Nicky Henderson's superstar chaser Altior to make his comeback in Sandown's Tingle Creek, where is set to take on the mighty Douvan, before a mouth-watering Champion Chase clash.
The seven-year-old is a dual Festival winner, having won the Supreme in 2016 before enjoying Arkle success the following year.
He hasn’t been defeated in two years, and was the countries’ leading novice chaser last season when enjoying six victories on the trot.
His Arkle success is one of four Grade One victories to his name, whilst Willie Mullins’ Douvan has eight top level victories to his name. The dual Cheltenham winner hasn’t been seen since finishing lame in the Champion Chase in March.
The Tingle Creek has been a key pointer for Cheltenham, with Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre winning one of Sandown’s feature races in recent years before striking in the Cotswold.
“I'd imagine we'd go straight to the Tingle Creek,” Henderson told the Racing Post.
“He's a big horse, but he's not impossible to get fit at home so we think we'll be able to get him to the track ready to run as well as he can.
“We could go to the Shloer, but it's quite close to the Tingle Creek and, having discussed it with the owners Christopher and Pat Pugh, that's one of the two major targets this year.
“He's beaten most of the two-milers around, with the exception of Douvan.
“Without knowing the plans for him, the only meeting between them before Cheltenham I could possibly imagine would be in the Tingle Creek.”
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Altior extended his unbeaten record to eleven victories in Sandown's Celebration Chase
Henderson reported Alitor to be in top form following his summer break, spending eight weeks at Hilwood Stud where the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Bob’s Worth have also enjoyed their summer holidays.
The master of Lambourn believes he may stick his dual Festival winner to the two-mile trip, with a priority being a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival wins.
“His main target would be the Champion Chase, I see no reason to go up in trip at the moment,” he added.
“Before Cheltenham it's just a case of plotting your way around the same races and keeping the horses in good form.
“Then there's so much in the spring. He could go to Aintree, like Sprinter did, and there's also the Celebration Chase at Sandown, which is a very good prize now.
“People have talked about moving him up in trip, but I thought his best run last year was in the Celebration Chase, where some very quick horses couldn't go fast enough for him.
“He might need a little niggle into the bridle, but he's always been very talented and that's what gets you wondering how much more there is to come.”
Altior is currently priced at 6/4 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next March.