IT'S ON! ALTIOR VS CYRNAME
The week after next, the draw will be made for the third round of the FA Cup, for which, like almost every facet of football, they’ve done their best to take the drama out of it, with all teams and their numbers displayed on screen, all played out in a slightly uncanny valley where neither the set nor the participants seem entirely comfortable.
But imagine if the first ball out is Manchester City, and the second is Liverpool: then we’d have something going on, a heavyweight head-to-head at an unforeseen stage of the season.
That’s effectively the equivalent of this Saturday’s Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot. But who is who and where will it be won and lost? Official ratings say otherwise, but the past and present of his CV has Altior clear at the top of the league, therefore Liverpool. The pace in attack is the feature of Liverpool, as it is for Altior, the king of the two-milers.
But this is two miles and five furlongs, and Ascot, making it a home fixture for Cyrname, levelling the playing field, if it wasn’t level already. Over this course and distance, Cyrname produced not one but two of the most dynamic and devastating performances of last season, the latter the Grade 1 Ascot Chase when 20 lengths behind him (in fourth) was stablemate Politologue, who jumped the last ahead of Altior in the Champion Chase the following month.
There’s another ‘A’ in his favour, besides ability and Ascot, and that’s agenda. I’ve equated it to the third round, but in truth it’s more of a Cup Final for Cyrname, the biggest and best chance of claiming the scalp of Altior because of where it is and when it is, at the start of the season, and the start of an experiment for Altior.
A small field he can bully, at a track that’s his second home, off a prep that has gone perfectly according to his in-form trainer who has won the race six times, everything is in place for Cyrname to run to the sort of 176 rating the BHA have him on, which is 1lb in advance of Altior.
And yet, Altior is odds-on to take care of Cyrname, and that sounds right to me.
In the aforementioned Champion Chase in which Politologue gave him a scare, Altior wasn’t at his best and still won: and that’s the bottom line with him – so far, he’s unbeatable over jumps.
There were times in his latest campaign where he appeared to be playing rather than applying. We always knew that his last 10% of a race was his strongest, Nico de Boinville always knew that his last 10% of a race was his strongest, but it felt last season like Altior himself now knows it too. As such, he did what was necessary and not all he can.
Watch Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd of November.
Cyrname is his greatest foe, but perhaps also his greatest friend, as the one horse out there who can get the best out of him and reveal his real rating. As far as a rating goes, ‘I’ll get high with a little help from my friend’ is the ditty for Altior, and Cyrname is his perfect foil, the classiest lead horse Altior could ever wish to have.
There’s a feint resemblance to the 2012 Tingle Creek which had a similar set-up, only then Paul Nicholls had Sanctuaire up against Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre, the former, like Cryname, ending the previous season on a high and playing a theoretical home game, at Sandown: but that was a mis-match.
This won’t be, and instead it will be the match of the day and very probably the game of the season, but the result will be Altior, in extra time.
A SATURDAY FANCY
The big guns of Nicholls and Henderson are firing their primary weapons, but there are few hotter stables than that of Henry Daly, as told by his statistics since the start of October, with 7 wins and 13 places. That’s part of the reason why BACK TO THE THATCH looks a good bet in the staying handicap chase over at Haydock at 12.45.
He has excelled the twice he has been to Haydock, finishing second but bumping into handicap blots both times, and his reappearance at Cheltenham last month should have served its purpose, for bringing him to a peak for this assignment.
His mark of 130 looks ripe for the taking.