Cyrname is set to face nine rivals in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
The highest-rated chaser in Britain – following his victory over Altior at Ascot last November – the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old subsequently disappointed when a hot favourite for the King George at Kempton before suffering a heavy fall in February’s Ascot Chase.
With coronavirus travel complications prompting connections to shelve plans to run in this weekend’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, it was a straight choice on Saturday between a trip to Wetherby or giving away lumps of weight in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot.
It was confirmed on Thursday morning that Cyrname would appear in West Yorkshire for what will be his first start on a left-handed track since finishing fourth at Aintree in the spring of 2018.
Kim Bailey faced the same choice with Vinndication, and has also elected to head for Wetherby instead of bidding for back-to-back wins in the Sodexo Gold Cup.
The Vinnie Roe gelding was last seen finishing a close fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March – and Bailey has revealed the decision to run in the Charlie Hall was made after speaking with Nicholls about plans for Cyrname on Wednesday.
Speaking on a Zoom call hosted by Great British Racing, Bailey said: “I was in communication with Paul Nicholls yesterday and he was very good by coming back to me last night. I have to say, he is excellent in communicating his plans with fellow trainers.
“I decided overnight that I’d take the bull by the horns and take him on. I have a very high opinion of Vinndication and really and truly I need to find out if my opinion of him is vindicated!
“We’ve got to look at where we’re going to go from Saturday onwards. A bold showing from him would take him away from handicaps in the future, and a bad run from him would take him back into handicaps.
“The easy option would have been to go to Ascot, but I hope this horse is ready to step and now is the time to go and do it – especially when Cyrname probably doesn’t have the world’s greatest record going left-handed.
“I have to go in there saying I think Cyrname is potentially vulnerable. It’s difficult to suggest a horse rated so far ahead of us is vulnerable, but he had a hard race at Ascot last season (against Altior) and it took him a while to get over it.
“This is the most competitive Charlie Hall I’ve seen in a long time and it’s going to be a good horse who wins the race.
“Cyrname is going to have to be at his best to win, I think, and we’re going to give it our best shot to try to beat him.”
Last year’s Charlie Hall hero Ballyoptic returns to defend his crown for Nigel Twiston-Davies, while Brian Ellison’s 2018 winner Definitly Red is also in contention.
Jedd O’Keeffe saddles stable star Sam Spinner, and Warren Greatrex fires a couple of bullets in Keeper Hill and La Bague Au Roi. Harriet Graham’s Aye Right, the Mick Channon-trained Mister Whitaker and Saint Xavier from Richard Hobson’s yard complete the field.
Aye Right is bidding to become the first Scottish-trained winner of the Charlie Hall since High Edge Grey in 1988, and Graham said: “The form of his second at Kelso last time was given a proper boost with the winner Nuts Well winning the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday.
“We were delighted he came so close, to be honest, as the trip was on the short side and it was all part of the programme to get him to the Charlie Hall.
“He is a horse that is just coming to his best. He wasn’t disgraced when fifth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham back in March and this has been his early target since the summer.”
Last season’s surprise Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar tops nine runners declared for the bet365 Hurdle – better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle.
Rebecca Curtis’ charge will concede upwards of 6lb to the rest of the field – including Colin Tizzard’s Copperhead, Noel Kelly’s Irish raider Decor Irlandais and the Twiston-Davies-trained Wholestone.
Next Destination is a fascinating contender on his debut for the Nicholls yard, having been off the track since beating Delta Work in a Grade One novice hurdle at the 2018 Punchestown Festival for Willie Mullins.
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