Cheltenham Festival Day Two Review: Altior Bravely Wins Champion Chase, As Tiger Roars To Cross Country Glory
Nicky Henderson's Altior recorded his 18th victory on the bounce over obstacles, as the Seven Barrows superstar dug deep to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
Sent off the red-hot 4/11 favourite, Altior had to bounce back from a mid-race blunder at the water jump, but was then forced to battle with the smooth-travelling Sceau Royal and the staying on Politologue in an epic finish to the Grade 1 showpiece. However, Nico de Boinville managed to storm up the Cheltenham hill and Altior duly picked up his fourth Cheltenham Festival success and cement his place as one of the greatest two-mile chasers in history.
It was not just Altior that claimed a fourth Cheltenham Festival win as the mighty Tiger Roll was an emphatic 22-length winner of the Cross Country Chase, and last year's Grand National winner is now a short-priced favourite for the Aintree showpiece next month as he sauntered clear of his rivals to win the unique jumping test for the second year in a row.
The day kicked off with City Island outbattling Champ in a superb renewal of the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, while arguably the race of the day came in the RSA Chase as the Paul Nicholls-trained Topofthegame fought off a spirited effort from Santini and Delta Work in a vintage renewal of the Grade 1 novice event.
All three contenders are sure to be challengers in next season's Cheltenham Gold Cup, but it was Topofthegame that produced a monster leap at the last fence and under a power-packed ride from Harry Cobden soared to a gallant win in a classic.
Prior to Altior's victory, de Boinville had already picked up a win on the card as a late surge from William Henry saw the 28/1 shot reel in the unlucky Wicklow Brave, who under a monster weight was just nailed in the shadow of the post in the Coral Cup.
Joseph O'Brien claimed his first Cheltenham Festival winner as Band Of Outlaws proved a cut above his rivals in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, while the Champion Bumper was won by the heavily supported Envoi Allen, who fought off a late surge from Blue Sari.
It was another stunning day's racing at the home of National Hunt racing and we are now at the halfway stage of proceedings, but there's two more days to go and Thursday's card looks an absolute stonker with the Stayers' Hurdle the main event at 3:30pm. A hugely competitive Ryanair Chase attracts a stellar field, while the JLT Novices' Chase is another wide open betting event which should produce a decent winner.