With the National Hunt Season off to a great start with the October meet at Cheltenham last Friday and Saturday we witnessed the first time that competitive action has been seen on the Prestbury Park venue since the Cheltenham Festival thirty two weeks before back in March.
How the world has changed since then with the Government holding a meeting at the highest level just the day prior to the National Hunt’s seasons pinnacle event to decide whether crowds of over 60,000, per day, for four days should be allowed to attend this closely packed spectator venue.
The decision to go ahead, whether right or wrong, saw the last mass attendance at a sporting event on these shores and it is just with relief and recognition of the determined amount of hard work by all stakeholders within and around the racing industry that we have seen any sort of return to this Sport of Kings at all.
The return to Cheltenham last Saturday, despite the lack of crowds, has to memorable for the sight of Bryony Frost aboard Frodon returning to the scene of their win in the Ryanair Chase at the 2019 Festival and reprising a memorable performance, taking no prisoners with an emphatic victory from the front.
They came, they tried & they failed to wrest the lead from that impressive pair who are now being cited for a run in the Gold Cup next March back here below Cleeve Hill.
Now that the National Hunt Season is under way in proper fashion we can look forward to the highlights of this weekend including the likely reappearance of Paul Nicholls’ Cyrname, the highest rated horse in training making a seasonal return in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Nicholls, who can hardly seem to put a foot wrong since sending his first runners in his autumn campaign to Chepstow earlier this month had targeted the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal this weekend until further travel restrictions due to Coronovirus scuppered that plan.
Cyrname, whose reappearance in a competitive race this term will no doubt attract plenty of attention after ending the great Altior’s unbeaten run of fifteeen wins over fences last year to become the highest rated horse in training has also been supplemented for the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot, where he would have to run from a handicap mark of 172.
Although Cyrname gets in at 6lb lower should he travel up to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall it does mean going left-handed opposed to a return to the right handed Ascot track where he has a superlative record having won three of his last four visits to the Berkshire course.
Of course, carrying that welter burden in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot this weekend means giving over a stone to last year’s winner, Kim Bailey’s Vinndication and Bailey also has his stable in fine form at the start of this National Hunt campaign.
Vinndication is unbeaten at Ascot from three previous visits here, including this race last season and is taken to prevail should Paul Nicholls choose this venue for his stable star, Cyrname
This preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff