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Aintree not totally out of the question for Cyrname

Paul Nicholls has not completely ruled out Cyrname running again this season, although he definitely will not line up at the Cheltenham Festival.

The nine-year-old was an impressive winner of the Charlie Hall Chase over three miles at Wetherby in October, but has failed to sparkle in two subsequent runs, pulling up in both the King George at Christmas and last month’s Ascot Chase.

While Nicholls reports Cyrname to be in good health, the Ditcheat trainer is working to get to the bottom of a breathing issue that is afflicting his charge, with a second wind surgery on the horizon during his summer break.

Cyrname is still entered in the Ryanair Chase and WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he will not take up either engagement, with Aintree and Sandown the only options in Nicholls’ view at present.

He said: “Cyrname is absolutely fine, he’s come out of that race well. He’s just struggling with his breathing, we’re doing some investigations at the moment to determine what we can do in the future to get him back to his best next year.

“He’s absolutely A1 – he’s just got this breathing problem that we need to sort out.

“I haven’t ruled out (Aintree) totally – he definitely won’t be going to Cheltenham. The only options left are Aintree or possibly Sandown (for) the Oaksey Chase.

“My gut feeling tells me we’ll probably have to do some more surgery on him and we’ll probably do that in July and you’ll see him next in the Charlie Hall. Nothing is ruled in or out, it just depends.

“We’re doing an overground scope on him tomorrow (Wednesday), so we can investigate him and watch his breathing while he’s actually working and that will tell us an awful lot more about what we’re going to do.”

Cyrname out to reclaim Ascot title

Cyrname seeks to bounce back to his brilliant best as he bids for a second victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old became the highest-rated chaser in Britain thanks to his 17-length demolition in the Grade One contest in 2019, a position he consolidated when he got the better of Altior in a much-anticipated clash over the same course and distance early last season.

However, he subsequently failed to fire when hot favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and was already on the retreat when suffering a heavy fall at the final fence in defence of his Ascot Chase crown 12 months ago.

Cyrname returned with victory this season on his Charlie Hall Chase comeback at Wetherby in October – but having disappointed once more in the King George when pulled up on his latest appearance, he again has a point to prove on Saturday.

Cyrname on his way to victory over Altior at Ascot
Cyrname on his way to victory over Altior at Ascot (Simon Cooper/PA)

Nicholls told Betfair: “Harry Cobden has chosen to ride Cyrname, who looked so good at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase before running way below expectations in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. He was half-asleep at the start that day and was never really travelling in behind horses.

“Harry felt Cyrname was sulking at Kempton, so we are trying cheekpieces to sharpen him up. When we tried them on him at home a week ago they had a positive effect and certainly woke him up. If they work as well at Ascot then he has to have a big chance over a trip and track that play to his strengths.”

Cobden is relishing the opportunity to get back on board Cyrname, whom he describes as “the horse of a lifetime”.

“When he won the race a couple of years ago, he was very, very good,” said the jockey.

“It was the best performance of any horse I’ve ever ridden around a racecourse – the way he jumped and travelled and beat all those good horses like Politologue, Waiting Patiently and Fox Norton. It was phenomenal, (and) I suppose that’s where he got his rating of 176.

“He’s the horse of a lifetime. Not very many people, riders or trainers, have horses like that come along in their life.

“I’ve won various races with him ,and hopefully he hasn’t won his last one – I’m sure he’s got plenty more in the tank.”

Master Tommytucker is a strong second contender for Paul Nicholls
Master Tommytucker is a strong second contender for Paul Nicholls (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Master Tommytucker, who will be ridden for the first time by Daryl Jacob.

The lightly-raced 10-year-old has not always convinced in the jumping department, but has got his act together this season to win three of his last four starts.

Nicholls added: “I’ve always rated him highly, and he has earned a shot at this Grade One level after some impressive performances this season. He is in serious order at home, working great, looks amazing – and everything is in place for a big run.

“While his jumping in the past was an issue, it was very good at Haydock and Cheltenham earlier in the season – and he was foot-perfect at Kempton last time, bar one blemish at the last fence.”

