Tag Archive for: charlie hall chase

Cyrname team facing tough decisions after Wetherby defeat

Paul Nicholls has admitted he is approaching last chance saloon with Cyrname after the talented but frustrating nine-year-old was pulled up for the third successive race when seeking back-to-back victories in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Since winning the race 12 months ago, Cyrname was subsequently pulled up in the King George at Kempton and in an outing at Ascot.

The Berkshire track was the scene of arguably his finest hour, when inflicting a first defeat over obstacles on Nicky Henderson’s Altior on very testing ground in November 2019.

Cyrname famously beat Altior at Ascot in 2019
Cyrname famously beat Altior at Ascot in 2019 (Simon Cooper/PA)

Cyrname’s victory in last year’s Charlie Hall is his only win in six further races since that day and despite a second wind operation over the summer, Nicholls feels it is still his breathing that is catching him out.

Despite racing keenly and jumping exuberantly for three-quarters of the race, when Harry Skelton breezed by on Shan Blue before the turn for home, Cyrname had no answer and was eventually pulled up before the last.

Shan Blue then fell at the third last when well clear, allowing Fusil Raffles to claim success.

Paul Nicholls will consider the options with Cyrname's owner
Paul Nicholls will consider the options with Cyrname’s owner (Adam Davy/PA)

“There’s not a lot more we can do, it’s been an issue for all of his career and we’ve got away with it for a while,” said Nicholls.

“Sometimes when you get in front, you can sit and keep filling his lungs up like today. They know how to take him on and Harry (Skelton) took him on far enough from home and there was nothing in the tank then.

“Harry (Cobden) says he just goes drunk on him because he can’t breathe. It’s a nightmare really because there isn’t too much more we can do.

“He jumps and travels and he’s got all that there, it’s just when he needs that bit of effort, today he was in trouble.”

Nicholls believes retirement could be a possible option for the Johnny de la Hey-owned gelding.

“If he was going to run again it’d be at an easy track, like the Peterborough Chase (at Huntingdon) or something, or we’d just gracefully retire him.

“I know they (the owners) won’t want to see him running like that, a decision will be made in the next few days. He’s fit and well and he can always do something else, it’s just a shame.”

Fusil Raffles prevails in eventful Charlie Hall

Fusil Raffles claimed victory in a dramatic renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

All the attention ahead of the Grade Two contest was on defending champion Cyrname, who was a fine winner last year before his season tailed off and he underwent wind surgery over the summer.

Sent off an 85-40 chance, Cyrname took up his usual prominent position through the early stages and was still in front until Harry Skelton decided to kick on aboard 2-1 favourite Shan Blue at the turn for home.

The second-season chaser quickly built up a healthy lead only to get the third-last all wrong and crash out.

That gave the rest of the field a second bite of the cherry and it was Fusil Raffles and Daryl Jacob who seized the advantage, jumping the penultimate fence in the lead.

He then cleared the last in fine style to secure a four-and-a-half-length success over Kitty’s Light with Clondaw Castle back in third.

Cyrname was pulled up before the last and Nicholls reported his charge to have suffered breathing issues again.

He said: “He choked again and once he choked, that was it. One minute he was going and the next he wasn’t.”

Dan Skelton was philosophical after Shan Blue fell with the race seemingly at his mercy.

“The horse is all right, Harry’s all right. Good jumpers, when they have a fall, they have a bad fall. It wasn’t very nice but he’s OK, he’d have hacked up,” he said.

“The fence is in the wrong spot, what can you do? It’s happened to Ruby Walsh. These things happen. I was delighted with him, we know he’s a very, very good horse.

“He’s in the Hennessy and he’ll have an entry in the King George. We’ve just got to see, but it was terribly frustrating.

“Everyone’s all right, it’s just racing. One minute you’re winning a two-mile race with Molly Ollys Wishes, the next minute that happens.

“You can’t dwell on it, the horse is OK, we know he’s a good horse. We’re missing a trophy today, but at least we’re not missing a horse.”

Fusil Raffles comes away from the last clear
Fusil Raffles comes away from the last clear (Tim Goode/PA)

Jacob was delighted with Fusil Raffles’ victory, but admitted he thought he was booked for second at best when Shan Blue went for home.

He said: “He (Shan Blue) quickened after the turn from home and I thought he’d gone unless he didn’t stay, so at that stage I rode to finish second.

“Unfortunately Harry’s horse fell three out and I can tell you it was a long way to the winning line.

“I’ve no doubt about him (Fusil Raffles), he gets the trip well but I need to teach him the discipline of coming back and relaxing under the bridle rather than going forwards in the bridle.

“(It was) unfortunate circumstances, turning in I thought the winner had flown unless he just didn’t stay, but turning in I thought second was in my grasp. I’m very proud of the horse, I think he will have learnt an awful lot from today’s experience.

