Cyrname proves he's the real deal with breathtaking Ascot Chase display
It's better to be lucky than good, but those who seem to keep getting lucky are generally just very good.
For the second time in as many starts at Ascot Cyrname tore into a lead and crossed the line in splendid isolation. Last time it was in a handicap – off a mark of 150.
This time it was in a Grade 1 against the likes of Waiting Patiently, Fox Norton and Politologue. The result was a similarly devastating 17-length winning distance – back to last year's winner no less.
As one of his friends told winning owner Johnny de la Hay in the post-race celebrations, "you've got a serious horse there".
A serious horse on a serious day for Paul Nicholls, who saddled eight winners across the country – winning five of the nine at Ascot.
Some work best when left to their own devices and Cyrname is just the type. He seized control from the start and held on to it like a lost child does their favourite toy; it simply could not be wrestled from him.
When the field came to his quarters on the approach to Swinley Bottom, jockey Harry Cobden kicked him into the next two fences from where he pulled clear again.
Ruth Jefferson quashed hopes of those wishing to suggest a better jump from her runner Waiting Patiently at the second-last could have produced a different result.
"I don't think so; even if he'd flown it we'd have been beaten by a better horse on the day," she said.
On his day, and with his conditions, there are few horses who could live with Cyrname. Unfortunately for those for whom the jumps season revolves around Cheltenham, connections feel one of those conditions is a need to go right-handed.
Asked if he would be so much as tempted to supplement him for the festival, De La Hay required one word. "No."
He repeated it several times for emphasis, before underlining the point: "We are not going to be tempted at all, we're good. This was enough for us."
Cobden offered festival fans a glimmer of hope when he said: "I've never ridden him left-handed and he's improved since Aintree. He's stronger and I wouldn't be afraid of giving him another chance. It's worth a go at some point."
But it would appear Cheltenham and Aintree's loss could be Punchestown's gain. De La Hay added: "We still think going right-handed is the answer, so it doesn't leave us many options this year.
"Punchestown is one, then we'll wrap him in cotton wool and maybe come back here once more, then have a go at the King George, which is the one we've always wanted to win."
"At the beginning of last season he was seventh in a handicap hurdle at Chepstow and was pretty much untrainable," said De La Hay. "Paul and Scott [Marshall, work rider and groom] have done a fantastic job.
"There were some nice wins last season but even this season there have been some pretty average performances.
"Scott said before his last run let's take the hood off, and that seems to have made a big difference. Paul can train him a lot better and because he was so keen it was difficult to get him fully fit first time.
"I'm a little surprised, but pleasantly. When you win those handicaps you dream, but you never know. We've always thought he was a great horse and today was phenomenal."
Cyrname was possibly the highlight of a momentous day for Nicholls, whose odds for the trainers' title were cut to 6-4 (from 9-4) by Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook as he burst through the £2 million mark for the season and opened up a £372,000 lead over his great rival Nicky Henderson, who was eased to 2-5 from 1-4.
"I've had seven winners once before but this is a record for winners in one day," said Nicholls, who saddled 24 runners on the day around the country. "It's been the best day's racing to have five winners at Ascot."
"I knew the horses were really well and they've been going well all season. It's been a perfect day and I haven't got to worry about racecourse gallops for these Cheltenham horses."
As for Waiting Patiently, Jefferson felt the quickest ground he had encountered partly explained the result.
"We'll see where it rains," he said. "We've been waiting since December. I've taken more chances with him in the last year than ever before. I wouldn't write Cheltenham off – we'll see how he is when he comes home – and then we can look at Aintree depending on where it rains."
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