JUST two days ago Altior was lame with a poultice on his foot. In today's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase the tacky ground prevented him from travelling with his usual fluency and for a long way it did not look he would win quite in the manner many expected.
Coming down the hill it appeared Nico de Boinville was in deep trouble as Politologue, God's Own and Min were all seemingly going better.
Altior showed the guts of a champion, though, and as De Boinville pulled him out, he clicked into overdrive.
The even-money favourite then flew up his favourite hill to ultimately win in style from Min, with God's Own running well in the race yet again in third. In doing so Altior was winning at the Festival for a third successive year in a third different race and provided Nicky Henderson with a record 60th winner at the Festival.
The returning Douvan appeared to be enjoying himself on his first run since the same event 12 months ago, but he unfortunately fell before the race really began in earnest. Willie Mullins said: "He crashed out early enough. I thought he had done enough to show that he was back to himself. He was absolutely cantering, jumping great and I thought he was jumping so well and then he over-jumped and just caught the top of it.
"I thought it was a huge positive from my point of view looking at it [the way he ran]. Maybe there will be Punchestown for him."
De Boinville said: "I was in serious trouble the whole way round. It's not his ground at all. His jumping just kept him in the race. He's some horse. He's had a hard race there. He's some horse to get me out of trouble."
He added: "He's exceptional. He's the best of the best. That was just sensational. Boy, am I lucky to ride him."
Henderson, winning the race for the fifth time, said: "We've been lucky enough to have been down this road a fair few times. It's 90 per cent relief, and 10 per cent pure joy. Everybody's done their bit.
"He stays this trip very, very well. It does look he'd love another half a mile. Would he get three (miles)? I don't know. It's only his second run of the year, so we've been playing against the clock a little bit.
MULLINS DELIGHTED WITH MIN
Willie Mullins was upbeat after the race, commenting on his runner-up, he said: "I am delighted with him, he came with what I thought was a winning run but Altior found another gear when I thought he looked beaten as they came down the hill."
Rich Ricci, owner of both the Walk In The Park geldings, Min and Douvan, reflected: "The winner is exceptional - the race was over in three strides, yet he (Nico de Boinville) had been niggling at him down the back. Earlier in the race he had to hit him down the shoulder.
"Talking to Paul (Townend) he thought he had it as well, he came swinging and cruising, my horse ran a fantastic race but my god what a monster the winner is. We use that word a lot but he really is something special. A spectacular winner."