The autumn period of the jumps season is usually a slow burner, as the big guns hoping to make an impact at The Cheltenham Festival gradually make their opening appearances. However, once in a while, the fixture calendar throws up a titanic match between confirmed champions and much talked about potential usurpers.
And this is exactly what we have in store for this coming weekend.
The hotly anticipated dual between Nicky Henderson’s 19 race unbeaten Champion Chaser Altior and Paul Nicholl’s 176 rated Cyrname is still green lighted at the 5 day declaration stage for this weekend's Christy 1965 Ascot Chase. Cyrname is almost certainly guaranteed although Altior is still joint declared with The Betfair Chase at Haydock. Nevertheless, both trainers have heavily indicated that the Ascot race is the preferred option.
However, organisers at Haydock will be shaking their heads at Ascot’s great fortune. The Haydock Betfair Chase is by far the most prestigious race of the day, being a Grade One and the first leg of the staying chase Triple Crown £1 million bonus. It certainly risks being overhauled by the fever anticipated with the Ascot dual.
We’ll assess the chances of Altior and Cyrname and size up the potential of Bristol De Mai hoping to emulate Kauto Star by taking a third Betfair Chase.
THE CHRISTY 1965 CHASE, ASCOT, SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER
One of the toughest in the business if not of all time.
The Nicky Henderson trained dual champion chaser never knows when he is beaten as demonstrated by his gutsy if not overly remarkable Cheltenham Festival victories.
But chinks in the armour have been starting to appear, albeit fleetingly.
The occasional scare in running has sometimes given Nicky Henderson something more for his heart to work on whilst the persistence of slightly jumping to the left will do him no favours at tracks like Ascot and Kempton.
The step up to 2m 5f is also a well publicised experiment. However, based on his tenacity of staying up the Cheltenham hill, you would have to say that the extra 5 furlongs at Ascot should be well within his scope.
This will be his toughest test yet. Tactics will be crucial but we can make an educated guess that there’s no way Altior’s connections will want to give Cyrname the luxury of bowling along in front. If Altior is not within a length of Cyrname at the 2nd last, it would be difficult to see how the Champion Chaser would peg back the young pretender based on Cyrname’s known finishing speed.
The 176 rated Paul Nicholls 7 year old has been the subject of intense speculation since his nonchalant demolition of some extremely decent rivals in the 2m 5f Betfair Ascot Chase last February. Aso (second to Frodon in the Ryanair), Politologue (second to Altior in The Champion Chase) and Waiting Patiently, despite keeping tabs with the leader, couldn’t even lay a glove once they reached the last as Cyrname stretched clear to win by 17 lengths.
It was by many accounts the performance of the season and the form of that win has worked out very well. Cyrname travelled well, jumped with near perfection and added finishing speed and stamina to boot. It was a national hunt dream to behold.
Much to the annoyance of Altior’s diehard fans, Cyrname is now rated a pound higher than the Seven Barrows legend. This match is, therefore, well overdue and will go a long way to settling the bragging rights of the two camps of fans.
Bring it on.
ALTIOR v CYRNAME: THE BETTING
When the declarations at the five day stage were announced, Coral’s spokesman David Stevens justified their installing of Altior as 8/13 favourite to The Racing Post:
"Although Cyrname is officially rated 1lb higher than Altior, and is proven over Saturday's 2m5f trip, we still favour Altior to come out on top on his first try at this distance, such was his dominance and superstar status over two miles and his connections' belief he now needs to go further."
Altior is best priced currently with Bet Victor at 8/11
Cyrname is best priced at 5/4 with William Hill, Betfair, Bet Victor and Paddy Power.
THE BETFAIR CHASE, SATURDAY 23RD NOVEMBER, HAYDOCK
So the Grade One Triple Crown first leg is demoted to second pegging in a superb day of jumps racing action!
It’s an arguably weak field compared to previous years although fans of Bristol De Mai and Lost In Translation may have something to say about that.
BRISTOL DE MAI
Flat track bully, Haydock specialist, the enigmatic grey.
The Nigel Twiston Davies stayer has been described by a number of handles but he could be christened hat trick hero if he repeats the quality of his front running displays from the last two runnings.
Ran a cracker in The Cheltenham Gold Cup to get within 7 lengths of Al Boum Photo and this renewal looks easier than the last two.
Selection for me and best priced at 5/4 with Coral
LOST IN TRANSLATION
One of the most improved horses of last season and very much a live and present danger to Bristol De Mai based on his eye-catching defeat of RSA Chase winner Top Of The Game at Aintree in the Betway Mildmay Novices Chase last April.
This was the first time he had tackled anything over 3 miles and looks primed for this distance. He’s come back in good form with a decent win at Cheltenham last month.
7/4 best with William Hill, Bet Victor and Unibet.
The Ryanair Chase winner ridden by Bryony Frost didn’t have the ideal preparation, with his return to the Old Roan Chase at Aintree blighted by fences being omitted due to early evening sunlight.
However, he would have come on for that and his gutsy staying credentials might be enough to give the front two in the market something to think about.
Best available at 13/2 with Betfair and Paddy Power.
Please note all odds are correct at the time of publishing (18:00 19th November 2019) and are subject to change.