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Is Cyrname the one to beat in the King George VI Chase?

On 26th December 2019, Cyrname made his debut in Kempton Christmas Festival’s centrepiece event, the King George VI Chase. The Paul Nicholls’ trained horse had famously put an end to Altior’s 19-race unbeaten streak a month previous, with Cyrname winning the 1965 Chase at Ascot.

The King George was a different kettle of fish – and the first time that Cyrname had raced a three-miler, having never ran further than two miles and five furlongs. At the time, Nicholls had no doubts over the gelding’s stamina, and he was the favourite in the horse racing betting odds, going in to the race. But it wasn’t to be, and he was beaten by stablemate Clan Des Obeaux, by a margin of 21 lengths. It was back-to-back wins for Clan and Nicholls, with the trainer fancying his chances again this year.

As things stand, both Clan Des Obeaux and Cyrname are the joint-favourites to win the King George, and a year on from his first experience, the latter looks like the one to beat. Lessons will have been learnt from that difficult three-mile debut, in which he tracked the leader, before weakening – but second place was never in any doubt.

He silenced the doubters on his return this season, winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby – and proving he has what it takes over a three-mile distance. It was also eight-and-a-half months on from his last outing, in which Cyrname fell at the final fence, when trying to defend his Ascot Chase crown. But after that showing in October, in which he oozed class, both regular jockey Harry Cobden and trainer Nicholls were pleased.

Post-race, Nicholls said: “Everyone was saying he wouldn’t go left-handed and wouldn’t get three miles, but everything he does at home suggests he wants three miles and more.

“He’s a different horse now to what he was two or three years ago. To see him jump and travel like that today just shows he’s grown up.”

And the eleven-time Champion Trainer has set his sights not only on victory in the King George on Boxing Day, but for Cyrname to be a prime contender in next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. Nicholls has purposely given the highest rated chaser a bigger break between races to ensure he has enough time to recover between the Charlie Hall Chase and the festive centrepiece at Kempton. Last season, he had just over a month to recover.

Cobden, too, is full of confidence, heading into the battle between Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux. He told Sky Sports Racing: “Going into this year I think Cyrname is in good form, he came out of Wetherby really well.

“I genuinely feel he'll come on for it as he didn't go away for a gallop, last year he had one before he beat Altior but this year he hadn't been properly tuned up and hopefully that has put him right for the King George.”

It looks to be a dead cert between Nicholls’ two hopefuls for success at Kempton on Boxing Day. Of course, Clan Des Obeaux will be looking to make history and joining an elite number of horses who have won multiple races – with the record of five victories set by legendary Kauto Star. But Cyrname has come a long way since last year’s showing, and that comfortable win at Wetherby over Vinndication has proved he’s got enough energy in the tank to put in more of a challenge this time around.