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Altior vs Sprinter Sacre – Who comes out on top?

Jonathan Vine 3 Jan 2019
Altior (left) and Sprinter Sacre (right) are two of the best chasers of their generations.

We look at two of Nicky Henderson’s finest ever chasers and see who comes out on top when comparing both Champion Chasers over a number of categories.

On Saturday, Altior extended his unblemished record over jumps at Sandown, seeing off Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek. Nicky Henderson’s charge ground out a four-length victory, earning a sixth Grade One over fences and comparisons with, arguably, Nicky Henderson’s greatest ever chaser – Sprinter Sacre.

While many have speculated which of the former stablemates is the best since the conclusion of the Tingle Creek, we’ve decided to conduct a cross-examination. Our expert has come up with seven categories to help him decide which, out of Altior and Sprinter Sacre, is the greatest Champion Chaser.

Top Honours


Winner: SPRINTER SACRE

As we mentioned earlier, Altior’s unbeaten run over fences has seen him collect six Grade Ones to go with the solitary top-level trophy he collected over hurdles. During his two seasons over the larger obstacles, Altior has also won three Grade Twos, including back-to-back victories in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

During his illustrious chasing career, Sprinter Sacre ammased nine Grade Ones. While it’s slightly unfair to count the achievement’s Sprinter had during his latter years, after his second season over fences, he had recorded seven Grade One victories – one more than what Altior has managed during the same portion of his career.


Cheltenham Festival Triumphs


Winner: ALTIOR

Both Altior and Sprinter Sacre have won three Cheltenham Festival prizes apiece. Sprinter Sacre won the Arkle in 2012, the Champion Chase the following year and reclaimed the Queen Mother crown in fairytale fashion in 2016. Altior has collected his Cheltenham Festival honours in successive seasons, following his victories in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle with that Champion Chase triumph earlier this year.

What gives Altior the edge in this category is that he’s never tasted defeat at Cheltenham, winning on all three of his outings during the Festival. Sprinter Sacre could only finish third in the 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and was pulled up a long way from home when labouring in the 2015 Champion Chase. 

Sprinter Sacre (left) destroys Cue Card (centre) and Al Ferof (background, left) when winning the Arkle in 2012.


Level Of Competition


Winner: SPRINTER SACRE

The Supreme Altior won in 2015 is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest Supreme’s in recent memory - with Min, Buveur D’Air, Bellshill, Supasundae and Petit Mouchoir well beaten. However, life over fences has been mostly plain sailing for Altior. The likes of Min, Fox Norton, Politologue and Special Tiara are hardly stand-out chasers and the only time Altior has clashed with the other superstar chase of his era, Douvan, Willie Mullins’ charge came crashing to the turf.

Time after time, Sprinter Sacre faced off against top-level competitors and got the better of them. Cue Card and Sizing Europe were both comfortably defeated by Sprinter Sacre on multiple occasions. During his final season on the circuit, Henderson’s ten-year-old twice defeated Un De Sceaux – who was at the peak of his powers in 2015/16 – defeating his younger rivals by 15 lengths on his final career-appearance.

Sprinter Sacre looks a picture leaping the last during the 2013 Melling Chase at Aintree.

Style


Winner: SPRINTER SACRE

Altior is a fantastic equine specimen – packed with poise and possessing plenty of composure. However, fans of Altior have their hearts in their mouths during races, as must jockey Nico De Boinville. Altior often clatters fences early in races and usually has to be rousted along entering the second circuit.

Sprinter Sacre, on the otherhand, was just class personified. At the peak of his powers, everything Sprinter did looked effortless, winning most of his race on the bridle. If the finish was ever starting to look close and his jockey asked him for an effort, more often than not, Sprinter Sacre would respond like a true champion should.

Altior (near) powers past Min to win the Champion Chase after seemingly struggling for much of the race.


Reliability


Winner: ALTIOR

Sprinter Sacre’s defeat of Sire De Grugy in the 2015 Desert Orchid, after losing four of his previous five races, is a testament to his will-to-win and his desire to be the best. Yet, the fact remains that Sprinter suffered defeat on a number of occasions. Poor health could be attributed to some of those performances, but there were times when Nicky Henderson’s favourite son was beaten fair-and-square.

Altior doesn’t know how to lose over jumps. His only career defeats came in a bumpers, but since moving up to jumps racing, he’s registered 16 wins from 16 runs. While there are times during his races where Altior likes to give punters a good scare, he always seems to have enough left in the tank to put the race to bed. Whatever the ground, whatever the track and no matter how he travels, Altior gets the job done.

Sprinter Sacre was handed a rating of 179 after winning the Tingle Creek on his first start outside novice company.


Rating


Winner: SPRINTER SACRE

Despite never suffering defeat over jumps and winning some of the sport’s most prestigious races, Altior has never breached a rating ceiling of 175. To me, and many other experts, that seems extremely unfair, considering his dominance during this period and Altior certainly looks worthy of a mark around 180.

Sprinter Sacre was handed a rating of 179 after his first start outside novice company. Following his Champion Chase victory that same season, Sprinter was awarded a staggering mark of 188. Timeform, infact, rated Sprinter Sacre around 192 – one pound better than Kauto Star, with just Flyingbolt and Arkle ahead of him on the all-time list.


Public Perception


Altior’s performances over recent seasons have earned him a legion of fans and I’m sure, over the coming years, Altior’s army will continue to grow. However, few horses in recent memory have been beloved as much as Sprinter Sacre was during his pomp and it could take Altior a while to match his former stablemate in that department.

Sprinter Sacre carried out his duties with such grace, power and precision, he was thrust onto a pedestal by the British public. Sprinter always seemed hungry to lap up the applause after his victories and crowds were only too happy to oblige. After a couple of years in the doldrums, the noise the passionate Prestbury Park patrons generated when Sprinter Sacre regained his Champion Chase crown in 2016 was tumultuous – an ovation every jumps fan will never forget.

Winner: SPRINTER SACRE

Final Count

👑 SPRINTER SACRE: 5 👑

ALTIOR: 2


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Altior vs Sprinter Sacre – Who comes out on top?

We look at two of Nicky Henderson’s finest ever chasers and see who comes out on top when comparing both Champion Chasers over a number of categories.

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