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Steve McManaman: I'd send Altior to Ascot

Altior has options in both the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Altior has options in both the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

In the first edition of his brand new column on HorseRacing.net, Liverpool legend Steve McManaman gives his thoughts on everything that’s going on at the moment, from the Altior conundrum to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and I’m A Celebrity…

Let’s start on the bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez while training with England last week…

To be honest, there are always clashes in training - when you live and play football every single day, there’s always heated incidents on the training ground. 

When the intensity is high and people are playing for places, you may get away with a tackle or a pull of the shirt and people get frustrated, it happens all the time.

To me it was nothing; it was over in 10 seconds, both the players were fine and I was actually there on the day it happened at the hotel and it was quite relaxed afterwards.

That being said, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous what happened with Joe Gomez being booed at Wembley, but that is just part of what happens when a story gets out - people start taking one side or the other. In the world we live in now, it’s virtually impossible to keep anything quiet anymore, and I think that’s the sad thing about it.

I don’t think Jurgen Klopp necessarily has to give him any backing by starting him against Crystal Palace on Saturday. If everyone is fit, he will probably go with the team that beat Manchester City, and if Joe plays it will be because he is a fantastic player - that’s all. 

Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been brilliant over the past month or so when he’s been given more time to play. 

I have no idea if he will start in the European Championships with England, but he deserves to be there, because his form is excellent. He was brilliant last week in the Champions League for Liverpool, his performances are improving the more he stays fit, so I do hope he gets himself into the England squad for the upcoming European Championships.

In terms of getting into the Liverpool side on a permanent basis, their starting eleven seems pretty settled at the moment when everybody’s fit and well, but of course we know in December that Liverpool have ten games as well as going to Qatar for the World Club Cup, so everybody will get a chance to play and a chance to perform well.

At the moment, Liverpool’s starting eleven deserves to be where it is because they’re in magnificent form.

Meanwhile, I’ll be avidly watching and cheering on Ian Wright in the jungle!

He’s currently the bookmakers’ favourite and I think everybody who knows Wrighty know he’s a great character; he’s laughing all the time, he’s joking all the time, so he’s got a wonderful chance of winning it. 

The people at home who do all the voting will probably love him, but you just don’t know how the contestants react when they are in there. They have to do the trials, they have to do things they don’t like, but for comedic value he’s going to be absolutely brilliant.

He’s going to be the person that keeps everybody laughing, keeping spirits high and jovial. You just hope they all get through it when they’ve got no food to eat.

Everybody knows what the show’s about, that there’s spiders and snakes, that you can be locked away, that it’s claustrophobic and that you’re going to have no food.

They will go through the emotions if they don’t eat and they don’t sleep, and everybody gets grumpy at times - but Wrighty has the capacity to be fine with it.

He’s a really good mate of mine and I love him to bits, I think his attitude is brilliant and I hope that he does really well.

However, I don’t think you’ll see me on the show anytime soon!

Let’s get onto the racing! It’s something that I’ve always been obsessed with.

My grandfather was a bookies’ runner many moons ago, and being from Kirkdale in Liverpool - with the Grand National just 10-15 minutes down the road - firstly you’re obsessed with football, and secondly you’re obsessed with racing. 

I’ve been to the races lots of times and I try and go as often as I can - I’m very good mates with A.P. McCoy and I am friends with a number of other jockeys. 

In terms of favourite racecourses, I love Cheltenham because of the quality of the racing there, but I prefer Aintree - which I love as it’s on my doorstep. 

I love Flat racing, too. I like York which is a very unique course, while I’ve been to Happy Valley in Hong Kong many, many times. I just think it’s a fantastic place and love the fact that it’s surrounded by skyscrapers - and I go as often as I can.

I’ve owned several horses over the years, and have been fortunate in that every horse I’ve invested in has been a success.

It started with the Anfield Hombres in the mid-Nineties, which consisted of seven or eight Liverpool players. We owned a horse called Some Horse, and he won a couple of races at Haydock and Doncaster, which was brilliant.  

As my interest in horses progressed, I wanted to get better horses and to cut down on the partnership, because collecting money off some of the players was a disaster at times because there was so many of them.

I ended up just getting myself and Robbie Fowler involved, and we started buying better quality horses.

At first we had a horse called Auetaler that did very well for us, and ran in some good races and won some races.

We were very fortunate with every horse we bought because Graham Bradley picked the horses for us, and every horse that we bought won races.

Seebald was probably our most successful horse. He was second in the Arkle Trophy behind Moscow Flyer, and ran a few times in the Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as winning at Cheltenham on several occasions outside of the Festival.

We also had horses that have won at Aintree, so we probably had around 35 wins out of five or six of our horses - so we were incredibly fortunate.

We’re set for a stellar weekend of racing, too, headlined by the Betfair Chase at Haydock…

It looks likely that Altior will head to the 1965 Chase at Ascot, so the most interesting in the Betfair are Bristol De Mai and Lostintranslation

Living in the north, the rain we’ve had recently would favour Bristol De Mai, and although Lostintranslation ran really well last time out, if it stays soft and the rain continues to fall you would have to fancy Bristol De Mai. 

Meanwhile, I think the 1965 Chase is the better option for Altior. If you’re going to try and get him ready for the King George and three miles, then this race will be spot on, and the trip of two miles and five furlongs on Saturday will suit him down to the ground. 

Altior must be one of the best we’ve seen, though. Of course Frankel is the daddy on the Flat, but over Jumps we’re talking about horses such as Sprinter Sacre or Kauto Star for the mantle of the greatest ever. He’s 19 from 19 over obstacles, and if he can step up to three miles and win the King George or the Gold Cup, that will take him to another level. That being said, what he’s achieved so far is absolutely exceptional, and puts him up there with only a handful of names. 

Cheltenham Festival
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