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Williams and Harrison team up for Worcester double as Altior signs off

It is just Ian Williams' luck that he and rider Liam Harrison should enjoy a double at Worcester on the day the Altior retires. As a device to advertise the well-being of his Jumps string, as the season starts to gain some momentum, a prominent double would alert backers to the solid form of the Redditch yard that has provided 730 Jumps winners since 1996. As it is, the double will be lucky to merit a paragraph against the celebration of the sport's much loved icon.

Summer Jumps racing undoubtedly has its fans, not least among those for whom sunshine is preferable to winter rain and wind, but the changing of the seasons also brings a change in the success rate of those taking part. Lower order Jumps trainers, keen to make a mark in July and August, tend to get swallowed up once the winner machines of Messrs Hobbs, Nicholls and Henderson rumble into life.

And as for lower order Jumps fixtures, reportage has become spartan even in the sport's own daily.

But whilst a trainer's fortunes can often be dictated by reporting of a good run of form or a high profile winner, I'm not so sure this informs their decision-making process. A trainer places his horse to win where he will have optimum advantage irrespective of the news coverage.

That advantage was obvious from the victory of 5 year old Head On in the opening Conditional Riders's Handicap Hurdle, where the winner tracked the leader throughout, led approaching the last, and won by 1 1/2l, easing down.

Harrison was made to work somewhat harder for his second winner in the Bumper on French-bred Fifrelet. Making all, he was challenged by the second and third, but held on gamely by a neck and 1/2l to give Harrison his 17th winner of the summer.

It's been a few years since West Country born Williams enjoyed a lucrative winter with Jumpers. Winners they've been aplenty, but raising the bar with televised or big handicap winners is the dream every trainer relishes. And as this week's alliance between Graeme McPherson and Fergal O'Brien illustrates, to survive at the top, you need a certain scale to punch at the right weight.

One who punched hard and often was Altior, those retirement was announced this afternoon. The perfectionist that is Nicky Henderson hasn't allowed him to grace the Cheltenham Festival for the past two renewals, and perhaps the best was always earlier in his career, not least in that extraordinary unbeaten run of 19 races from 2016-19. He is yet another top flight horse from the factory of Seven Barrows, that just produces one top class horse after another.

To say there'll never be another like him is to underestimate Henderson's talent for unearthing the next speed king over Jumps. Never say never.

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