Nicholls keen on Altior clash for Cyrname

But Henderson warns far from certain pair will meet at Ascot in November

  • Monday 02 September
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Paul Nicholls would relish a clash between Cyrname and Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.

The Nicholls-trained Cyrname ended last season as the highest-rated horse in Britain following his 17-length demolition job in the Ascot Chase in February, with his mark of 176 putting him 1lb clear of Nicky Henderson’s dual Champion Chase hero Altior, who is unbeaten in 19 starts over jumps.

Henderson has raised the possibility of Altior being stepped up in trip this term – with a tilt at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day a potential target – and Cyrname is also bound for the festive showpiece over three miles.

However, the pair could first lock horns in a two-mile-five-furlong Grade Two at Ascot on November 23.

Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “One has got form over two (miles) in Altior and this horse has form over two-five. It will be some clash if they meet at Ascot.

“He (Cyrname) doesn’t have to run from the front, but it suits him doing that. Kempton can be a front-runners track if you jump and gallop and he is slightly better right-handed.

“He is a high-class horse who will hopefully keep going forward, (but) he has got to get three miles yet. It’s a bit like Altior – it’s great being able to gallop and get two-mile-five and he (Cyrname) suggested at Ascot he will get three, but until they actually do it you don’t know for sure.”

Altior is the general 3-1 favourite for the King George, with Cyrname and his stablemate Clan Des Obeaux – winner of the Boxing Day highlight last season – next in the list at 6-1.

Henderson, however, has warned plans for Altior are very much fluid.

Writing in his blog for Unibet, the Seven Barrows trainer said: “I’d like to make it clear that nothing is set in stone as to what he is going to do.

“After a brief chat with Patricia Pugh (owner, on Sunday) we will all sit down again in the very near future and make a decision as to which route we take.

“It was the same a few years ago when we had to decide whether to stay hurdling and aim for the Unibet Champion Hurdle or go novice chasing, but I think it’s fair to say we made the right decision on that front!

“We all know how good Altior is at two miles and I suppose you could say if we are the best at one thing, why change it? But I personally think he’s looking for another half a mile in which case we have to start thinking about is the King George where we want to go?

“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.

“Altior is back at Seven Barrows and cantering away nicely so everything is going well and as soon as we have made a decision about where he’ll start his season, I’ll let you know!”

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