Jeremy Scott is looking forward to seeing how Dashel Drasher handles a step up in class.

The eight-year-old was a long way behind Master Tommytucker at Haydock in November, but has since registered back-to-back wins over this course and distance.

Dashel Drasher steps up in class but knows what it takes to win at Ascot
Dashel Drasher steps up in class but knows what it takes to win at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’m relishing running him, because he seems well and he’s on a roll at the moment,” said Scott.

“His jumping is a lot better now, and he’s in rude health.

“First time out at Haydock, I think it was partly the ground and partly we rode him too conservatively – he’s proved the last twice that he suits being ridden positively. He was returning from an injury at Haydock, and we were a bit mindful of that.”

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Riders Onthe Storm ran out a wide-margin winner of last year’s renewal, but will defend his crown as an outsider after being well beaten in both his outings this season.

Twiston-Davies is undeterred, however.

Riders Onthe Storm is looking to repeat last year's victory
Riders Onthe Storm is looking to repeat last year’s victory (Julian Herbert/PA)

He said: “Riders Onthe Storm is coming into this in good nick. He obviously won the race last year, and we are hoping he can do it again.

“He hasn’t been at the same level this season, but he does seem in really good nick at the moment and should improve on what he has done.

“He won’t mind any more rain, because it was pretty testing last year.”

Bennys King from Dan Skelton’s yard, runner-up to Dashel Drasher last time, completes the line-up.

Cyrname leads the way in Ascot Chase field

Cyrname heads a field of five as he bids to regain his Betfair Ascot Chase crown on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls’ chaser won the race in devastating style in 2019, but was beaten when falling 12 months ago.

His season started in perfect fashion this time around with an easy victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, but he disappointed in the King George on Boxing Day and needs to bounce back.

Having worn a hood in his early days due to his exuberant tendencies, Nicholls has declared the nine-year-old in cheekpieces.

Of the decision to run in cheekpieces, Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “I just think he was getting a bit lazy, racing behind the bridle, which isn’t like him.

“We worked him in them, and they made a big improvement. It’s just to sharpen him up really.

“He’d just got lazy. He used to be a tearaway and very free in his races, but it certainly sharpened him up in his work.

“Obviously he’s a challenge to train in lots of ways. When he’s right he’s a very good horse, and hopefully he’ll run like he did in the Charlie Hall.

“If he has a hard race this weekend it’s too close to Cheltenham, so Aintree may well suit him well, but let’s get this out of the way. The Oaksey Chase at Sandown could suit him too.”

Master Tommytucker appears to have ironed out his jumping issues
Master Tommytucker appears to have ironed out his jumping issues (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls also runs Master Tommytucker – who will be ridden by Daryl Jacob, with Harry Cobden aboard Cyrname.

“He’s in great form and looks good,” said Nicholls.

“He doesn’t have to make it (the running). He can take a lead, but they’ll be going a good gallop if Cyrname is at his best, (so) hopefully Tommy can slot in just behind him.

“He’s a very talented horse in his own right. I think he’ll run very well.

“Sam Twiston-Davies has won on him but had to ride his dad’s horse, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Daryl gets on with him.”

Riders Onthe Storm was a good winner of the race last year
Riders Onthe Storm was a good winner of the race last year (Julian Herbert/PA)

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Riders Onthe Storm had gone clear of Cyrname before the latter’s exit in last year’s event.

At the time he was on the crest of a wave, but he has struggled to recapture his best form so far this season.

One horse certainly on the up is Jeremy Scott’s Dashel Drasher, who has won his last two races over course and distance. This represents a big step up in class, but the eight-year-old has always been a promising type.

Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear to win at Ascot last time out
Matt Griffiths riding Dashel Drasher clear to win at Ascot last time out (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Just behind him last time was Dan Skelton’s Bennys King, and the pair meet again.

Six have been declared for the Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, in which Fergal O’Brien’s Hurricane Harvey has to carry a penalty for his victory at Doncaster.

Oliver Sherwood’s Sevarano takes his chance, while Kalooki represents Philip Hobbs.

