Racegoers are probably already hyped for the new year, waiting for May, when the Kentucky Derby happens. Yet, they were treated with an early-season glimpse at two of the very finest racehorses in the country on Saturday afternoon when Altior and Cyrname went head to head at Ascot.
The favourite was undoubtedly Altior, who went into the race having won his last 19 over the jumps. That record has stemmed back nearly five years, so the Nicky Henderson trained horse would have been forgiven for forgetting what defeat feels like. However, that was something that it would need to endure following an instant classic down south on the weekend.
The battle between Cyrname and Altior was one that punters have been waiting for, and any chance that we got close to seeing it last year, the weather would puncture any dreams. The wait was finally over on Saturday however, and there could be a lasting impression on the ante-post betting for the Cheltenham festival following a shock win.
Cyrname Topples Altior
As we mentioned, it has been nearly five years since Altior last lost, but this would be his first loss chasing. Nicky De Boinville onboard had little answer for the vibrant and younger horse challenging the great champion. As soon as Cyrname went ahead, everybody in attendance knew they were seeing something huge.
It could be a clear sign of the times ahead for Altior as he failed to reel in Cyrname on his very first run over the distance in the Christy 1965 Chase. Connections were quick to play down the loss and stated that the conditions and fitness of the festival champion were to blame for the defeat.
However, Henderson revealed in his blog with Unibet that the horse was fine despite the conditions and defeat. He wrote: “I am pleased to report that Altior is absolutely fine this morning after his gallant run in the defeat at Ascot yesterday and has eaten everything put out in front of him; he also trotted up completely sound which is the main thing following the testing run.”
The immediate future isn’t likely to change for Altior. He will still head the betting for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, and the path for that very race looks to follow the same pattern that has been set by Henderson over the last couple of years.
Henderson continued: “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.”
The festive meeting is where Altior has stepped up his performances ahead of Cheltenham in two of the last three years. Last year he held off Diego Du Charmil to win by 19 lengths, but there is a feeling that he isn’t as durable as he was 12 months ago.
That win at Kempton was the best performance by the Henderson trained horse in 2018, with Altior only squeaking out wins at Cheltenham and Sandown to end the season. Cyrname is a different calibre of horse to what Altior has been used to over recent years, and his heart and desire will be tested for the remainder of this jump season.
It is still unknown whether the two super horses will be going head to head at the Cheltenham Festival, who happens one month after the NFL SuperBowl wagers, as Cyrname could instead opt to compete in the Gold Cup. However, racing fans, will be hoping that this isn’t the only time that we will see them going toe to toe.