Horse RacingJump Racing

Nicky Henderson: “Altior has been retired following a fantastic innings”

September 13, 2021January 7th, 2022

ALTIOR RETIREMENT STATEMENT

 

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.

His owners, Christopher and Pat Pugh feel that now he is eleven, turning twelve, they would like him to retire while still at his peak, fit, sound and healthy and ready for a new career.

It has been a fantastic journey since Minty (David Minton) and I bought him and the Land Rover Sale as a three year old by the late High Chaparral.

He won a bumper at Market Rasen on his debut as a four-year-old, and in his second season we had a couple of issues which meant keeping him to Bumpers for another year and amazingly he managed to get beaten in the Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown, but it was Bellshill who won so there was no disgrace in that and he remained a novice for the following season which saw the beginning of that tremendous run of success.

The novice hurdling season was undoubtedly highlighted by his victory in the G1 Supreme Novices at Cheltenham where he beat Min, who was supposed to be the Willie Mullins Festival banker, but in all of the races Altior ever won, and there were 21 in total, I have never been more confident going into that race and he duly won as I fully expected he would.

With Christoper and Pat, we debated throughout all of that summer whether to stay over hurdles or go chasing and I’m sure we came to the right decision which wasn’t difficult after his first schooling session over fences. Luckily for us Buveur D’Air was switching back to hurdles so we had the Unibet Champion Hurdle covered as well as the Arkle which he won so impressively before then culminating his first season over fences with success in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.

His second and third seasons over fences saw him at his absolute prime and he obviously remained unbeaten, winning the Champion Chase twice and Celebration Chase for a third time in 2019 which was his 19th victory on the bounce. During that sequence he won ten Grade Ones and five Grade Twos, which is pretty staggering in itself, included four consecutive wins at the Cheltenham Festival.

We had to make a lot of decisions over the years and I fear we got it wrong only once by running him first time out in heavy ground at Ascot against Cyrname and I think it took both horses a long time to get over it, but he came back and won the Game Spirit and we were once again looking forward to the 2020 Champion Chase with a degree of confidence when he developed a splint the week before which was a bitter blow. Covid then took over and after a few other interruptions we were back in action and all ready for the Champion Chase again last March when his scope was unsatisfactory and once again he was thwarted at the eleventh hour which was just too cruel.

We managed to get him back in time, and only just in time, to run in the Celebration Chase at Sandown on the last day of the season in April and he put up a blistering display of brilliant jumping at speed but unfortunately that little bit of fitness caught him out on the run in and he had to settle for an honourable second and I think everyone will agree he was a joy to watch that day even if he did get beaten in what has turned out to be his last race.

Toby Lawes rode him pretty much every day for a number of years and deserves a lot of credit for what he achieved, as does Nico whose role has been massive in Altior’s success story and he’s been with him from day one and knew him inside out. Apart from Noel Fehily riding him in his first two chases when he was wounded, Nico was instrumental in everything he did including all decision making and schooling and his role should not be underestimated.

Jumping-wise, Altior was the same as Sprinter Sacre on that score; they were both absolutely phenomenal and I don’t think either of them ever made a mistake during a schooling session or on the track.

Barney Clifford measured him jumping one of the last fences in a race he won at Kempton and it was 14 yards! Altior knew exactly what he was doing and simply loved his jumping because it came so easy to him and he was everything you could wish for in a race horse; he was completely faultless.

His breakthrough was probably the Supreme, although he achieved much of his greatness over fences and it was pretty much expected of him to win all the races he did which sort of puts a fair amount of pressure on all of us but we certainly enjoyed celebrating his wins, of which we are lucky there were so many.

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. He goes out unblemished and very nearly unbeaten, and for his retirement he is going to be looked after by Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald and I know they are as happy as we are that he is going to have a long and happy retirement with them just two miles down the road from us.

There is no doubt you will all see him again at our open day 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.

All good things must come to an end and unfortunately that time has come. It is the end of a wonderful era we will never, ever want to forget.

 

Patricia and Christoper Pugh, Owners, Altior

“Altior is a once in a generation horse and Chris and I are so fortunate to have been a part of his life since 2013. We thank the brilliant team at Seven Barrows, the genius Nicky Henderson and of course all the wonderful race goers who have supported Altior throughout his career. We could not wish for a better place for Altior’s retirement than a home with Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald.”

 

Mick Fitzgerald:

“It’s an absolute honour to have a horse who has done as much as he has and I’ve followed his career all the way through and am delighted that he is now going to be part of our family. We are going to get him to our place, let him settle in and just see how we get on. There are no plans whatsoever, we’re just going to let him tell us what he likes doing and take it from there but one thing I can guarantee is he’s going to have a very nice time.”