Last season's Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Altior made a smooth start to his chasing career with a sixty three lengths victory over his sole rival Black Corton (rated 135 over hurdles) at Kempton. Nicky Henderson's charge will obviously face much stiffer assignments but he showed a real aptitude for jumping fences and, bar a minor error at the fifth last, he was brilliant throughout. It is early days but the six year old looks a natural and I will be amazed if he isn't involved in the shake up in the Arkle Trophy in March. He was very good indeed over hurdles but I suspect he will be even better over fences. His trainer indicated afterwards that the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novice Chase at Sandown on Saturday week is his next likely port of call. If he didn't head to the Esher track, then a return visit to Sunbury for the Wayward Lad Novice Chase on the 27th December would be a viable alternative. Nicky Henderson has won the latter event eight times since 1990.
The head of Seven Barrows also won the opening novices' hurdle with Irish recruit Lough Derg Spirit (2/1). Featured in both Bromley's Best Buys and Irish Pointers in One Jump Ahead, the Westerner gelding won a point-to-point for Denis Murphy prior to being bought for £190,000 last spring. The four year old virtually made all on his Rules debut producing a terrific round of jumping in the process. A three and a half lengths winner, he looks another promising recruit for the Henderson stable.
Altior is, of course, featured in the Top 40 Prospects and another entry Robin Roe received a form boost this afternoon. Dan Skelton's former Irish pointer won by twelve lengths on his hurdles bow at Aintree last month. The second, No Comment, scored at Market Rasen last week and the third, Tintern Theatre, won at Ludlow today. At the risk of repeating myself, I still haven't seen a more impressive novice hurdle winner in the UK this Autumn/Winter.
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