Thrilling as it is to have a clash like Altior versus Cyrname so early in the jumps season, the outcome should probably not be regarded as definitive. Both of these horses have bigger targets in the coming months and Saturday’s result will have a lot to do with which of them happens to be sharper for this reappearance.
It looks a negative for Cyrname that Paul Nicholls’s horses are generally needing their first run this season and the yard’s strike-rate this month is slightly below its usual November level. Nicky Henderson, meanwhile, is flying along and, although there is danger in such generalisations, it makes his Altior all the harder to oppose.
Unbeaten in 19 runs over obstacles, Altior is the right favourite and he does seem to have been crying out for this step up in trip.
1.50 Haydock Robbie Power is an eye-catching booking for Bold Plan, but preference here is for Whoshotthesheriff. Progressive in a handful of runs last winter, he travelled strongly until falling two out in a decent contest at Cheltenham last month.
2.25 Haydock The low-profile yard of Noel Williams has never been so hot, so it is easy to like his talented young Breaking Waves, a real eye-catcher when running on into fourth at Cheltenham last month.
2.40 Ascot The terms of this race favour Call Me Lord, who was wiped out by a faller in the Long Walk when last he raced here. Placed in the Imperial Cup under top weight in each of the last two years, he deserves to get a day in the sun.
3.00 Haydock There was more depth to last year’s Betfair Chase, which Bristol De Mai went on to win on ground that was supposedly too quick for him. So it is with some trepidation that the great grey is opposed here but Lostintranslation showed at Carlisle three weeks ago that he is making up into a really exciting chaser. This is only his second try at three miles, which can help him find the necessary improvement.
3.20 Ascot A 16-1 shot when he won this last year, Caid Du Lin is once more available at double figures. But with a strong pace seemingly assured, his yard coming into form and question marks over many of his rivals, the grey could come to the fore once again.
3.40 Haydock There was some support for Moving In Style when he had his first run for Robert Walford at Exeter. In the end, he clearly needed the outing but better is expected from the chestnut this time, with the extra half-mile to suit.