Kerry Lee’s Demachine, Gary Moore’s Full Back and the David Pipe-trained Remastered complete the field.

Nicky Henderson’s Gallyhill runs in the opening greatbritishstallionshowcase.co.uk Novices’ Hurdle, with Ascot specialist Regal Encore carrying top-weight in the ‘My Oddsboost’ On Betfair Swinley Chase.

Cobden keeps faith in Cyrname’s Ascot class

Harry Cobden is backing Cyrname to revisit his impressive winning performance in the 2019 Betfair Ascot Chase when he contests this season’s renewal of the race.

Cyrname was a facile 17-length winner of Saturday’s Grade One for Paul Nicholls two years ago, leaving high-class horses such as Waiting Patiently and Politologue in his wake and earning himself a mark of 176 – as Britain’s highest-rated jumps horse.

His 2020 title defence ended with a shuddering fall when already well beaten by Riders Onthe Storm, but he looked as good as ever as he cruised to victory in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October.

Kempton’s King George VI Chase was the next port of call, in which Cobden’s mount was below par and pulled up as stablemate Frodon instead stormed to victory.

Cobden is consequently keen to take a different approach this weekend and plans to keep the nine-year-old among the leading group from the outset in a race for which there were 10 confirmations on Monday – including another from Nicholls’ powerhouse yard, Master Tommytucker, and also Riders Onthe Storm.

In a call hosted by Great British Racing, Cobden said: “I think we might adopt slightly different tactics in that we might ride him slightly more aggressively.

“We don’t necessarily have to make it (the running), but I don’t really want an episode of Kempton last time.

“I wasn’t very happy with my position the whole way round, because I was probably too far back. I made a bit of a move, but I was too wide – although I didn’t have any other option – so I had to go round a few horses in front of me.

“He winged the ditch, he jumped it very well, and then he missed the last fence down the back – and that was our race over.

Cyrname also took the measure of the mighty Altior in last season's Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot
Cyrname also took the measure of the mighty Altior in last season’s Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (PA)

“I didn’t really want to carry on for the sake of carrying on, (so) we just pulled him up and saved him for another day.”

Cyrname appeared slightly reluctant at the start in the King George.

Cobden added: “I had the perfect position down at the start, but Cyrnname wasn’t that keen to jump off for some reason – I couldn’t tell you why.

“I was slow away and jumped the first quite slowly – and before you know it, we were sixth or seventh, too far out the back.

“He just didn’t really feel to me like he wanted to go. But he came out of the race absolutely bouncing – and he went into the race bouncing – and we couldn’t find anything wrong with him afterwards.”

While Cyrname is bidding to bounce back from that disappointment, Nicholls’ Master Tommytucker was most impressive when last seen claiming Kempton’s Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase by an emphatic 12 lengths.

That form provided Cobden with something of a headache when it came to picking his mount this weekend, but he has opted to stick with Cyrname and his solid course-and-distance form.

“Going into the race, he is obviously the one to beat on paper – looking at the entries it’s quite a competitive little race,” he said.

“Paul runs Master Tommytucker, and there are quite a few other good horses. So by no means is it an easy race – but I think Cyrname is the worthy favourite.

“If Master Tommytucker turned up and absolutely blew them away it wouldn’t surprise me – he’s got a serious engine in there.

“If he gets in a good rhythm and he starts jumping well and everything’s going his way, he’ll be very hard to pass.

“Paul’s always said it, and I totally agree, there is a massive race in that horse at some stage this season.

“Whether it’s on Saturday, I don’t know, but I think he will turn up and win a Grade One shortly.”

Master Tommytucker is also on course to represent Paul Nicholls on Saturday
Master Tommytucker is also on course to represent Paul Nicholls on Saturday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

That potential gave Cobden much to ponder before he chose Cyrname this weekend.

“It was quite a tough decision, actually,” he said.

“(But) the thing is, Cyrname’s been to Ascot and he’s done it.

“If he turns up with three-quarters of the ability he had when he won there two years ago, he’s going to be hard to pass.

