Paul Nicholls takes Cyrname to Wetherby for the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase with two questions to ask of the highest rated chaser in the country; do you go left-handed and do you truly get three miles?
“I’m opened-minded about it,” said the trainer. “He’s got to start somewhere, he’s not as wound up as he was for his first start last year (when he beat Altior) – he had to be ready then. It is a fact-finding mission as much as anything and if he jumps right all the way or doesn’t get the trip we can always drop back in trip or go back right-handed.”
He added: “He ran well in the King George when he wasn’t right. Harry (Cobden) is very confident he’ll go left-handed but there’s still a bit of doubt about the trip and he’s got to prove he gets it.”
There has been no shortage of horses willing to take him on including Sam Spinner and the previous two winners Ballyoptic and Definitly Red. However Kim Bailey has always believed Vinndication to be his next Gold Cup horse and, if he is going to beat Cyrname, today is the today.
“He’s stronger than he’s been before,” said Bailey whose horses are winning at a 30 per cent strike rate at the moment. “I go there confident he’s in the best form, it’s just a question of whether he’s good enough or not.”
This day last year he won the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot but Bailey explained he had a difficult preparation for Cheltenham in the spring (when a close fourth behind The Conditional in the Ultima) and felt that a cancelled racecourse gallop might made a crucial difference.
Gordon Elliott looks to have the key to the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday with five of the nine runners including Delta Work, Presenting Percy (having his first start for him), The Storyteller, Alpha Des Obeaux and Ravenhill.
On Friday Envoi Allen, Elliott’s unbeaten two-time Cheltenham winner, jumped superbly on his chasing debut at Down Royal beating January Jets six lengths in the Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase.
Though he will face stiffer tests this winter you could not fault his jumping; he looked very sensible shortening into the obstacles when he needed to going steady and winged the last two when he was going a stride faster.
“Job done,” said Gordon Elliott. “You would have to love his attitude, he just popped away and then quickened after the second last. I couldn’t be happier. All being well he’ll go to the Drinmore.”
Meanwhile the British Horseracing Authority has appointed James Given, the qualified vet and trainer, as its new director of equine health and welfare. He will relinquish his trainer’s licence at the end of the year and replace David Sykes, who has been doing the job remotely since returning home to Australia in lockdown, on January 1.
Given was part of the Horse Welfare Board and implementing its 20 recommendations, which was published in February, will be his main priority. Having been a trainer his biggest challenge will, no doubt, be dealing with his former colleagues when it comes to regulatory aspects.