Juan Manuel Andrade shares his thoughts on the runners and riders in Saturday’s much anticipated steeplechase, the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot
Excitement is mounting among jumps racing fans as some of Britain’s leading chasers prepare to battle for glory at the Christy 1965 Chase. This famous Grade 2 race takes place over 2 miles and 5 furlongs at Ascot and it features 17 fences to be jumped. It commemorates the inaugural year of jumps racing at the iconic racecourse, and it has seen plenty of superstar victors of late. Politologue seized glory for Sam Twiston-Davies last year before finishing second in the Champion Chase, and this year’s renewal pits two of racing’s biggest names against one another. These are the main contenders, along with odds from the best sports betting sites:
Nicky Henderson’s superstar chaser has become the punters’ darling by romping to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham for the past two years. It is the leading minimum distance chase in the National Hunt calendar, and Altior has been utterly dominant of late. He is unbeaten over fences during his stellar career, which has also seen him win the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle among other big races. His run of 19 victories is a modern day record and he is a genuine legend of the jumps racing scene.
Altior, a son of The Derby and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chaparral, is now nine years old and Henderson feels the time is right for a slightly new challenge. He is now gunning for glory in the 3 mile King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, which is a significant step up in trip for a horse that has excelled over 2 miles. The Christy Chase looks like the perfect stepping stone and Henderson believes his star chaser can thrive in the big race. Altior is the 11/10 favourite to win this race and it will be fascinating to see if he can maintain his superb winning streak over the longer distance, but he faces a ferocious battle.
Cyrname is rated 1lb ahead of Altior in the official rankings after finishing the 2018-19 season in devastating form. He surged to victory in the Bet365 Handicap Chase on January 19 and then pulled off an eye-catching 17-length triumph in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase the four weeks later. Both races took place over 2 miles and 5 furlongs at Ascot, so he this trip and racecourse are clearly ideal for his talents. Cyrname is priced at 5/4 with most bookies, but some make him the 11/10 joint-favorite, even though most of the action is going on the popular Altior. Yet there is a clear case to be made for Cyrname in this race. He loves Ascot, he jumps well and he is blessed with phenomenal pace. He will relish a test over this distance, whereas Altior still needs to prove his stamina. Cyrname has a lofty mark of 176 following that outrageously dominant performance in February, and trainer Paul Nicholls believes he has improved since then, so he could be a terrifying prospect.
Altior and Cyrname are the two highest-rated horses in training and the focus is on the epic duel set to unfold between them. Yet it would be folly to write this off as a mere two-horsed race. Waiting Patiently won the Ascot Chase in 2017 from Cue Card and Frodon before securing a runner-up finish behind Cyrname in February, so he too enjoys this course and distance. This is also the sort of distance he specialises in, and he has a number of wins and places in big Grade 1 races, so you cannot discount his chances of pulling off an upset, and an each-way shout might be tempting at 10/1 with bookies paying out on the first three places.
Colin Tizzard’s nine-year-old chaser was second to Altior in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase in January, before finishing third behind Cyrname and Waiting Patiently in the Ascot Chase. Yet he also has a number of big victories under his belt. He won the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree in 2017, followed by the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Punchestown and then the Grade 2 Shloer Chase at the Cheltenham November Festival. Tizzard calls him a top class two-miler and says he should be ready by Christmas, so he may be a little rusty for this race, but he does possess the potential to spring an upset.
Juan Manuel Andrade is a horse racing enthusiast and an executive at the Tauro Sports agency.