It’s the anticipation that matters most, sometimes much more than the event itself, but should the latter match up to the former in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday then it will live in our memories for a lifetime.
Cue the likes of Phil Taylor v MVG, Ovett v Coe, Ali v Frazier, Fischer v Spassky, Barrera v Morales, Peaty v Van Der Burgh, Federer v Djokovic and of course in line with the Ascot theme who can forget Desert Orchid and Panto Prince.
But can Altior versus Cyrname live up to the hype? Essentially this is Nicky Henderson’s champion chaser playing ‘away from home’.
The first factor, which has hardly been mentioned, is that he regularly jumps to the left, is racing over a new trip against a rival that has the highest cruising speed in this sphere, while his rival is running over the ideal course and distance for his assets to be played to the max.
And as if those facts weren’t enough to oppose the big ‘A’, Cyrname is actually marked up above his rival on official ratings. It’s an open and shut case. And yet.
Paul Nicholls’ horses have been needing a run almost without exception, Altior will adore being towed into the contest and is unbeaten first time out in his career to date!
It’s on a knife edge and when that happens, I am always happy to side with the outsider of two, but the key component for me is that I simply don’t think that Altior will see out the trip at the rate of knots that his rivals will sail along at in front.
So Cyrname gets my vote as it’s odds-against the Nicholls’ rocket, but a minimum bet is all that is required in what hopefully will turn into an historical match-up.
The 3m Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday (15.00) is equally, if not more, mouth-watering as, to continue the theme, Bristol De Mai also has home advantage. This is his Gold Cup and whatever you say about his third at Cheltenham in March, the track, distance and probably the ground sets up perfectly for him at the Lancashire track.
The interesting question here is will that mighty mouse of a chaser, Frodon, dare challenge him up top from the off? If he does then this could be a battle of epic proportions, between two essentially great ‘leapers’ of the game. I think Frodon has been crying out for a step back up to three miles and this and flat 24 furlongs looks made to measure.
Throw in the new kid on the block, Lostintranslation, and we have a race to savour. The latter cruised home in the Colin Parker at Carlisle, but Count Meribel hardly advertised the form last week at Cheltenham.
Ballyoptic remains a young chaser on the upgrade, but he will need to fence much better in this elite class to strike a blow so the selection has to be Bristol de Mai, but he’s not necessarily a bet!
But fear not, I will be dipping my hand into my not-so-deep pockets to pull out a few notes to pass onto the layers in the Betfair Best Odds on ITV Stayers Handicap Hurdle at 14.25, a race which Paisley Park won on his way to Stayers’ Hurdle glory at the Cheltenham Festival last season.
I doubt that there is an entry in this year’s field that has such lofty ambitions, but there is a wholesale value each-way play in the form of the Willie Mullins-trained EIGHT AND BOB at 10/1 at time of writing.
I have been charting his career for some time and waiting for him to return to three miles following his only victory at the trip in January. That time came at the beginning of October when he out battled Bothar Dubh at Gowran Park.
The handicapper in the UK has bolted him down by making him run off a mark a huge 13lbs higher, but the master of Closutton wouldn’t be bringing him across the Irish Sea unless he thought he could bridge that gap.
Remember, he is unexposed at this trip, is a thorough stayer and with two confirmed front runners and plenty of pressers set to line-up in this 18-runner field he should get the pace in the race to put that lung-bursting asset to good use.
But if such a betting medium isn’t to your liking, then I implore you to have a look at the comparative calmer waters of a class six, 6f handicap at Wolverhampton due off at 16.10 and the claims of MANSFIELD.
Yep, he’s just your run of the mill, hard-working moderate sprinter, but this is his set-up. Back down to his last winning mark and with Dougie Costello booked, the selection has a nice sit in box six, plenty of pace to run at and an outstanding chance of landing a first win on an artificial surface.
*Prices and declaration correct at time of publication