Last year was a disaster for Altior but he's in great form now says Henderson

Nicky Henderson is planning a more orthodox campaign for dual Champion Chase-winning superstar Altior after what he described as a “disaster” season.

The champion trainer blames himself for Altior suffering his first defeat on his reappearance last year after being outgunned by Cyrname when tackling two miles five furlongs for the first time in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot.

It took Altior, a winner of ten Grade 1s, a long time to recover from that gruelling afternoon and, just when it appeared he was approaching top form again, a dormant splint forced Henderson to withdraw the ten-year-old on the eve of his Champion Chase defence.

Henderson will revert to the tried-and-tested formula this term as Altior attempts to reassert his position as the best two-miler around.

"Last year was a disaster," he said. "He shouldn’t have run at Ascot in the first place and that was our own fault. It was a difficult situation with the build-up to the race, but if I’d taken him out on the morning, which is what I should have done, I’d have been lynched.

"One felt one owed it to the world to let him run and I shouldn’t have done. It knocked him for six and I don’t think it did Cyrname the world of good either.

"It was too early for such a dust-up. If they’d had a prep race it would have been a different ball game, but they shouldn’t have met each other at that stage."

Henderson, speaking to Unibet, added: "It took him a long time to get over it, but he did and everything was going terrifically heading into Cheltenham until four or five days before when he got this splint.

"He’s in great form now, I’ve never seen him move better. We’re going to go back to the tried and tested route starting with the Tingle Creek and down to the Champion Chase."

Henderson also revealed plans for two of last season’s standout chasers in Santini and Champ, with both on course for a tilt at the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

They are set to return in the Betfair Chase at Haydock next month, although Henderson is not convinced either will be suited by the track and the King George VI Chase appears off the table.

Henderson said: "Santini did very well in the summer and the plan is to go to Haydock, but it’s difficult. Champ and he fall into the same category.

"I don’t think Haydock is necessarily a great track for either of them and consequently I don’t think Kempton is either. They’re both proper staying chasers so we haven’t got a lot of options, but they've got to start somewhere."

Champ produced the most exciting finish of last season's Cheltenham Festival when rattling home between Minella Indo and Allaho to land the RSA Chase, and a summer wind operation could eke further improvement out of the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old.

Reflecting on how Champ pulled it off, Henderson said: "He got his second wind and consequently we have just done a wind operation on him. It certainly needed doing and you can expect quite a bit of improvement from him."