“I’m a believer and I’m confident he’s going to turn up and run his race.

Colin Tizzard's Lostintranslation may prove another tough opponent this weekend
Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation may prove another tough opponent this weekend (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“He’s going there in tip-top condition and hopefully he can give us a bit of a showdown and reproduce what he did two years ago.”

On the ratings, Cyrname’s toughest opponent is the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation – who will be dropping down in trip if he runs on Saturday.

Winner of last season’s Betfair Chase, Lostintranslation was only narrowly beaten in the Gold Cup in March but was a distant third in his Betfair defence in November – and once again failed to run his race in the King George.

As well as Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Riders Onthe Storm, Cyrname may again face Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados – a close second in last year’s Ryanair Chase and fourth in the King George, before unseating Gavin Sheehan in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown.

Bennys King, Dashel Drasher, Fanion D’Estruval, Kalashnikov and Terrefort complete the list.

Cyrname tops 10 in contention for Ascot Chase honours

Cyrname is one of 10 contenders for Saturday’s Betfair Ascot Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old needs to bounce back to form having failed to finish in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Prior to that, he had looked as good as ever when winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and he did claim the Ascot Chase in 2019.

Nicholls could also run Master Tommytucker, who has won three times already this season.

On the ratings, Cyrname’s main opponent is the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation, who is dropping down in trip.

Winner of last season’s Betfair Chase, he was only narrowly beaten in the Gold Cup in March, but was a distant third in the Betfair Chase in November and once again failed to run his race in the King George.

Last year’s Ascot Chase hero Riders Onthe Storm is back again for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but he has yet to return to that sort of form in two outings this term.

Saint Calvados, a narrow second in last term’s Ryanair Chase and fourth in the King George, could try to make amends after unseating Gavin Sheehan in the rearranged Cotswold Chase at Sandown.

Bennys King, Dashel Drasher, Fanion D’Estruval, Kalashnikov and Terrefort complete the list.

Nicholls quartet among 18 Ascot Chase entries

Paul Nicholls can choose from a powerful team of four after 18 entries were revealed for next month’s Betfair Ascot Chase at Ascot.

The Ditcheat trainer has four victories in the two-mile-five-furlong feature to his name, and recent Kempton Grade Two winner Master Tommytucker is the one from his quartet described as “definitely” on course for the February 20 showpiece.

It is his 2019 winner Cyrname, however, that heads the betting with the sponsors – with dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux and Real Steel also in the mix.

Nicholls said: “Of our four, Master Tommytucker definitely goes for the Betfair Ascot Chase.

Cyrname is not certain to line up at Ascot
Cyrname is not certain to line up at Ascot (Julian Herbert/PA)

“It just looks the obvious race for him, given the trip and everything, and I don’t see the track posing any problems at all. He is improving rapidly and deserves his place in a race like this.

“Cyrname’s main target could be the Gold Cup, although we have not made a final decision on that.

“The Betfair Ascot Chase is another option we wanted to have, but if we decide to go for the Gold Cup, then he won’t be able to run in both races. We will have to make our minds up over the next fortnight about what we want to do.

“After how impressive he was in the Charlie Hall, I was keen to aim him towards the Gold Cup. Then obviously what happened at Kempton (pulled up in the King George) didn’t help, but I have put a line through that.

“Clan Des Obeaux will run in the Denman Chase at Newbury – although with the way the weather is at the moment, we felt it was worth making an entry for Ascot just in case.

“Real Steel is a possible for Ascot, but he would not want to run if the ground is too soft. We may keep him fresh for the Ryanair.”

Riders Onthe Storm (Nigel Twiston-Davies) took top honours 12 months ago as Cyrname fell, and he may attempt to emulate Riverside Theatre (2011 and 2012) as the only horse to win the race in successive years.

Other proven top-level performers among the entries include Ryanair Chase second Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington) and 2019 Betfair Chase scorer Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard).

Leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have four entries, all in the care of Nicky Henderson – Caribean Boy, Janika, Terrefort and Top Notch. Henderson is also responsible for Mister Fisher, winner of the rearranged Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham in December.