“He’s used to attacking his fences, going forward over a shorter trip, whereas today the pace of the race was slightly slower. He got the hang of it a little bit towards the end of the race. He’s all heart, he digs deep for you when he has to.”

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.”

Cyrname takes on six rivals as he bids for Charlie Hall double

Cyrname will face six rivals when he attempts to win back-to-back renewals of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old was a comfortable winner of the race last year but was pulled up in two subsequent starts and underwent a wind operation during the summer break.

Nicholls is looking for a fifth win in the race and should he be successful, Cyrname would join some truly great names as a dual winner of the race, with the likes of Wayward Lad, One Man and Nicholls’ own See More Business having doubled up.

Dan Skelton has started the season in good form and he runs Shan Blue, a Grade One winner as a novice last season.

The second-highest rated runner in the field is Tom George’s Clondaw Castle, who progressed through the handicap ranks to finish second in a Grade One at Aintree last April.

Mighty Thunder runs for Lucinda Russell. Winner of the Scottish National last season, Russell has opted to run in a Graded race first time out rather than carry a big weight in a handicap.

Nicky Henderson, without a win in the race since Marlborough in 2002, is represented by Fusil Raffles, who has already had one outing this season when a respectable second to Bravemansgame attempting to concede 12lb.

Kitty's Light (right) went down narrowly in the bet365 Gold Cup
Kitty’s Light (right) went down narrowly in the bet365 Gold Cup (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Christian Williams runs Kitty’s Light, only five but second in the bet365 Gold Cup last season and narrowly beaten on his return to action at Chepstow.

The field is completed by a locally-trained runner, Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben, winner of the Rowland Meyrick at the track in 2019.

Paisley Park has been declared for the bet365 Hurdle, better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, with Emma Lavelle hoping the forecast rain materialises.

Winner of the Long Walk last season, he was a gallant third when trying to regain his Stayers’ Hurdle but pulled up at Aintree.

Thomas Darby was a fine third in the Aintree race and looks a worthy challenger as does Master Tommytucker, who is unexposed over the smaller obstacles.

Ask Dillon, Proschema, Slate House and Indefatigable all run as does the Charles Byrnes-trained Run For Oscar in a field of eight.

There are seven in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle including Miranda, Molly Ollys Wishes, Fiveandtwenty and Marie’s Rock.

Clondaw Castle ready to kick off campaign in Charlie Hall

Tom George reports Clondaw Castle to be ready to return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

The Slad trainer has had this Grade Two contest over an extended three miles in mind for a while as the gelding’s seasonal debut.

George feels ground conditions will be in Clondaw Castle’s favour as the nine-year-old sticks to three miles following two big runs over that trip in the latter part of the last term.

He won the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton in February and was then second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Grade One Betway Bowl at Aintree.

“He’s in great form. I’m very happy with him. This has been the plan for a while,” said George.

“Hopefully the rain stays away and they don’t throw too much water on the place. He likes good ground so it looks like everything could be in his favour.

“If the old Cyrname turns up, we’re a lost cause but if he doesn’t we’re there to pounce. I think we’re still heading in the right direction and there’s a lot more to come.”

Cyrname lifted this prize 12 months ago but was pulled up on his only other two starts last term.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old has something to prove but he is reported to be in good shape.

“The plan is to go to Wetherby. It has been from the start of the season. He’s training well. His record fresh is very good so we’re hopeful of a big run,” Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s got a bit to prove after last season. He’s a talked-about horse. He looks in good nick. We think he’ll run well but he has to go and do it on the track.

“Last year he loved Wetherby. It’s a flat, galloping track and a fair one, so hopefully there are no worries on that score at all.”

Monday Musings: Wishing to be elsewhere…

I’m getting onto my travel agent (actually I don’t have one any more as I’ve been nowhere for ages) this morning, writes Tony Stafford. I’ll be trying to find the best (and obviously cheapest) way of getting to my new favourite place, Mata’utu, capital of the little-known Wallis and Fortuna Islands.

You didn’t know it was a country? Nor did I till yesterday when hard on the latest lockdown news, I thought it was time to rekindle my spring and summer obsession with Covid-19 and the statistics thereof.

When, two months ago, August in the UK ended with two deaths and September began with three, we all knew that racing’s apparently idiotic continuation with strict separation of limited-allowed owners from their trainers and jockeys had been way over the top. As I’ve said before, I’ve not gone racing since Cheltenham, but why couldn’t you talk in close company to trainers and jockeys when you could meet them in the pub freely before or after the races?

Now we learn that it was precisely because of how draconian it had all seemed that racing now can continue. The situation with owners has yet to be determined but if we don’t want the rest of society to get the hump, maybe it’s best to give that concession. Well done BHA.

