Dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Altior has been retired, trainer Nicky Henderson has announced.
In a glittering career that yielded 21 victories from 26 starts, Altior won 10 Grade One races.
He also won at the Cheltenham Festival four years in a row, with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and the Arkle Trophy in 2017 preceding his back-to-back triumphs in the Champion Chase in 2018 and 2019.
The jumping great went on an unbeaten 19-race run from October 2015 to April 2019, and amassed £1,320,795 in prize money throughout his career.
“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 told 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 has been a fantastic journey since Minty (David Minton) and I bought him at the Land Rover Sale as a three-year-old by the late High Chaparral.
“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 is going to spend his retirement with Mick Fitzgerald, a former stable jockey of Henderson’s and now TV pundit.
Henderson added: “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 Pugh paid her own tribute, saying: “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 racegoers 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.”
Fitzgerald said: “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.”
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies also voiced his appreciation for Altior – even though in opposition, he found himself chasing in vain behind Henderson’s superstar and his regular rider Nico de Boinville, who rode him on all but three of his jumps appearances.
Twiston-Davies told Sky Sports Racing: “He’s been an amazing horse – (it’s) always sad to hear (of retirement), because he was such a champion, but lovely to see he’s going out after so many great days.
“I’ve chased him round plenty, but I’m sure he’ll be missed by many of the jockeys. Even when you weren’t riding against him, he was a pleasure to watch – the way he went about things.
“You’d watch him in some of those races at Cheltenham – turning in Nico would give him a kick, and off he’d go.
“If you weren’t riding in the races you’d watch him and be cheering him on.”
De Boinville was almost always in the driving seat – and on the day Altior retired, he recalled his experience via Twitter.
He wrote: “We enjoyed some incredible days with Altior. Horses like him don’t come along very often. I’m very thankful to Patricia and Christopher Pugh & the team at Seven Barrows. We are all wishing Altior a long and happy retirement.”
De Boinville later told Unibet: “He was a phenomenal, athletic racehorse – and I hope he will spend a very long and happy retirement with Mick and Chloe Fitzgerald.
“I feel sad that I won’t get to ride him in a race again but I shall cherish the memories we share together and will forever be thankful for what he achieved with me on his back.”
He nominated Altior’s hard-fought victory over Un De Sceaux in the 2018 Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown as one of his favourite performances.
“There are so many highlights to choose from,” said De Boinville.
“It’s hard to pick one out, but the Supreme he won was probably one of the best renewals we’ve seen in a very long time, so that is extremely memorable.
“But he was an absolute beast over fences, and I’ll never forget the performance he put up against Un De Sceaux in the 2018 Tingle Creek.
“It was hammering down with rain, and the ground was heavy, but he showed such guts and determination to win.
“All his wins at Cheltenham were just incredible to be associated with, and it’s what every jockey dreams of getting hold of.”