Venetia Williams is represented by Fanion D’Estruval, a creditable fourth behind First Flow in last weekend’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot, and recent Chepstow scorer Cepage.

Dashel Drasher is proving highly progressive
Dashel Drasher is proving highly progressive (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dashel Drasher (Jeremy Scott) has enjoyed two victories over the course and distance this season, most recently defeating Bennys King (Dan Skelton) in a valuable handicap chase on the Clarence House card – a race Cyrname won in 2019 before his Ascot Chase success.

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup second Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith) and Kalashnikov (Amy Murphy) are also engaged.

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “Off the back of a good run in the King George, Cyrname went off the 4-11 favourite in this race last season when seeking back-to-back wins.

“He is still at the head of the market for this year’s renewal, although is 2-1 following his disappointing run in the King George last time out.

“On these entries, it looks like a strong field could go forward, and that is reflected in the betting.”

Nicholls adamant Frodon is ‘in the mix’ for Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls is confident Frodon can make his presence felt in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Ditcheat trainer saddled four runners in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, with much of the pre-race attention focusing on the rematch between his dual winner Clan Des Obeaux and the highest-rated chaser in the country Cyrname.

That pair ultimately failed to run up to expectations, and instead the stable’s apparent third string stole the show – making the much of the running under his regular partner Bryony Frost, who became the first female jockey to win the festive highlight.

Despite his victory, Frodon is a 16-1 shot for the Gold Cup, but Nicholls reports his charge to have taken his King George exertions in his stride and insists he is no forlorn hope for steeplechasing’s blue riband at Prestbury Park in March.

He said: “Frodon is mad fresh. When he is like that he is at the top of his game – he is really well.

“Frodon will go straight to the Gold Cup. Bryony rode a brilliant race on him, and he was the best horse on the day.

“No one will expect him to win the Gold Cup – but if he did win it, it would be no surprise (to me).

“Someone said the other day Santini ran the best Gold Cup trial in the King George (finished fifth). But I would beg to differ – Frodon ran the best Gold Cup trial without a shadow of a doubt.

“He loves Cheltenham and loves to be fresh, so it puts him in the mix.”

Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux
Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Clan Des Obeaux had to make do with minor honours in his bid for a King George hat-trick, while Cyrname was pulled up.

Nicholls added: “I’ve got to work out where I go with Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname. But Clan won’t have an entry in the Gold Cup, so that has ruled that out.

“I think we want to go back to riding Cyrname positively. That start at Kempton might not have suited him. He was a bit slow out of the gate, and he got behind a couple, and then it didn’t unfold.

“I think he wants to be ridden a bit more aggressively. When he won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, he managed to get wide and was tanking along and jumping brilliantly. He wasn’t able to do that the other day.

“He is quite a timid horse at home and always has been. It might just be that he needs to be back ridden positively.

“If Clan had followed Frodon he might have beaten him, but ‘if’ is a big word.”

Nicholls has big guns primed for King George action

Paul Nicholls expects Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname to serve up a Boxing Day treat in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.

Clan Des Obeaux has won the last two renewals of the Kempton Park showpiece, and had esteemed stablemate Cyrname some 21 lengths behind 12 months ago.

However, there is little to separate the pair at the top of the betting for the rematch, with Clan Des Obeaux warming up for his hat-trick bid with a runner-up finish behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase, and Cyrname oozing class on his Charlie Hall comeback.

Nicholls said: “Clan is the defending champ, he’s won two and you do get horses winning multiple King Georges. To win three would be brilliant, but Cyrname has a good record around Kempton and is in a completely different place compared to last year.

Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux after wining last year's King George
Paul Nicholls with Clan Des Obeaux after wining last year’s King George (Steven Paston/PA)

“I don’t think there’s much between Cyrname and Clan. Clan has the advantage as he has such a great track record and has won the last two, so it will be very interesting.”

Reflecting on Clan Des Obeaux’s latest Haydock effort, Nicholls said: “I think it was one of his best runs, considering the ground. Obviously it suited Bristol De Mai, who loves that heavy ground. It was a shame it rained.