Where so recently there were two and three fatalities, two months on it was 274 and 326, a neat average of 300 which is what it has been for the past five alarming days. Pubs, bars and restaurants will be packed until Wednesday and on Saturday the first sightings of the re-emerging toilet-roll hoarders supplanted the usual non-stop flow of trick-or-treaters on Hallowe’en. When I didn’t hear the one knock by would-be recipients of the goodies Mrs S as usual dutifully provided, we were treated with a raw egg thrown on the newly-cleaned front kitchen window for our pains! Messy to clean eggs are [as Yoda might say].

I thought it would be timely, now total cases in the UK have topped the million, so 14,000 per million of population, which is the ninth highest globally, to return to the subject. Deaths have risen above 46,000, fifth behind the US, France, Russia and Mexico.

Propping up the entire table at 218th – although a couple of cruise liners are included – is the above-mentioned Wallis and Fortuna Islands, which between them have recorded one case, the victim of which has happily recovered.

The islands are in the South Pacific, in between such better-known tourist spots as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, rugby nations whose influence on the game far exceeds the size of their population. Fiji has a team over in Europe at the moment. With only 34 recorded cases in the country it must have been a shock for the tour management to discover that “between five and seven” of their squad due to play an international in Paris with France next week have contracted the virus, so the match is off. Lesson for South Sea islanders: stay home!

I love statistics. With only one now recovered case, Wallis and Gromit – sorry Fortuna – are listed on that same Worldmeters league table as having 90 cases per million of population. I’d be willing to take my chance, as long as they tell me which of the 15,289 souls from the latest census it was that copped it. Maybe he should be required to wear a badge? Not that they are a total island paradise. Even-handed Wikipedia reports that the “main health risks are mosquitos and sunburn, while drunk driving and intoxicated locals can also be a problem”. Thinking twice now, what with my skin cancer!


It would be tragic if racing stopped again not least because it would deny us another sighting of Saturday’s marvellous Charlie Hall Chase winner Cyrname, who put together the complete three-mile performance when cantering home a couple of lengths ahead of the doughty Vinndication.

Sometimes apparent ease can be deceptive but surely not here as Harry Cobden always looked to be in first gear all the way round two circuits of Wetherby as the rest of them huffed and puffed behind front-running Aye Right. Cobden kept Cyrname wide, possibly giving lip-service to the fact the country’s highest-rated chaser hadn’t previously won going left-handed. As the 1966 World Cup commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme would have said: “He has now!”

Stamina didn’t look a problem around a galloping track and the fences, never the easiest, were treated like the most welcoming of hurdles as he soared over them in perfect union with his jockey. Paul Nicholls ought never again to have to justify Cyrname’s being rated 4lb higher than Altior, and all of a sudden the great recent domination of Irish stables in the staying chaser ranks might well be getting properly challenged. Certainly even if he wasn’t able to stretch himself to three and a quarter miles around Cheltenham in March – and how do they bet whether we can go to see it or not? – Kempton’s King George looks a Christmas gift for Cyrname.

Meanwhile here we are at the start of November and within the next six days we will have got the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday and two days of the Breeders’ Cup in Keeneland, Lexington, Kentucky, out of the way. In other words, all the worthwhile Flat racing of 2020 will have been and gone.

The O’Briens, father and elder son are back down under again, Aidan yet to win it, with 2019 Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck who heads the weights for the 24-runner two-mile handicap, and Tiger Moth, second in the Irish Derby this year and then an easy Group 3 winner thereafter. Joseph, who has won it before, also has two chances with proven stayers Master Of Reality and Twilight Payment.

Anthony Van Dyck will have his supporters after his recent close second to Verry Elleegant in the Caulfield Cup, for which the winner has incurred a 1lb penalty. Considering the first prize was £1,666,667 and the runner-up got £476,190, you could say that was hardly harsh treatment. Incidentally, Prince Of Arran, Charlie Fellows’ regular challenger for Australia’s biggest race, third and then second the last two years, got £114,000 for his fourth in the Caulfield Cup.

Verry Elleegant is some handicapper. This year the five-year-old mare, trained by Chris Waller, has gone to the races nine times, five before the actual end of the season in the Australian autumn. Her two best efforts before the break also earned her big money, each time running second behind William Haggas’s Addeybb and Tom Marquand as they picked up £1million plus prizes each time, at the start of his memorable year, while racing was in its lockdown phase back home.

After Verry Elleegant’s break, four more runs have followed bringing three wins including the Caulfield Cup.  All in Group 1 races, she started with a win over 7f, was then fourth over a mile, before further victories at 10f and a mile and a half. The three wins all came in photo-finishes. There must be a big chance that her toughness will be rewarded by victory in the biggest race of them all for Australians, and it comes at a time when Melbourne, so badly affected by Covid-19 earlier in the year, is celebrating as there have been no new cases anywhere in Australia on Friday and Saturday.

