Harry Cobden admits he may have a difficult decision to make in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The rider shone aboard Cyrname in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday, when the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old brought Altior’s 19-race winning streak to a halt.
But stablemate Clan Des Obeaux is also on course to defend his Kempton crown, after a promising return at Down Royal earlier this month, and Cobden believes he has a “huge chance” of a repeat.
Reflecting on the weekend, Cobden said: “Cyrname looks fantastic. It was a fantastic day on Saturday – he beat Altior, and we are all very proud of how the horse performed on the day. I am absolutely delighted.
“I certainly wouldn’t get off Cyrname to ride Altior at Kempton now, after Saturday. All our horses have needed a run this year as well. He was the best horse on the day – Altior might improve, we will have to see at Kempton.
“I wouldn’t want Clan Des Obeaux half a length down on me turning in at Kempton, because he wouldn’t stop. He has obviously got a massive chance – he won the race last year.
“You might question the form a little bit, with Thistlecrack in behind him. All the same, he won it very well. He has got a huge chance, and I wouldn’t rule him out of it.
“I will ride the one I think will have the best chance. Cyrname had a hard enough race on Saturday. Clan Des Obeaux will be going there fresh and firing on all cylinders – he won’t be far away.”
Reporting Cyrname to have taken his Ascot exertions well, Nicholls – who has won the King George 10 times – said: “I am very pleased with Cyrname after Saturday. He obviously had a tough race. I think both horses (Cyrname and Altior) gave their best, ran very well and to a high level.
“If Cyrname hadn’t run in the race on Saturday, Altior would have won by half the track and everyone would have been applauding him and saying what a wonderful performance. It is probably the toughest race Altior has run in for a long time.
“I knew Cyrname was very well. You’re never confident against a horse like Altior, because he is a superstar, but I think it was a very good race – and both horses ran to a very high level. Cyrname had Altior out of his comfort zone, and just outstayed him.
“I’d like to think we would do the same at Kempton. I, personally, would be surprised if you see Altior in the King George. I am not sure what Nicky is thinking, (Altior) obviously stayed on Saturday, but whether he wants to go up another three furlongs and give him another hard race so soon after that, I don’t know.
“We are not afraid to take him on again. I think we have got a progressive horse – he has won his last three races and he looks very smart.”
Like Cobden, Nicholls feels Clan Des Obeaux is “right in the mix” for the Christmas spectacular.
He added: “Clan Des Obeaux needed his first run last year – and, again, we have left plenty to work on. He is in good shape, looks fantastic. He is definitely a better horse this year. I think he has strengthened up, so a few pounds improvement will put him right in the mix.
“Kempton suits him well. They will go a real good gallop, (and) he can get a tow into the race. Hopefully he will be bang there three out, and then we can see what happens over the last three fences.”