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Cheltenham 2019: Can Min Finally Take Down Altior?

Cheltenham 2019: Can Min Finally Take Down Altior?

As horse racing rivalries go, the one between Min and Altior is not likely to go down in history with the likes of Sunday Silence vs Easy Goer or Kauto Star vs Denman. The pair have clashed twice: The first in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham 2016, the second in the Champion Chase at last year’s Festival. Altior came out on top on both occasions, with Min finishing seven lengths behind in second place.

Of course, part of the issue is that the impeccable Altior has no true rivals. He is currently on a streak of 17 consecutive victories and is aiming to become one of the all-time greats by recording a fourth-successive Grade 1 victory at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Timeform has given Altior a rating of 180, making him – by a considerable margin – the highest ranked chaser in racing.

Min is a very good horse, one of the best in Willie Mullins’ stable. The 8-year-old has looked pretty good so far this season, picking up two wins from two races. In any other year, Min’s Champion Chase hopes would be being talked up by punters. But being good or very good might not be enough to beat Altior.

The latest Cheltenham betting from 888sport has Altior priced at 4/9 to once again win the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It looks like a fair price for a horse that hasn’t been beaten in almost four years. But, perhaps more tellingly, we might see a reduced field as some decent chasers may be put into to other races at the Festival.

Min, who put in an excellent performance when winning the Dublin Chase last weekend, is priced at 6/1 – more than double the SP from last year. Also on odds of 6/1 is Min’s stablemate, Footpad, long-touted as being the challenger to Altior’s crown as king of the middle-distance chasers.

Footpad has not kicked on this season in the way most thought he would. It remains to be seen whether Willie Mullins will use him elsewhere at the Festival. Others that might tempt punters with an each-way bet include Fox Norton (14/1) and Sceau Royal (16/1, all odds sourced from 888sport).

Min can get closer this time around

Many neutrals will be hoping that Min gives Altior a decent test, even if it is just to raise the level of excitement around the Champion Chase. It’s not that it won’t be fantastic to see Altior take yet another deserved victory, it’s just that it would be nice to see him get out of his comfort zone. Other races at Cheltenham, most notably the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, have well-matched horses at the top of the betting markets. The Champion Chase will be in danger of losing its lustre if it is simply a procession for Altior.

Indeed, anyone who has seen Altior this season will be aware that he hasn’t needed to get out of third gear. The question, then, is whether Min has improved enough in the last 12 months to warrant a punt? It is, of course, very hard to say, especially as Min’s build up to the Champion Chase has been remarkably similar to last season. However, at 8-years-old, Min is certainly young enough for connections to believe that enough improvement could have been made over the year. Even then, it might not be enough to defeat the once-in-a-generation Altior.

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