King George VI Chase looms as acid test for Altior

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Having won the Betfair Chase at Haydock, Lostintranslation is the only horse that can claim the £1 million bonus for winning the three most important steeplechases of the season. The next leg is the King George VI Chase, for which Lostintranslation can be backed at +250 with online bookmakers. The horse shares favouritism with Cyrname, but Altior could still be the fly in the ointment.

Nicky Henderson, who trains Altior, has hinted that his horse will be dropped back to two miles, a division he has dominated over the last two seasons. The thinking was that the horse required longer distances, but the second-place finish behind Cyrname over two miles and five furlongs suggested Altior would not be competitive in the King George or Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Lostintranslation looks tailor made for three miles and beyond. He outstayed Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase and that horse is a specialist over the course and distance. Lostintranslation won quite cosily and the form is rock solid. The Colin Tizzard-trained runner produced a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 177 at Haydock, while Cyrname ran to a RPR of 181 when accounting for Altior at Ascot. Those ratings equate to a comfortable win for Cyrname in the King George, but collateral form is not an exact science.

What should we do about Altior? Henderson is mulling over that question and jumps fans are intrigued. Altior has won the Champion Chase over two miles at the last two Cheltenham Festivals. The horse has still not won beyond two miles and two furlongs and the King George is run over three miles. Beating both Lostintranslation and Cyrname over the trip looks beyond Altior, but the very best champions are adaptable when it comes to distance.

Altior’s best distance may be two miles and the opposition could be thin on the ground in March. Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase will be informative. If Un De Sceaux prevails aged 11, the division would not look too strong. Altior is a better jumper at speed, which suggests two miles is his strongest suit. The slower pace of the King George or Gold Cup could expose any flaws.
However, lack of stamina was not an issue behind Cyrname and it seems too soon to abandon the three-mile investigation. The King George is a low-risk option and any alternative over Christmas would probably be a penalty-kick. Running at Kempton on Boxing Day would prove a brilliant spectacle for the sport and point Henderson in the right direction with Altior.

If Altior wins the King George or gets to within a few lengths of the winner, be it Lostintranslation or Cyrname, he justifies an entry in the Gold Cup. No horse has won the Blue Riband of the sport and the Champion Chase. If things pan out badly in the King George, the trainer can still sharpen up Altior for another run in the Champion Chase. The only three-time winner is Badsworth boy (1983, 1984 and 1985). Even Sprinter Sacre only won the race twice.

The third favourite for the King George is Clan des Obeaux at +500. The horse won the race last season and the Christmas showpiece has a history of producing multiple winners. Between 2004 and 2014 each winner prevailed in more than one year. However, Cyrname and Lostintranslation have raised the bar and Clan des Obeaux has a few pounds to find on form. The horse’s top RPR figure is the 176 produced in the King George last year.

Kempton suits Cyrname more than it does Lostintranslation. The former excels at Ascot, which is also a flat right-handed track. Lostintranslation has proven form going in the other direction and Cheltenham is a left-handed track. Cyrname can thwart the million-pound bonus bid by winning the King George, but Lostintranslation can get his own back in the Gold Cup next spring.

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