“Clan always does come on for a run, but I made sure he was ready for Haydock because we went there hoping we might win. If the ground had been different it may well have been a different result, but he ran well in the circumstances.

“I think three and a quarter miles, as it almost was, on that ground, is far enough for him on his stamina – the time of the race was well over seven minutes.

“Kempton obviously suits him a lot better and he’s well ready now.”

Having inflicted a first defeat over jumps on Altior at Ascot the previous month, Cyrname was all the rage for last year’s King George, but ultimately proved no match for Clan Des Obeaux.

But Nicholls expects the eight-year-old to make more of a race of it on Saturday, having had an extra three weeks to recover from a less bruising first run of the season at Wetherby.

“Cyrname has had the ideal preparation,” said the Ditcheat handler.

“I didn’t want to run him after winning the Charlie Hall as it gave us a good eight to 10 weeks to prepare him for Kempton, unlike last year, when he had a hard race at Ascot.

“He’s very well. He wasn’t right last year as he never really got over the Ascot race. He ran well in the King George to be second, but was nowhere near his best.

“He looks great now and is more relaxed in everything he does, which means he can get three miles.

“He’s got a good record at Kempton and doesn’t have to go tearing off in front like he used to – he’s a different animal now.”

Frodon appears to have his work cut out
Frodon appears to have his work cut out (David Davies/PA)

Nicholls also saddles Frodon and Real Steel in a bid to add to his record haul of 11 King George wins.

Frodon was last seen in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, while Real Steel was third in the 1965 Chase at Ascot on his first start for the yard, after finishing sixth in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup when trained by Willie Mullins.

Nicholls added: “It was a waste of time for Frodon at Aintree – it was like the last time he went there when they took all the fences out. It’s probably not the ideal track for him, he never got in a rhythm.

“He deserves to be in the line-up. He’s got a mountain to climb to beat the others, but he deserves to be there.

“I’ve only just been learning about Real Steel and he’s improved massively for his first run.”

Clan and Cyrname feature in nine declared for King George

Stable companions Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname are two of nine runners declared for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

Clan Des Obeaux proved much too strong for Cyrname when successfully defending his crown in the Kempton showpiece 12 months ago and is on course to complete the hat-trick under Sam Twiston-Davies.

However, Cyrname looked back to his best when making an impressive start to the current campaign in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and appears set to make more of a race of it for the rematch. As last year, Harry Cobden takes the ride.

Frodon (Bryony Frost) and Real Steel (Daryl Jacob) complete a four-pronged assault for trainer Paul Nicholls as he bids to add to his record haul of 11 King George victories.

Celebrations for the Clan Des Obeaux team at Kempton
Celebrations for the Clan Des Obeaux team at Kempton (Steven Paston/PA)

Nicky Henderson is represented by Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini (Nico de Boinville), who was a surprise addition to the race after being supplemented on Monday.

The Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation (Robbie Power) failed to fire in last year’s King George and again has something to prove, after finishing a well-beaten third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month.

There were fears Power would miss the ride after travelling to Ireland last weekend, but despite a change in travel restrictions between the two countries, he is set to return to Britain.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “I was worried for no more than two seconds as I spoke to Robbie and he said he had sorted it.

“Jonjo O’Neill Jnr would have probably been re-routed, but we never had to cross that bridge.”

Power is hopeful Lostintranslation will show his true colours, saying: “I’m looking forward to riding Lostintranslation in the King George and The Big Breakaway in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase – they’re two good rides to have.

“Lostintranslation has got to bounce back, but it won’t be the first time he’s had to bounce back – he bounced back to finish third in the Gold Cup last year.

“I think the ground is the key to him and it looks like we’re going to have some nice ground in Kempton.

Waiting Patiently (right) returns from a lengthy absence
Waiting Patiently (right) returns from a lengthy absence (Julian Herbert/PA)

“He was probably a bit flat going into the race last year on the back of running at Carlisle and Haydock.

“He’s got to put a disppointing run at Haydock behind him this year, so hopefully he can do that.”

