It seems the first big clash of the new jumps season is back on ice, as the team behind Altior are not yet ready to commit him to taking on Cyrname at Ascot in two months’ time. Cyrname is now confirmed for the 1965 Chase on 23 November, but apparently it was premature for the Racing Post to headline that news on Monday with: “It’s on – the clash we all want to see.”
“Nothing is set in stone,” said Nicky Henderson, Altior’s trainer, in response to that headline. “I have a huge amount of respect for Cyrname and I’m not afraid to take him on with Altior, but it is by no means certain that they will meet in the Ascot chase as many have suggested and there’s no doubt we’ll do what’s right for the horse.”
Speaking through his Unibet blog, the trainer said he and Altior’s owner, Patricia Pugh, would sit down together “in the very near future” to make a decision about his plans for this season. “I personally think he’s looking for another half a mile,” Henderson said, “in which case we have to start thinking about, is the King George where we want to go?”
But even if it is, there are ways of getting Altior to Kempton on Boxing Day that do not involve a clash with Cyrname. It wouldn’t surprise me if, for example, Henderson was mulling a trip to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase in early December.
When we get to March, Henderson’s horses will be in all the big races, taking on whoever else happens to turn up. But he has to get them there first and I wouldn’t judge him harshly for being a bit conservative with his race-planning in mid-autumn.
In Altior, he’s looking after a superstar who remains unbeaten over obstacles. Now that he’s stepping him up in distance for the first time and trying to find out if it’s a good idea, Henderson is understandably less than keen to be taking on an absolute monster who won an Ascot Grade One by 17 lengths when last seen.
It’s a pity if the clash doesn’t come off, not least for Ascot, which would become the centre of the racing world if Altior and Cyrname turned up that day. On the other hand, executives at Haydock would rather the clash did not happen, because they’re staging the Betfair Chase on the same day as the Ascot race and don’t want their biggest jumps race to be completely overshadowed. The best bet you’ll ever make is that, in the event of Altior v Cyrname taking place, the London-based media would eschew the M6 in favour of a quick jaunt to Berkshire.
Tuesday’s best bets
Goodwood and Catterick offer us some decent action for so early in the week, while provoking despair in the hearts of those who think racecourses should be be laid out on nice, flat bits of ground. Seaborn (2.15) takes my eye at 4-1 in Goodwood’s opener.
This five-year-old joined Patrick Chamings at the start of the year as a failed hurdler but has relished his return to the level, with form figures of 12121. He was handed a soft lead last time which he probably won’t get here but he’s only 3lb higher and has had a useful 47-day break since that career best.
Angel Grey (3.50) looks an Andrew Balding filly worth sticking with after her Windsor novice success three weeks ago. She runs off a fair mark in the nursery and is available at 5-2.
The nap is Themaxwecan (4.25), who has done well this summer as a three-year-old taking on older rivals in staying handicaps. He won at Ascot in July and was beaten only by Saroog at Newmarket recently, battling on well after being headed. Mark Johnston’s runner is 5-4 to go in again.
At Catterick, another three-year-old fancied to beat older rivals is Gylo (4.40), who carries no penalty for landing an apprentice race on Saturday. That, of course, is why he’s 4-5.
Tommy Hallinan (5.10) ran well on his first start since joining Brian Ellison from Marjorie Fife, having had a wind op in the meantime, and might be worth chancing at 7-2 for this drop into Class 6 company.