Cyrname seeks to bounce back to his brilliant best as he bids for a second victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase.
Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old became the highest-rated chaser in Britain thanks to his 17-length demolition in the Grade One contest in 2019, a position he consolidated when he got the better of Altior in a much-anticipated clash over the same course and distance early last season.
However, he subsequently failed to fire when hot favourite for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and was already on the retreat when suffering a heavy fall at the final fence in defence of his Ascot Chase crown 12 months ago.
Cyrname returned with victory this season on his Charlie Hall Chase comeback at Wetherby in October – but having disappointed once more in the King George when pulled up on his latest appearance, he again has a point to prove on Saturday.
Nicholls told Betfair: “Harry Cobden has chosen to ride Cyrname, who looked so good at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase before running way below expectations in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. He was half-asleep at the start that day and was never really travelling in behind horses.
“Harry felt Cyrname was sulking at Kempton, so we are trying cheekpieces to sharpen him up. When we tried them on him at home a week ago they had a positive effect and certainly woke him up. If they work as well at Ascot then he has to have a big chance over a trip and track that play to his strengths.”
Cobden is relishing the opportunity to get back on board Cyrname, whom he describes as “the horse of a lifetime”.
“When he won the race a couple of years ago, he was very, very good,” said the jockey.
“It was the best performance of any horse I’ve ever ridden around a racecourse – the way he jumped and travelled and beat all those good horses like Politologue, Waiting Patiently and Fox Norton. It was phenomenal, (and) I suppose that’s where he got his rating of 176.
“He’s the horse of a lifetime. Not very many people, riders or trainers, have horses like that come along in their life.
“I’ve won various races with him, and hopefully he hasn’t won his last one – I’m sure he’s got plenty more in the tank.”
Nicholls has an interesting second string to his bow in the form of Master Tommytucker, who will be ridden for the first time by Daryl Jacob.
The lightly-raced 10-year-old has not always convinced in the jumping department, but has got his act together this season to win three of his last four starts.
Nicholls added: “I’ve always rated him highly, and he has earned a shot at this Grade One level after some impressive performances this season. He is in serious order at home, working great, looks amazing – and everything is in place for a big run.
“While his jumping in the past was an issue, it was very good at Haydock and Cheltenham earlier in the season – and he was foot-perfect at Kempton last time, bar one blemish at the last fence.”
Jeremy Scott is looking forward to seeing how Dashel Drasher handles a step up in class.
The eight-year-old was a long way behind Master Tommytucker at Haydock in November, but has since registered back-to-back wins over this course and distance.
“I’m relishing running him, because he seems well and he’s on a roll at the moment,” said Scott.
“His jumping is a lot better now, and he’s in rude health.
“First time out at Haydock, I think it was partly the ground and partly we rode him too conservatively – he’s proved the last twice that he suits being ridden positively. He was returning from an injury at Haydock, and we were a bit mindful of that.”
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Riders Onthe Storm ran out a wide-margin winner of last year’s renewal, but will defend his crown as an outsider after being well beaten in both his outings this season.
Twiston-Davies is undeterred, however.
He said: “Riders Onthe Storm is coming into this in good nick. He obviously won the race last year, and we are hoping he can do it again.
“He hasn’t been at the same level this season, but he does seem in really good nick at the moment and should improve on what he has done.
“He won’t mind any more rain, because it was pretty testing last year.”
Bennys King from Dan Skelton’s yard, runner-up to Dashel Drasher last time, completes the line-up.