Altior suffered a shock defeat on his seasonal comeback behind outsider Nube Negra at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase. The even money favourite was weak in the betting before finishing a clear second to the 20-1 winner.
Nicky Henderson’s dual Champion Chase victor Altior, who was a late absentee from the Tingle Creek at Sandown earlier in the season, ran in snatches throughout for Nico de Boinville, but ultimately had no answer to Dan Skelton’s impressive winner.
Duc Des Genieveres had led for a long way with Altior towards the rear, but as the market leader made ground towards the leader it was clear he was struggling and he only stayed on at one pace as Nube Negra came out of the pack to take up the running in the home straight and go clear for a smooth win.
De Boinville, Altior’s regular rider, reported his mount to be fine after the race and said: “We will definitely get him home and give him a full MOT and see what has gone on. You don’t know whether something is wrong or if it is an age thing. We will get him home and see how he is. The good news is he looks safe and sound at the moment. I was in trouble a long way from home, but it probably shows what class he has got that he kept going all the way to the line.
“I didn’t travel from a long way out and he’s gone down fighting but he’s had a hard enough race there. Full credit to Dan and Harry Skelton for having their horse in great condition for this.”
Henderson was disappointed with the result but was not about to announce the retirement of the chaser who turns 11 years old next week. He said: “I would be very surprised if that’s the end. It’s not a knockout blow and it was his first run for a very long time. The Game Spirit [at Newbury in the new year] would have to be the test [next time out]. It wasn’t the result we expected but he was never travelling within himself. Thank goodness we didn’t run him at Sandown.”
Winning rider Harry Skelton said: “He was brilliant, he travelled and jumped with a lot of zest which is what he’s always been good at. I was always in a canter to be honest, on ground that was probably slow enough for him.
“We wanted to run him at Aintree last season but didn’t get the chance, but all that time that he’s had has probably done him the world of good. He’s still only six and was very impressive today. We’ve always thought a lot of him. He used to travel to two out and not finish his race as he was weak, but he strengthened up and it’s great for his owner Terry Spraggett.”
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