2019 Christy 1965 Chase preview – How the big two stack up ahead of seismic Ascot showdown

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Jon Vine takes a closer look at the leading contenders in this Saturday’s 1965 Christy Chase, comparing Altior and Cyrname across a number of categories to see who might come out on top.

Saturday’s Grade One feature may be the Betfair Chase up at Ascot. The first leg of chasing’s Triple Crown has been overshadowed somewhat by the incredible showdown expected in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, as National Hunt racing’s two highest rated horses prepare to go head-to-head.

Altior (6/4 Unibet) had held the position as jump racing’s finest for the past three seasons. That was until last February, when Cyrname (5/4 Ladbrokes) burst onto the scene and stole the crown from the former king’s head. Ahead of this highly anticipated clash, I’ve compared Altior and Cyrname across a number of categories, in an attempt to find out which superstar might claim the victory in Saturday’s feature at Ascot.

2019 Christy 1965 Chase preview – Altior vs Cyrname

Official Rating
Winner – CYRNAME

For six successive races, Altior has maintained a fantastic rating of 175 – a mark the handicapper has refused to up, despite Nicky Henderson’s charge winning a second Champion Chase and four other Grade Ones in that space of time.

CYRNAME, who had shot up 15 pounds to 165 following a devastating handicap triumph in January, was handed an astronomical rating of 176 after destroying his rivals in the Ascot Chase last year, eclipsing Altior’s mark by a single pound.

Last Season
Winner – ALTIOR

The fact he became the highest-rated horse in Britain, Cyrname still only enjoyed half the success ALTIOR tasted in 2018/19.

Paul Nicholls’ charge rounded off his campaign with two outstanding victories, but his previous outings resulted in two defeats, including a 15-length loss at in a handicap in December. Altior, on the other hand, won all of his five appearances last season, winning the Tingle Creek, the Clarence House and the Celebration Chase, while also successfully defending his Queen Mother crown.

Big Race Wins
Winner – ALTIOR

Cyrname’s Ascot Chase victory in February was his first triumph at Grade One level. Before that, Nicholls’ charge had collected a couple of Grade Twos, winning the Wayward Lad and the Pendil Novice’s Chases during his first campaign over fences.

ALTIOR has amassed ten Grade One victories during his 19-race unbeaten streak over jumps. Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old is also a four-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, with the trophies for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle sitting alongside the Champion Chase crowns on his mantlepiece – a feature I presume Nicky Henderson has installed in the great Altior’s stable.

Cyrname and Harry Cobden clear the last fence before going on to win the Ascot Chase in style.

 

Course
Winner – CYRNAME

This was a tough one, as both Altior and CYRNAME have registered two victories at the Berkshire venue. Altior boasts a perfect record at Ascot, whereas Cyrname has suffered defeat here on three occasions. However, both of Cyrname’s victories have come over fences – compared to Altior’s one – and Cyrname’s best performances have come at this venue. It’s this that gives Cyrname the nod.

Distance
Winner – CYRNAME

An easy win for CYRNAME this time, considering this will be Altior’s first start over a trip further than two miles. Although he has been defeated over two-and-a-half-miles, Nicholls’ flag-bearer is a perfect two-from-two over 21 furlongs and looks a guaranteed stayer of three miles, if he was to ever try his hand at that distance.

Ground
Winner – ALTIOR

Ground conditions are currently soft at Ascot, with more rain forecast in the days building up to the race. Cyrname did manage to win a very weak renewal of the Wayward Lad on soft ground at Kempton, but his progression into chasing superstar came during one of the driest winters in recent memory.

Both of ALTIOR’S Champion Chase victories have come on genuinely soft ground, with his seven-length demolition of Min in the 2018 renewal of the Queen Mother the highest-rated performance either of these two have recorded – according to Racing Post Ratings anyway.

First Time Out
Winner – ALTIOR

A convincing win for ALTIOR in this category, who has always performed really well on all of his starts on the back any significant break. In stark contrast, Cyrname has been beaten on his first start of all three seasons he’s been in the care of Paul Nicholls, including a comfortable defeat when going to post as the favourite in last year’s renewal of the Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

Trainer Form
Winner – ALTIOR

ALTIOR’S trainer, Nicky Henderson has so far managed to saddle 14 more winners than Paul Nicholls, as he attempts to win back the Champion Trainer crown he relinquished to his rival last season. Henderson has also been in sparkling recent form of late, winning with 36% of his runners over the last two weeks, compared to the measly 10% Nicholls has managed in the same space of time.

Trainer’s Record
Winner – CYRNAME

Nicky Henderson has saddled the winner of the 1965 Chase three times, winning with Iris Royal, My Petra and Top Notch two years ago. Paul Nicholls, however, is the winning-most trainer of this race and CYRNAME would be his seventh horse to feature on the roll of honour. Cerium first brought the trophy back to Ditcheat in 2006 and he’s since been followed into the winners’ enclosure by two-time winners Master Minded and Al Ferof, as well as last year’s champion Politologue.

Final Score
🥇 ALTIOR – 5 🥇
🥈 CYRNAME – 4 🥈

Nicky Henderson’s star just edges it in this comparison and you can see why the bookmakers have priced Altior (6/4 Unibet) up as the odds-on favourite. Cyrname (5/4 Ladbrokes) didn’t lose out by much though, and one thing we can say for certain, is that Saturday’s race is a must-watch event for anyone who loves National Hunt racing!