybody is going to ask me to compare him with Sprinter Sacre, but I'm just going to enjoy them in their own right.
"He's pretty electric."
Henderson went on: "He is good isn't he. He is getting there. It's a pity he has had to go round again on his own. He is starting to show off a bit too now.
"The nice thing is he found that easy and handled the ground. I remember him getting beaten in a bumper one day behind Barters Hill and Buveur D'Air.
"He was third and I was disappointed. I thought he was very special then. Now he looks what I thought he was. This year he has not put a foot wrong.
"He is a genuine two-miler and he doesn't need to go any further. If it comes up soft now we don't have to panic. We are going to stay in the Arkle for sure.
"Buveur D'Air is going to win the Champion Hurdle and I will get in a muddle if I change them all around.
"I had moments last night where he was not going to run.
"He has always looked very special and everything has gone right now.
"We left him bumpering for another year longer as he had niggling things, but since then he has had a straightforward run. He is a very professional horse."
Colin Tizzard said of runner-up Fox Norton: "I would not want to take Altior on again.
"He sat in his box for a month and he looked a bit ring rusty today. I think he is more of a stayer.
"I watched last year's Arkle with Joe (Tizzard) on Christmas Day and he only just got into third. He will come out of this race and hopefully be fine. He is both races (Champion Chase and Ryanair) and we will decide which he goes for nearer the time."