Clash of the titans! Henderson’s Altior takes on Nicholls’ Cyrname at Ascot

Clash of the Titans! Nicky Henderson’s Altior takes on Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot

  • Altior takes on rival Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday
  • Unbeaten over hurdles or fences, Altior is chasing a 20th consecutive victory
  • He has never raced over as far as Saturday’s two-mile and five furlong distance
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Neither camp thinks it is going to lose, supporters are evenly split and the result will potentially define the rest of the jumps season.

Just three of the reasons why the clash between Altior and Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday afternoon is the most anticipated jumps race since Denman clashed with and beat Kauto Star in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

One-on-one is the purest form of sport and that’s what we have. Two big-hitters squaring up to land a knock-out blow.

Altior is chasing a 20th consecutive win having never been beaten over hurdles or fences

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Altior is chasing a 20th consecutive win having never been beaten over hurdles or fences

Adding to the fascination is the clash of styles. Nicky Henderson-trained Altior, the slick, brilliant professional who has dominated the two-mile chase division for the last two seasons, is chasing a 20th consecutive win having never been beaten over hurdles or fences.

He has, however, never raced over as far as Saturday’s two-mile and five furlong distance. If he can win under jockey Nico de Boinville, it will open up new horizons with an immediate shot at Kempton’s three-mile King George VI Chase on Boxing Day on the cards.

With that is the chance to prove himself that rare gem — a champion at multi-distances like iconic Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.

In contrast, Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname is the reformed hooligan who was propelled to the top of the chasing tree with two devastating course and distance wins last winter.

Under jockey Harry Cobden, he will try to jump and gallop his opponent into submission.

It is set up to be the equivalent of Michael Johnson taking on Usain Bolt over 300 metres. The Altior camp seems most wary but arguably has more to lose.

Altior takes on rival Cyrname (above) in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday afternoon
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Altior takes on rival Cyrname (above) in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday afternoon

Altior takes on rival Cyrname (above) in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday afternoon

Henderson said: ‘I hope it lives up to its billing because it is a big test for both of them. Stamina will be the issue. Nico always thought Altior was racing last year as if he wanted another half a mile. I hope he is right.

‘He has so many gears, you cannot believe he is a stayer. If he is, he is the most remarkable horse I have ever seen.’

Cyrname has to prove his big wins last season were not flashes in the pan but Nicholls is as bullish as ever.

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He said: ‘He used to blitz off and do everything too soon, not breathing. He was a nightmare.

‘He suddenly realised he had to do something different. It has to be maturity. It’s like having two different horses. I am very confident he is in serious order.’

Nicky Henderson had Ascot double on Friday courtesy of Angels Breath (above) and Igor

Nicky Henderson had Ascot double on Friday courtesy of Angels Breath (above) and Igor

Nicky Henderson had Ascot double on Friday courtesy of Angels Breath (above) and Igor

Neither the Henderson nor the Nicholls stables have been at full throttle yet this season but the Henderson camp got a boost with an Ascot double on Friday courtesy of the impressive Angels Breath and Igor.

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The results help sway this heart and head to Altior, who should be able to sit on Cyrname’s tail before going through the gears his trainer eulogises over.

The better opponent could also bring out the reserves Altior has never had to call upon. They have looked to be there.

Nicholls also runs Frodon in Haydock’s Betfair Chase, where the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol de Mai will attempt to join Cue Card and Kauto Star as three-time race winners.

Normally, that race would be the day’s headline act but it is relegated to supporting bill as Altior and Cyrname square up. Let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

 

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