Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA analyse the pick of the recent action, headed by Cyrname’s victory over Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase.

  • Wednesday 27 November
  • Blog
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CYRNAME PROVES HIS CLASS IN EPIC DUEL

A much-anticipated clash between the two highest rated horses in Britain was the feature event at Ascot in the Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase and the race fully lived up to its billing, writes Michael Harris

Many eyebrows were raised last year when CYRNAME was given a rating of 176 following a dominant Grade 1 success at Ascot, making him the highest rated horse in Britain, and he went into the race as an underdog against 2m champion Altior, who was officially rated 1 lb behind on 175.

It is rare that two such high profile horses meet at this stage of the season, so it was great for the sport to see them both run and seemingly give their running on the day, too. Cyrname’s style of running ensured that this wasn’t a falsely-run race and it was an intriguing duel throughout with the winner jumping well and able to find extra gears late on to maintain his lead all the way to the line,  despite a late rally from Altior.

Visually, and on the clock, there is nothing to suggest this form is unreliable and I have raised Cyrname by another 1lb to 177 (to reflect the winning margin of two and a quarter lengths), with Altior remaining on 175.

With his class now established, the challenge for Cyrname going forward is for him to show he can perform to the same level away from Ascot. Personally I believe the removal of the hood and the added maturity of the horse have been the biggest factors in his improvement through 2019. It is worth noting that prior to his string of Ascot wins the best form he had shown in his career had been when successful twice at Kempton as a novice chaser, and I see no reason why he would not be able to show this level of form there. 

As for Altior, I thought he ran a cracking race and I would not have any stamina doubts about him going forward. In running to 175 on the day, I have him bettering the form he showed when winning the Champion Chase last year. He lost absolutely nothing in defeat.

One other notable Chase performance last week was from Capeland in the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap at Ascot. Capeland had been forced through the wings of the final fence - and subsequently disqualified - by rival and stablemate Diego Du Charmil three weeks previously, but he comprehensively turned that form around over the same Ascot course and distance on Saturday.

The race was run at a strong pace and that meant the runners were well spread out at the finish in the prevailing testing conditions. Capeland clearly handled them well and came right away for a wide margin win. His rating moves up 10 lb to a career high of 153.

TRANSLATION SPEAKS THE RIGHT LANGUAGE

The fact that Lostintranslation moved into the elite bracket of staying chasers probably didn’t come as a complete surprise to many, writes Martin Greenwood

Now successful on both his starts at around 3m, LOSTINTRANSLATION left his previous bare form behind in defeating hat-trick seeking Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Lancashire Chase at Haydock on Saturday. Make no mistake, it was a victory entirely on merit.

While Bristol de Mai can’t be considered a top-drawer chaser, he is a very likeable and capable horse who was unbeaten in his four previous visits to Haydock, including the previous two editions of the Betfair on ground varying from heavy (by 57 lengths) to good, good to soft in places.

It’s hard to argue at this stage that he didn’t show his form this year either, enjoying himself out in front but ominously stalked by the strong-travelling Lostintranslation up the home straight. The pair soon pulled miles clear of the other two runners. Although Bristol put up his usual brave show and battled hard and genuinely, he was overhauled by Lostintranslation who went on to score by a length and a half, with the impression left that there was something still in the tank.

Over the last five years of the Betfair Chase the peak winning performance has been 172. I have put Lostintranslation above all those on 173, with the promise of even more to come, while leaving Bristol on his pre-race mark of 170. The only other chasers currently rated above Lostintranslation are Cyrname (177), Kemboy (176), Al Boum Photo and Altior (both 175). With stamina questions regarding Cyrname and Altior (Kempton’s sharp three miles notwithstanding), the current problems with Kemboy’s syndication and Al Boum Photo not due out until the New Year, I think it is fair to say that Lostintranslation is very much in pole position as things stand in this season’s staying chase pecking order.  

HIGH-CLASS RETURN FOR IF THE CAP FITS

Did the latest Coral Ascot Hurdle, a Grade 2 over an extended 19f, unearth a genuine threat to Paisley Park’s staying crown? Gordan Markham examines the form…

The Coral Hurdle looked a strong renewal on paper. The last two winners - Lil Rockerfeller and IF THE CAP FITS – were joined in a select field of six by Mares’ Hurdle winner Roksana, progressive handicapper Le Patriote and the 160-rated If The Cap Fits. Only the 140-rated Blu Cavalier (who went off 66/1 and finished last) looked a genuine outsider.

If The Cap Fits and Roksana both carried Grade 1 penalties and the market (and pre-race ratings) favoured Call Me Lord, who had signed off last season with a high-class effort when third off a mark of 160 in the Imperial Cup at Sandown.

The race was ran at a solid tempo, making it a true test of stamina on the soft ground, and that proved key in the end. If The Cap Fits looked booked for second jumping two out as the strong-travelling Call Me Lord, who had slightly over raced in the early stages, appeared to be going the better of the leading pair. However, If The Cap Fits outstayed his main rival from the last to get home by half a length and make it back-to-back wins in the race, the pair pulling eleven lengths clear of Lil Rockerfeller in third.

Historical standards point to a figure in the high 150s, and the best winning figure in recent years was Rock On Ruby’s 160 in 2014. However, given this looked a strong renewal I’m happy to go higher in the short term. A line through Lil Rockerfeller suggests Call Me Lord has pretty much run his race in second, and that suggests a very high-class effort from If The Cap Fits, who was conceding 6 lb to Nicky Henderson’s charge.

Successful in Aintree’s 3m Grade 1 on his final run last season – a race he did well to win after a final-flight howler - If The Cap Fits has taken his form to a new level on his last two runs, with the fitting of cheekpieces seemingly a key factor. He remains with untapped potential as a stayer and looks a live danger to Paisley Park in next month’s Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot – his new rating of 166 is just 3 lb shy of what that rival achieved in winning the Cleeve and World Hurdle last year.

Incidentally, Paisley Park is due to make his seasonal reappearance at Newbury on Friday. Call Me Lord and Lil Rockerfeller both remain on their pre-race ratings of 160 and 149 respectively. Roksana faded from the home turn and was a little disappointing. She’d finished a close second at Aintree on her reappearance and is unchanged at 151.

NOVICES TAKING SHAPE

HANG IN THERE made quite an impression when scoring in the Grade 2 SkyBet Sharp Novices’ Hurdle on the final day of the Cheltenham November meeting, writes David Dickinson

Fractious once the hood was removed before leaving the parade ring, he proved keen in the race and jumped slightly right handed but he showed a willing attitude at the business end. He isn’t yet the finished article, but the raw ability is certainly there and only Altior, Steps To Freedom and Cue Card have bettered his winning figure of 145 in the race in the last decade.

Half an hour earlier the final day feature, the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, produced a pulsating finish in which HARAMBE returned to his best to wear down Monsieur Lecoq and Gumball in the shadow of the post. Too keen over further on his seasonal debut, Harambe followed in his stable companion Elgin’s by footsteps by winning this as a second season novice.

Saturday’s Haydock card opened with THEBANNERKINGREBEL making up for his luckless late departure at Wetherby with a gritty success in the listed Betfair Newton Novices’ hurdle despite flattening the second last, seeing his rating edge above 140 for the first time (now 141).

Handicappers' blog
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