‘He looks fantastic’: Paul Nicholls eyes Grade One Melling Chase at Grand National for Cyrname and says in-form Christy 1965 Chase champion is unlikely to compete at Cheltenham
- Cyrname will return to action at the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday
- Trainer Paul Nicholls claims the Christy 1965 Chase winner is looking impressive
- The French-bred frontrunner beat hot favourite Altior during the November win
- Nicholls registered a 17th victory in two weeks at the Betfair Hurdle on Saturday
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls says Cyrname is back in bouncing form ahead of his run in Saturday’s Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase but whatever the result the gelding looks unlikely to run at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
While holding entries for the Queen Mother Champion and Ryanair Chases, Nicholls says his preference would be to direct Cyrname straight to the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April.
French-bred Cyrname beat Altior in a bruising comeback run in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November. It was a much-anticipated clash which left its mark on both horses.
Cyrname (right) beat hot favourite Altior to win the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November
Harry Cobden rode Cyrname to victory and the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase is approaching
Altior ran for the first time since when landing Saturday’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury to re-boot his season. Nicholls concedes the Ascot dust-up was a likely contributor to Cyrname being brushed aside by stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Nicholls said: ‘Cyrname has come back and has bloomed in the last fortnight… I was thrilled with him on Saturday morning. He looks fantastic. On refection, the Ascot race was not an ideal prep for the King George. It was probably too close. In contrast, Clan Des Obeaux had a brilliant preparation.
‘It made me laugh when people said Altior’s back (after he won the Game Spirit Chase). Altior has never been away. He just got beaten by a better horse at Ascot on the day.
‘They probably both had hard races and, with hindsight, if we went to the King George again with Cyrname we would probably do something different.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls expects Cyrname to compete in the grade one race at Aintree
‘I think he ran OK at Kempton but the first and second fences comes quite quickly and he takes a bit of time to get rolling into his stride. He never got into a rhythm and Ascot suits him better.’
Nicholls will also keep 2019 Ryanair Chase winner Frodon in Saturday’s race but says he will only run if Cyrname, who has won on all three runs over Ascot’s 2m 5f trip including the 2019 Ascot Chase, is absent.
Nicholls added: ‘In an ideal world, Frodon will go straight to the Ryanair Chase. If Cyrname runs on Saturday, he is more likely to go to Aintree.
‘He is a relentless galloper over two mile five or six furlongs. Two miles is too quick for him so he does not want to run in the Champion Chase. The Ryanair is possible but if he runs at Ascot we might keep him fresh the grade one at Aintree which would be the perfect race for him. That’s what is in my mind.’
Victory with Pic D’Orhy in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle gave in-form Nicholls a 17th win in the last fortnight from 58 runners.
Pic D’Orhy, whose debut for Nicholls came when unplaced in last year’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, was winning for the first time in Britain and he will discuss with owner Johnny De La Hey, who also owns Cyrname, whether it is worth make a supplementary entry for an open-looking Champion Hurdle.
Nicholls added: ‘It’s a lot of money to supplement him but he has won a few quid. I will do what Johnny says. He travelled well and stayed on really strongly. It is the first time it has all gone to plan with him. He had a big weight, it was a good performance.’
Altior’s trademark win in the Game Spirit Chase should have reassured any jittery supporters. He will face arguably the toughest opposition he has ever faced in the Champion Chase as he goes for a third win in the race with Defi Du Seuil still favourite in some bookmakers and Chacun Pour Soi breathing down their necks in the ante-post lists.
Paddy Broderick, who rode the great Night Nurse to win the Champion Hurdle in 1976 and 1977, has died at the age of 80.
Storm Ciara has forced the abandonment of Exeter and Southwell yesterday while today’s meeting at Catterick was lost when the River Swale burst its banks and flooded the track’s stables. Tomorrow’s meeting at Lingfield has also been abandoned.
Might Bite, the Nicky Henderson-trained 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup second, will be aimed at the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham after his third to Native River in Newbury’s Denman Chase.
Chantry House produced one of the performances of the weekend when easily winning the novice hurdle at Newbury. The longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival looks likely with Henderson-trained stablemate Shishkin favourite for the two-mile Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.