Altior’s seasonal debut has been delayed until the second day of Kempton’s Christmas meeting on 27 December after Nicky Henderson said on Monday the dual Champion Chase winner will not be entered for the re-arranged Peterborough Chase following its switch to the first day of Cheltenham’s December meeting on Friday.
Altior was unexpectedly scratched from last Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown the night before the race, with Henderson citing concerns about the going as the reason for his sudden change of heart. The trainer suggested at the time that he might be tempted to run Altior if the Peterborough Chase were rescheduled for Taunton on Thursday, but the decision to run a day later at Cheltenham has confirmed the Desert Orchid Chase on 27 December as the next possible date for his star chaser’s first run since February.
“Altior won’t be entered, he wouldn’t want two-and-a-half miles around Cheltenham,” Henderson said. “The other day I was thinking it was only two [miles] three [furlongs] at Taunton a few years ago, but I was wrong. That would have made my ears prick on good ground, but he wouldn’t want that trip at Cheltenham.
“Top Notch will definitely run and Mister Fisher will have the option of the Peterborough and the Caspian Caviar [Handicap Chase] on Saturday, I’ll have to speak to his owners.”
What is now an eight-race card for the first meeting at Cheltenham with paying spectators since the Festival in March will start at 11.30am, with the Peterborough Chase now opening ITV4’s coverage at 1.50.
Though Altior will be missing, a long list of leading names are entered to run at Cheltenham, including Gary Moore’s Goshen, whose dramatic departure at the final flight when well clear in the Triumph Hurdle in March left the 70,000 spectators in shock and Jamie Moore, his jockey, distraught.
Goshen has since had two unsuccessful outings on the Flat, but has also missed a couple of intended dates for his first race over jumps since the last-gasp calamity in March, which replays showed to be a freak incident rather than the result of an error by horse or rider.
“It’s been very frustrating, for the owners particularly,” Gary Moore said on Monday, “but I don’t want to run a horse who isn’t 110% right in top-class races. I’m desperate to get to Cheltenham, the only way he wouldn’t run is if he’s not well or there is firm in the going description.
“We’ve messed about with his shoes, but I can’t believe it would happen again. We just make sure there’s no overhang on the shoes, as his back foot caught his front foot. It’s been spoken about too much, it’s boring me now. It was just a freak accident and I’ve completely put it out of my mind.”
Goshen is among 10 entries for Saturday’s Grade Two contest and would be a hugely popular winner, not least as Jamie Moore has recently returned to race-riding after suffering serious back injuries in a fall at Fontwell in August.
“Jamie has got his eye back in again which is good,” Moore said, “as it was worrying me that he would have to ride Goshen in a big race before he was back at his best.
“It was the second time he’d broken his back and he broke it in four places. I wasn’t sure if he would come back. He’s had his first fall since coming back and he was fine afterwards, so that’s a relief. As long as Goshen runs, they’ll have him to beat. If he can’t win on Saturday, he shouldn’t be going for the Champion Hurdle.”
Goshen is top-priced at 11-4 for Saturday’s race and at 10-1 for the Champion Hurdle in March.