Altior can edge out Cyrname in a race to savour at Ascot
He was keen on horse racing too, although it seems he preferred the Flat over National Hunt, and he famously said that "Jump racing at Ascot will take place only over my dead body". He must have been horrified then, when Ascot hosted its inaugural jumps meeting in April 1965, the first race being a hurdle won by Fulke Walwyn's Sir Giles under Michael Scudamore.
The Duke lived to see some famous horses race at Ascot, including some owned by the Queen Mother, and I wonder if the likes of Flyingbolt and Arkle changed his mind on National Hunt contests at Ascot. I wonder too what he'd think of today's big clash between Cyrname and Altior - the latter looking to make it an incredible 20th straight win over jumps in the Grade Two Christy 1965 Chase (2.05), a race named after the year of that inaugural jumps meeting here.
In many ways, it's disappointing that Solomon Grey is the only other entry, but it was always going to be a match between Altior and Cyrname anyway. If you don't know the story, it's fairly simple: Nicky Henderson's Altior, an absolutely outstanding nine-year-old which has won his last 19 races, many at Grade One level, takes on Paul Nicholls' Cyrname - a seven-year-old which has won five of his 11 chases including the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase in February in which he destroyed a good-quality field.
It's the up-and-coming younger horse against the older master, and the punter must decide on whether to go with experience or potential, although it's one of those races that can be enjoyed for what it is without a bet. This is truly one to relish, two of the two top-rated chasers in training going head to head. On Cyrname's plus side, he has a younger set of legs, is improving all the time and is proven at the distance. On the negative side, he's never faced an opponent as good as Altior.
As for Altior, he's proven himself so many times already, and his record simply speaks for itself. He still looks like he has room for improvement, despite his age. But on the negative side here, you have to consider that Altior has never raced at this 2m5f distance, so we have to guess whether or not he'll get the trip.
The aim is the King George at Kempton over three miles in December, for which he's priced 11/4 ante-post. That seems a bit short to me right now for such a speedy horse, although that opinion is subject to change if he gets today's distance well. It is a tough one to call, but on balance, I'd have to go with Altior as I think he'll have enough pure talent to get through the last couple of furlongs even if the trip doesn't quite fit.
With Altior priced around 4/6 and Cyrname 5/4, I'm going to put Altior into a double with Bristol De Mai in the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock (3.0). That race has also attracted a small field of four, leaving Bristol De Mai as the 6/5 favourite to win the race for the third time in a row for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
A quick glance at his form might not instil a lot of confidence as he's been beaten in three Grade Ones since - but it was a similar story 12 months ago and he came here having lost his previous three races, only to go on and beat Gold Cup winner Native River.
For one at a bigger price, consider backing Tedham, which was trading at 7/1 yesterday for the Grade Three Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (2.25 Haydock).
Rated 130, he's near the lighter end of the scale here, carrying 10st 9lbs which seems quite fair considering he ran well in sixth off 1lb higher at Cheltenham last time, and he looks the type to appreciate the step up in trip.
I'm surprised to see the Nicky Henderson-trained Call Me Lord chalked up as high as 7/4 in the early markets for the Grade Two Coral Hurdle at Ascot (2.40). A winner at this level at Sandown in April, the six-year-old certainly wasn't disgraced carrying buckets of weight to finish third in the Imperial Cup Handicap at Sandown last time, and he should have enough to see off nearest rival in the betting, Roksana.
I'm tempted to back Spurs away to West Ham today in the hope they'd get a boost from the appointment of Jose Mourinho, but they've been so poor this term they can't be trusted. Instead, a chance is taken on Leicester to beat Brighton, priced around evens. They've slipped into second place on goal difference, and the 2015-'16 champions should have more than enough to beat a Seagulls side which suffered a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United in their latest match.
It looks like Thegreatestshowman will go off as favourite around 7/2 in the Betway Handicap at Lingfield (3.05), but that seems a little short in an open-looking 10-runner race. Priced in the region of 12/1, the one that catches my eye each-way is Green Door, a Robert Cowell-trained gelding which won a seller over this course and distance back in June. He's been racing in handicaps since and struggled when rated in the 80s, but he's back down to a realistic 76, and jockey Grace McEntee's 7lb claim should come in useful here. Doc Sportello is another for the shortlist having won a sprint handicap at Bath last time out.