Presumably only insiders will be there rather than the six-figures that usually flock to Flemington  but the magic of getting up at all hours tomorrow morning to see John Berry give his usual virtuoso performance, not just on the big race, but all the supporting contests on the day, is an annual treat I don’t intend missing.

So the main tip is going to be Verry Elleegant and it will be a proper Aussie fairy story if she can do it. It’s always good though to see European trainers taking on the locals by using their training methods.

For years I’ve noticed more than a few horses run just before the big race. In the case of the Andreas Wohler four-year-old Ashrun, a son of Authorized – purchase authorized by Tony Nerses, of course! – he has run twice in the last fortnight, finishing a solid fourth to Steel Prince and ex-Hughie Morrison inmate, Le Don De Vie, in the Geelong Cup (Group 3) before as recently as Saturday coming home on top in another Group 3 at Flemington.

Unlike the brilliant home-trained mare and Anthony Van Dyck, Ashrun has no stamina worries for lasting out the two miles. In August he ran in the 1m7f Prix Kergorlay at Deauville and was a very good second, staying all the way to the line, behind Call The Wind. He gets 2lb extra for his win the other day, but again it will be a lovely story if the local pro-forma works for an invader.

Over the years, it seems, fewer Europeans attempt the costly trip across to the US to challenge for the Breeders’ Cup races and nowadays the dirt has become almost a total no-go. With five juvenile contests on Friday, the likeliest win for the invaders might be the Ballydoyle runner, Battleground, who has been reserved for the Juvenile Turf.

Royal Ascot winner Campanelle will be all the rage for Wesley Ward in either the Juvenile Turf Sprint, where she might meet Lippizanner for Aidan and the team, or the possibly easier-looking Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in which the Roger Varian-trained Nazuna might also be dangerous.

Three of the Saturday races that stick out as possible obvious chances for the travellers are the Mile, the Filly and Mare Turf, and the Turf. They could give us (yes it’s still ‘us’ even if we can’t be there!) three wins. In the F & M T Cayenne Pepper, Peaceful (my pick), and recent rivals Tarnawa and Audarya are a likely team for exotic wagering. In the Mile it’s One Master, Circus Maximus, 2,000 Guineas winner Kameko, and Irish 2,000 hero Siskin for the same bet. O’Brien (AP) and Gosden will line up with two runners each for the Turf, but this time it looks a straight match between Lord North (Gosden) and Aidan’s Magical. It has to be Magical for me and how I wish she could have had another shot at Addeybb after her luckless run at Ascot.

- TS

Cyrname sparkles in Charlie Hall return

Cyrname oozed class as he made a triumphant return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Paul Nicholls’ charge was last seen in February when he suffered a heavy fall at the final fence in defence of his Ascot Chase crown, but he put that memory well behind him at the Yorkshire track.

Cyrname, the highest-rated chaser in training, has been kept to right-handed tracks over the last couple of seasons, but going the other way around and tackling three miles for just the second time in his career, the 3-1 shot made no mistakes.

Harry Cobden only had to shake his mount up after the last and when he did, Cyrname (3-1) had plenty left in the locker easing home by two lengths from 2-1 favourite Vinndication, with Aye Right back in third.

Cyrname disappointed when only second in last year’s King George VI Chase, but following his stunning comeback win, he is now 7-2 joint-favourite for the Christmas highlight with stablemate Clan Des Obeaux, who is going for a third win in the race.

“I’m thrilled to bits – that meant a lot,” said Nicholls.

“Everyone was saying he wouldn’t go left-handed and wouldn’t get three miles, but everything he does at home suggests he wants three miles and more.

“He’s a different horse now to what he was two or three years ago. To see him jump and travel like that today just shows he’s grown up.

“You couldn’t work him upsides another horse as he was such a tearaway, but now he’s so much more relaxed and you can ride a race on him.

Cyrname returns after a stunning performance
Cyrname returns after a stunning performance (Ashley Iveson/PA)

“I was slightly concerned as we hadn’t got him away for a gallop with the ground being so firm. He was fit and well, but he will improve.”

Regarding future targets, Nicholls said: “He’ll probably go straight to the King George now, although I always thought Leopardstown would suit him well, so I might even cover my options and give him an entry (in the Savills Chase).

“He wasn’t right when he ran at Kempton last year – you can put a line through that. Kempton will suit him well, we’ve got a nice bit of time now and if he’s there at his best, he’ll be a serious challenger.

“This opens up lots of doors – it doesn’t matter now if he goes left-handed or right-handed and he’d definitely go round Cheltenham.

“I’d say he’ll go to Kempton, then the Denman Chase at Newbury and then we can think about the spring.

“I don’t think he’s a Ryanair horse – I don’t think he’s quick enough. If we were going to Cheltenham, I think he’ll be running in the Gold Cup.”