Ruth Jefferson’s long-absent stable star Waiting Patiently (Brian Hughes), Tom George’s Black Op (Tom Scudamore) and Saint Calvados (Gavin Sheehan) from Harry Whittington’s yard complete the field.

The only horse not declared was Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee, who is unable to make the journey to Kempton.

Cobden has maximum faith in Cyrname ahead of King George

Harry Cobden feels Cyrname has had a much better preparation for this year’s Ladbrokes King George VI Chase than 12 months ago.

This time last year Cyrname was fresh off the back of ending Altior’s long unbeaten run at Ascot, but it is widely accepted that in doing so he endured a very hard race and was not quite the same in two subsequent runs.

This year Cyrname endured a gentler introduction in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, and Cobden is sticking with him at Christmas rather than ride his Paul Nicholls-trained stablemate Clan Des Obeaux, who will be going for a hat-trick of wins in the Boxing Day spectacular.

“They are obviously two very good horses, but I think Cyrname is a different horse going into the race this year – I hope he is anyway,” Cobden told Sky Sports Racing.

“He wasn’t going from quite a long way out last year, I don’t think he was ever going actually. I made the wrong decision and it cost me a stack of money!

“Going into this year I think Cyrname is in good form, he came out of Wetherby really well.

“I’ll probably ride him a little different this year, I won’t be blitzing off in front trying to serve it up to them, I’ll try to conserve as much energy as I can. I might not even sit in front, I’ll probably try to take a lead and see where we are turning in.”

Clan Des Obeaux is a dual winner of the King George
Clan Des Obeaux is a dual winner of the King George (Steven Paston/PA)

He went on: “He wasn’t keen at Wetherby and travelled really well. I know we didn’t beat any world-beaters, there was no serious Grade One horse in there, there was no Clan Des Obeaux, but the way he went round there was good and he stayed on up the straight really well.

“I genuinely feel he’ll come on for it as he didn’t go away for a gallop, last year he had one before he beat Altior but this year he hadn’t been properly tuned up and hopefully that has put him right for the King George.”

Cyrname ready to roll for King George and Gold Cup campaign

Paul Nicholls believes Cyrname can develop into a prime contender for next year’s Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Ditcheat trainer plans to work back from March, with the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase next on Cyrname’s agenda – after he finished second at Kempton 12 months ago, well behind stablemate Clan Des Obeaux.

Cyrname silenced his doubters on his return this season, proving he can stay three miles and race left-handed with an impressive victory under a penalty in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Nicholls said: “Cyrname will be a different horse going into the race (King George) this year (to what) he was last year.

“He will almost certainly go down the Gold Cup route after that.

“He has had three quiet weeks, but he has cantered every day. He looks great. I couldn’t be happier with him. ”

Nicholls expects Cyrname to demonstrate his true ability in this year’s  King George, having given him more time between his seasonal reappearance and his intended outing at Kempton.

Last season, Cyrname had just over month to recover from his exertions in becoming the first horse to defeat Altior over jumps on his return at Ascot.

Nicholls said: “Cyrname was good the other day, and he has come out the race well. What we wanted to do was run him with that big gap between the two races.

“We go into the race full of optimism that we have got him really right this time.”

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.”

Charlie Hall venture is acid test for Cyrname

Paul Nicholls expects to have a clearer idea of Cyrname’s potential targets for the rest of this season after he makes his reappearance in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.

The eight-year-old made a flying start to the last campaign when inflicting a first defeat over jumps on Altior at Ascot in November.

However, he was a disappointing favourite when stepped up to three miles for the first time in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and was already back-pedalling when suffering a heavy final-fence fall in defence of his crown in February’s Ascot Chase.

With coronavirus-related travel problems putting paid to a planned trip to Down Royal this weekend, connections had the option of either heading to Wetherby for Saturday’s Charlie Hall or allowing Cyrname to concede lumps of weight to his rivals in the Sodexo Gold Cup at his beloved Ascot.

After deliberations during the week, Nicholls gave the green light for his charge to run in West Yorkshire – where both his stamina and his ability to race left-handed will be tested in a race his trainer won twice with See More Business and once with Silviniaco Conti.

