Nicky Henderson has “no qualms” about pitching Altior against Cyrname again, despite seeing his stable star’s 19-race unbeaten run ended at Ascot.
Cyrname proved two and a quarter lengths too good for Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase, in what was the dual Champion Chase winner’s first start beyond two and a quarter miles.
Henderson’s initial plan was to step up to three miles for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day – which would produce another clash with the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname – and that race has not been ruled out, with the Seven Barrows handler retaining full faith in Altior’s stamina.
However, Henderson is keen to see how Altior recovers before committing to a target, and the nine-year-old is set for “precautionary” post-race tests on Monday.
He told his Unibet blog: “I have no doubt he got the trip, but on that ground it was ultimately race fitness that took its toll, because he’d had no ‘away days’ or racecourse gallops, so I’d like to think he will improve for the run anyway.
“Without looking for excuses, I don’t really think he travelled with his usual zest – to be honest I thought Nico (de Boinville) would have trouble holding him, therefore I suspect the ground does have something to do with it.
“But we’ll get him fully checked over tomorrow morning, purely as a precautionary measure, and evaluate the situation after that.”
Henderson gives due credit to Cyrname for his victory, but confirms too that a re-match is still on his mind.
“He did his level best, as always – but, as I feared would have to happen one day, he got beaten by a better horse on the day, and that’s what horse racing is all about.
“Take nothing away from Cyrname – he is a very talented animal and deserves the plaudits he gets.
“I’ve just had a long chat with (owner) Pat Pugh, and she’s great about the whole thing – very philosophical as always, and we’re certainly not ruling anything in or out.
“Where we go next, I don’t know, but I definitely wouldn’t rule out the King George because that has always been the long-term plan – although if it is really heavy ground perhaps we would have to reconsider, but I’d have no qualms about taking on Cyrname again.
“I’d say Kempton is the most likely next stop if he’s fit and well, but it all depends on how long it takes to get over this; if it’s two months, then that’s how long it will take.
“He puts a lot into his races, literally his heart and soul, which is why he’s so good – so he’ll be given as much time as is required.”
Despite seeing Altior relinquish his unbeaten record over obstacles, Henderson remains satisfied there would have been nothing to gain from skipping an early-season battle with Cyrname – who is officially the highest-rated chaser in training.
He added: “You never want to give horses a hard race on their first run back, and we were sort of using it as a preparation for something else, whereas I think Cyrname was fully tuned up for his reappearance.
“But there was no way I could have ducked out of the race on account of the ground, because it had had such a huge build-up for so long and I’d have looked pretty silly if we’d swerved it – that’s no good to anyone.
“The main thing is that he is absolutely A1 this morning and lives to fight another day.”