Nicholls confident as Cyrname bids to retain Charlie Hall crown

Paul Nicholls is delighted with Cyrname’s preparation as the nine-year-old bids for back-to-back victories in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Cyrname disappointed on his only two subsequent starts last term – but has since had wind surgery which the Ditcheat handler feels has done the trick.

A big run is expected at the West Yorkshire track on Saturday, when victory would make Cyrname the seventh horse to win the race twice – and the first since Ollie Magern in 2005 and 2007.

“He is back at Wetherby to defend his crown in the Charlie Hall Chase after a cracking success in this race a year ago,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He looked right back to his best in beating Vinndication that day, then under-performed twice subsequently before we gave him a wind op. I’m convinced that Cyrname is at his peak when fresh, so this race was the obvious choice to kickstart his season.

“He looks great, and it’s encouraging that Scott Marshall – who rides him every day – says he is in a better place than this time last year. The flat track at Wetherby certainly suits Cyrname, who is clear top on ratings. This is the day that matters for him.”

Dan Skelton makes no secret he has been targeting second-season novice Shan Blue at this race for some time, too.

“This is the race we’ve always been coming for,” he said. “I’m excited now it’s here.

“It’s a first step out of novice company, which isn’t going to be easy. But we’re very happy, and this has always been the plan.

“We’re up against Cyrname and Clondaw Castle that have been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Cyrname’s got the biggest T-shirt.

Shan Blue (left) steps out of novice company in the Charlie Hall Chase
Shan Blue (left) steps out of novice company in the Charlie Hall Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“So you don’t know until you’ve done it. But the one thing I will say is he was a very. very good novice. The novices have to step forward and take on the older horses – (so) you’d want to step forward with one of the better novices rather than one of the middle ones.

“Ultimately if he can’t step forward, which ones of them can?

“I’m not saying ‘yeah, we’ve got to go and win for it to be any type of result’ – of course not. But I want to see him bang there, giving them all some trouble.

“He’s fit, he’s won at the track. There’s no excuses like that.

“This has always been the plan. There’ll be no ‘oh, he blew up’, none of that. He’ll tighten up for the race, and he’ll improve a fraction, of course he will – but which ones don’t?

“But ultimately, he’s got to run well…and he will. If he’s in Cyrname’s league, then great; if not, then we’ll have to re-plan.”

Clondaw Castle has improved for the step up to three miles, as his trainer Tom George expected. The nine-year-old won the valuable Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton in February, and was second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April.

George believes there is better come.

“He showed three miles is his trip in the big handicap chase at Kempton. He ran very well at Aintree but he got a bit tired that day,” he said.

“It was a combination of things, but he was second in a Grade One and was the only horse who could go with Clan Des Obeaux that day. No horse in the country would have beaten Clan Des Obeaux that day.

“I don’t think he was at his peak at Aintree. I think there’s still a lot more to come.”

Fusil Raffles tries three miles for the first time
Fusil Raffles tries three miles for the first time (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fusil Raffles goes into unknown territory as he moves up in distance. The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old shaped well on his seasonal debut when a staying-on second to Bravemansgame at Newton Abbot recently.

“We are looking forward to trying Fusil Raffles over a longer trip for the first time,” said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

“Obviously it looks a tall order for him against Cyrname. But the Newton Abbot race three weeks ago (when second to Bravemansgame) will have brought him on fitness-wise, and we felt it was worth a roll of the dice.”

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