Great Britain

Nicky Henderson confident star Altior in better shape for Tingle Creek reappearance than Ascot nightmare last year

TRAINER Nicky Henderson is taking no chances in Saturday’s Betfair Tingle Creek with Altior.

His star is said to be much fitter this time around than on his nightmare return where he was beaten by Cyrname at Ascot last season.

The four-time Festival champ has not been seen since February, but Henderson has left nothing to chance getting his ace as fit as possible this time.

Both Cyrname and Altior were left dented by their clash billed as the ‘race of the season’ beforehand.

But over a year on, and having missed the Cheltenham Festival through injury, Henderson is more determined than ever to prove Altior is the king of two-milers.

The trainer said: “We’ve definitely got him a lot, lot sharper this time than he was last year.

“He’s had a racecourse gallop and he’d be miles straighter than he was at Ascot last season. There’s no doubt about that.

“We don’t want it really soft but we’ve won on soft ground and we’ve beaten Politologue on soft ground before.

“Everyone knows I nearly didn’t run him at Ascot, but it’s different now. He wasn’t ready for two miles and five furlongs on heavy against Cyrname.”

And with the long-awaited return of punters to racecourses beginning on Wednesday, it means Altior will race in front of 1000 spectators on Saturday at Sandown.

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After a quiet start to the Jumps season, those lucky enough to be in attendance will be able to breathe some life in to the once-deserted winners’ enclosure if Altior wins his second Tingle Creek.

Sponsors Betfair report Altior the rock-solid 4-5 favourite but money has come for his old foe and the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue who is now 7-2.

Henderson, speaking on a Great British Racing call, added: “It’s been slightly soulless with no spectators.

“But it has been fantastic that we have kept racing going at all even if it has been under weird circumstances.

“We are all very grateful that we have been there even if it is a bit lonely.

“Cheltenham did the November Meeting really well and every day we have gone racing has gone well. But it will be nice to see a few faces. You miss seeing people.”

“It is a great day and a lot of compliments go to the BHA who have done a brilliant job in convincing the government into allowing us to have crowds returning. Well done to them and we are really looking forward to it.”

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