Cyrname, the highest-rated steeplechaser in training, is friendless in the betting prior to his return to action in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday, the eight-year-old’s first race since a fall at Ascot in February which left him stricken and shielded by sight-screens for several minutes before he finally rose to his feet.
He did so to loud applause from the grandstands, having been only badly winded in his fall at the final fence, but Cyrname was already beaten at the time and he will head north for an exceptionally strong renewal of the Charlie Hall with something to prove.
The Grade Two contest will also be Cyrname’s first start on a left-handed track since April 2018 and that could be another factor in a sharp drift in his odds in recent days, from 5-4 on Monday to a top price of 7-4 on Thursday evening.
The bookmakers have also seen strong support for Vinndication, from 7-1 to 4-1, as Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old attempts to live up to his name and justify the trainer’s long-held belief that he could be up to Cheltenham Gold Cup standard.
“We’ve decided to take the bull by the horns and take [Cyrname] on,” Bailey said on Thursday. “I have a very high opinion of Vinndication, and I need to find out if it’s vindicated.
“We’ve got to look forward to where we go from Saturday onwards, a bold showing would take him away from handicaps in future and a bad run would put him back in handicaps. I hope he’s ready to step up and now is the time to do it, especially when Cyrname probably doesn’t have the world’s greatest record going left-handed.
“I think it’s the most competitive Charlie Hall I’ve seen for a very long time with a load of good horses in there. Cyrname will need to be at his best to win and we’ll give it our best shot to try and beat him.” Vinndication finished a close fourth under top weight in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March and is currently a 50-1 chance for the Gold Cup in the spring.
“Cheltenham last year was a difficult one because he had an injury over Christmas which meant that we couldn’t run again [after a winning seasonal debut] so he had a very disappointing preparation.
“It was a phenomenal run off top weight, he just emptied coming the last and frankly, if he’d won off top weight, everyone would have said: ‘Why on earth didn’t you put him in the Gold Cup?’. He’s got to show it first, but he’s heading in that direction.”
The first big Saturday of jumping action in Britain this season will be preceded by a fascinating afternoon at Down Royal on Friday, when two of the biggest stars in the Gordon Elliott stable are due to begin their latest campaigns.
Envoi Allen, unbeaten after eight starts including the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, will make his chasing debut against five opponents in the beginners’ chase at 3.00, while Abacadabras, who was touched off by Shishkin in the Supreme Novice Hurdle, sets off on a path that could lead to the Champion Hurdle in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle at 1.50.