Altior, one of the most prolific and popular jumps horses of recent decades, will not race again after his owners decided to retire him “while still at his peak, fit, sound and healthy and ready for a new career”, Nicky Henderson, the 11-year-old’s trainer, said on Monday.
Altior ran up an unbeaten sequence of 19 races over both hurdles and fences between October 2015 and April 2019 which included four victories at the Cheltenham Festival: the Supreme Novice Hurdle (2016), the Arkle Trophy (2017) and then wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in the following two seasons.
Away from Cheltenham Altior’s other Grade One wins included three successes in the Celebration Chase at Sandown and two more in the Tingle Creek Chase at the same track.
His first defeat in 20 starts over jumps came in November 2019, when he stepped up in trip on heavy ground at Ascot and went down to Paul Nicholls’s rising star, Cyrname, by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
He returned to winning form at Newbury in February 2020 but was ruled out of an attempt to win a third Champion Chase on the eve of the race as the result of a splint problem. He then ended his career with defeats in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2020 and the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April this year.
“We are all sad to have to say that Altior is going into honorary retirement after what has been a fantastic innings, which was obviously highlighted by his 19 consecutive victories,” Henderson said in his blog on the website of bookmaker, Unibet.
“His owners, Christopher and Pat Pugh feel that now he is 11, turning 12, they would like him to retire while still at his peak, fit, sound and healthy and ready for a new career.
“It’s a very tough decision to make, but I am pretty sure he has enjoyed every moment of it as much as we all have.” Altior will spend his retirement at Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald’s stable a couple of miles from Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard in Lambourn.
“There is no doubt you will all see him again at our open day,” Henderson added, “and I’m sure he will be on parade at Cheltenham, but Mick and his family will keep him entertained and busy and most of all happy, which is what we all want.”