Nicholls said: of Cyrname “He has never won left-handed, but I don’t see it being a problem now.

“He has gone three miles before, because he was second in the King George, but I don’t think he was right that day.

“He seems fine now. One thing he hasn’t done is have a racecourse gallop, which he did last year before Ascot. I had three pencilled in, but I’ve not been able to go anywhere because the ground has been so firm up until now.

“Whatever he does, he will improve a little bit because he has not quite had the prep he did before Ascot last year, when we knew he had to be ready to take on Altior.”

Paul Nicholls with Cyrname at his Ditcheat yard
Paul Nicholls with Cyrname at his Ditcheat yard (Adam Davy/PA)

Considering plans beyond this weekend, Nicholls added: “It’s a long season.

“Last year we had him ready to win first time out – and then it fell apart. If he runs a big, tidy race and gets the three miles then we know we will be heading off to the King George – and if he doesn’t, we will find a different route.

“He does have to put in a big performance to justify his position (as the highest-rated horse in Britain). But he wasn’t quite right at Christmas in the King George, and the Ascot race came off the back of a hard race at Kempton, and it was very heavy ground.

“Hopefully we can get back on track on Saturday.”

Kim Bailey views the race as a “pivotal moment” in the career of his stable star Vinndication.

He was last seen finishing fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and his trainer is dreaming of a tilt at Gold Cup glory next March – but admits those ambitions hinge on his performance this weekend.

“He’s fit, the horses in the yard are running well – and if he’s ever going to be good enough to take on the top-class horses, it has to be on Saturday,” said Bailey.

“He won’t lack for fitness. His work has been very good this season, and he’s a stronger horse than he’s ever been before – I go there with confidence that the horse is in the best form he’s been in and it’s really a question now of whether he’s good enough.

“The Gold Cup is our number one aim. Saturday is a very big day for us because if he does fall flat on his face, we’ll have to look back towards handicaps, rather than Grade Ones – it’s a pivotal moment in the horse’s career.”

WetSam Spinner after winning at Wetherby last season
Sam Spinner after winning at Wetherby last season (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Sam Spinner won his first three starts over fences last season, with two over course and distance followed by a wide-margin success in the December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

A pelvic injury meant he missed the rest of the season, but O’Keeffe could not be happier with his stable star as he prepares for his comeback.

“I’m very much looking forward to it, (but) I’m obviously slightly anxious because I want it all to go well,” said the Leyburn trainer.

“His preparation couldn’t have gone better – everything has gone absolutely perfectly and just how we wanted.

“The competition is obviously very stiff, but there’s no point hiding – we’ve got to get on with it and find out what he’s capable of.”

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.

Twiston-Davies said: “He’s good. It’s probably a bit hotter race than it was last year, but never mind – we’ll have a go.

“He won the race last year, so we know he likes the track and he’s ready to go. The ground should be fine.”

The Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi was a disappointing favourite for last year’s race and will line up as an outsider this time around, after finishing fourth on her return from a break at Perth last month.

Warren Greatrex believes La Bague Au Roi is back to her best
Warren Greatrex believes La Bague Au Roi is back to her best (PA)

Greatrex said: “La Bague Au Roi has had a run this year, which helps, and we’ve subsequently tinkered with her wind.

“Whatever that did, it seems to have ignited a flame somewhere – because she seems to be back to her best.

“She gets all the allowances and plenty of weight from others. I’m not saying she’s going to win, but I think she’ll put up a huge performance on Saturday from what I’m seeing at home.”

Greatrex also saddles Keeper Hill, of whom he added: “He seems in good shape. Mine have been needing the run a little bit, but he’s been trained to be as ready as he can for this.

“I wouldn’t expect him to win, but he’ll be dropped in and if they go too quick or something happens in front, he’ll be there to pick up the pieces.”

Nicholls chooses Wetherby for Cyrname

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.”

Lisnagar Oscar reappears at Wetherby
Lisnagar Oscar reappears at Wetherby (Simon Cooper/PA)

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.