Can Returning Champions Altior and Al Boum Photo Retain Their Cheltenham Festival Crowns?

Can Returning Champions Altior and Al Boum Photo Retain Their Cheltenham Festival Crowns?

Horse Racing :: Everything Horse

We’re guaranteed a new Champion Hurdle winner, but last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes are on course to make defences of their crowns at the Festival in March.

Anything can happen in horse racing, so can Altior and Al Boum Photo win their respective championship races again? The betting suggests both have every chance of doing that.

Horse Altior,Celebration Chase, Sandown, April 2017.
Altior,Celebration Chase, Sandown, April 2017.

It’s not easy to turn up year after year at the Cheltenham Festival, but Altior has done that four times in a row. Nicky Henderson has trained many great racehorses down the years, but this one might just be the best of them.

That’s an argument for another day. Altior, who won the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and 2017 Arkle, has since landed back-to-back Champion Chases. He now bids for a hat-trick and to become only the second horse in Cheltenham history to win the two-mile championship contest three times.

Altior, a relative veteran aged 10, may be vulnerable to younger horses that include Irish raider Chacun Pour Soi and Defi Du Seuil, who are right up there in the 2020 Cheltenham online betting on the Champion Chase. However, Altior is currently valued at 15/8 to win at the Festival for a fifth consecutive year and matching what Golden Miller did (in the Gold Cup) in the 1930s. If he comes through an intended prep run before Cheltenham fine, then those odds will only shorten.

Al Boum Photo and his attempt at defending the Cheltenham Gold Cup hinges on his ability to defy history, meanwhile. Horses somehow don’t seem able to win the blue riband event of steeplechasing in consecutive years in the modern era, with the exception of Best Mate.

His trio of wins in 2002, 2003 and 2004 can be put down to a dearth of quality staying chasers up against him at the time. Al Boum Photo has it far tougher in his bid for back-to-back Gold Cups.

Although he heads the market at 7/2, along with Santini, and is among the ante-post horse racing tips given by experts for the Festival, the Willie Mullins trained eight-year-old faces an in-form Irish rival in Delta Work.

One of the best novice chasers on his side of the Irish Sea last season, Delta Work has won two Grade 1 races in open company at Leopardstown following an impressive Punchestown Festival success at the end of the previous campaign.

Al Boum Photo was turned over by stable companion Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup, but then resumed winning ways by using the same race at Tramore as last year to get ready for Cheltenham. Mullins is giving his horse every chance of defending his title with just that one prep run.

Henderson has the lightly-raced Santini, who he has always had in mind throughout his career for a tilt at the Gold Cup. These horses are closest in the betting to Al Boum Photo and you can make a strong case for either wresting the crown away from him.

Both Altior and Al Boum Photo will certainly not have things all their own way at the Cheltenham Festival, as the pair chase history in their respective races.

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