Altior made a winning return with victory in the Game Spirit Chase on ‘Super Saturday’ at Newbury.
The two-time Queen Mother Champion Chase winner at Cheltenham bounced back after his 19-race winning run was ended by Cyrname at Ascot in November.
But 1-3 favourite Altior, ridden by Nico de Boinville for trainer Nicky Henderson, finished superbly to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Meanwhile, Colin Tizzard’s Native River eased to victory in the Denman Chase.
On good ground, Altior jumped the final fence in third place but then sped clear of runner-up Sceau Royal – and his odds have been trimmed for this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase on 11 March.
“We know what we have got to do between now and then [Cheltenham], just keep the ball rolling,” Henderson said.
“He takes plenty of work, he has had a nice race and it has done him the world of good.”
Jockey De Boinville said: “We have still got more improvement to come. His turn of foot from the last was devastating.”
Native River was ridden for the first time by 22-year-old Jonjo O’Neill Jr, with regular jockey Richard Johnson having broken his right arm last month.
The 10-year-old 2-5 favourite took charge from the outset over the two miles seven and a half furlongs, surging home by two and three quarter lengths from the Paul Nicholls-trained Secret Investor (8-1).
“The blinkers have really sharpened him up, he’s a class horse,” O’Neill Jr said.
Cornelius Lysaght, BBC horse racing correspondent
Members of Altior’s team repeated the word “confidence” time and again after the race, meaning principally that they thought a horse used to winning, and the attention that derives, would have had his belief restored.
But I suspect it applied to them as well.
Privately they would have been convinced the horse retained all of his abilities – and that November’s defeat at Ascot was just down to a good horse running further than his favoured distance of two miles – but it was still a relief things had gone to script at Newbury.
Public confidence is back too.
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