Cheltenham Festival Day 2: Queen Mother Champion Chase Day

Cheltenham winner Samcro

GETTYSamcro jumped the last in the lead with Black Op hanging on for second

Bookmakers first started to price up a head-to-head between Altior and Douvan in this afternoon's Queen Mother Champion Chase 366 days ago, when Nicky Henderson's chaser extended his unbeaten record over fences with an easy win in the Arkle Trophy.

Henderson, saddling his seventh Champion Hurdle victor, said: "It was a good race, a proper race".

"Softish ground worries me a little bit, and of course Min does - I'm frightened of everybody", said Henderson, referring to Altior's defeat of Min in the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mullins' Benie Des Dieux ran out a shock victor of the Mares Hurdle, as odds-on favourite Apple's Jade could only finish a disappointing third.

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"Joe Donnelly, who owns the second, I've known him many years". Henderson trained one of them, See You Then, to take the prize in 1985, 1986 and 1987 and McManus owned another in Istabraq (1998, 1999, 2000).

People who don't enjoy watching bumpers are missing all the fun of trying to spot nascent jumping talent and tracking future champions through their formative years. If we're lucky and he gets back here there will be more young contenders, but we'll aim for it. Even if they thought it was a penalty kick and he got a battle, he did what he had to do and did it well.

Mr Claisse, said it was the "first time" since 1982 the festival had opened with such "testing conditions".

Faugheen crossed the line in sixth, 22 lengths behind the victor, and trainer Willie Mullins accepted the brilliant victor of the 2015 Champion Hurdle is no longer the force of old, nor indeed the best hurdler in his stable.

Winning trainer Tom George said: "He must have a huge engine".

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The scintillating two-mile chaser - unbeaten from seven starts over fences - has always been regarded as the heir apparent to Henderson's Sprinter Sacre.

"Probably I'd say we'll keep him hurdling next year and I'd imagine he'll go to Punchestown, but he could go to Aintree over two-and-a-half, we'll see". The horse is fine - all my runners have come back fine.

"I suppose he won by four lengths going away at Sandown [in the Tolworth Hurdle] and without those mistakes he would have done the same today".

Yet the coronation of last year's Arkle Trophy victor is no formality after Nico de Boinville's mount was found to be slightly lame with an infected foot on Monday morning.

"It was terrific performance from Melon and it's vindicated what we thought of him".

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