Altior suffered his first defeat over jumps as Cyrname ran out a brilliant all-the-way victor in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Unbeaten in 19 previous starts over hurdles and fences combined, Nicky Henderson’s dual Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Altior was all the rage to make it 20 wins on the spin, with his army of supporters ensuring he went off a heavily-supported 1-3 favourite.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname ended last season as the highest-rated chaser in Britain – 1lb above Altior – following two wide-margin wins over this course and distance, but was relatively easy to back at 5-2.
With the only other runner Solomon Grey never a factor, it was a two-horse race from the off, with Harry Cobden sending Cyrname straight to the lead and Nico de Boinville sitting on his tail aboard Altior, who was racing over further than two and a quarter miles for the first time.
As the pace increased racing down the back straight, it was Cyrname who produced the slicker leaps – and De Boinville was the more animated of the two riders before the home turn.
Altior did his best to bridge the gap in the straight, but Cyrname refused to let up and a flying jump at the final fence sealed a two-and-a-quarter-length success.
Nicholls told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m very proud of him and the whole team, who have played a big part in getting him right and getting him mentally right. He was very nearly unmanageable at home and on the course, then all of a sudden the penny dropped.
“He started to believe in us and mature. Now we’ve got a horse who is the finished article.
“He’s a huge horse and big horses like that do need time. He was trying to do everything on one breath at one time, but there’s a great saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, and he’s a great example of that.
“Harry said that’s the most relaxed he’s been. When they came by the stands first time, I thought they were going some gallop and he had the champion chaser on his tail.
“It was always going to be about stamina and three miles won’t be a problem to him.”
Paddy Power cut Cyrname to 5-2 favourite from 9-2 for the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Whether Altior turns up on Boxing Day for the rematch remains to be seen, with Henderson keen to let the dust settle before committing to future targets.
He said: “He has run a very good race to be fair, he has done exactly what we all expected to happen and he had a go at him. To be fair, he has got very tired.
“It was first time out on that (soft) ground. I think you probably can’t judge that (trip) and we won’t now. I’ve absolutely no idea what we do next. It’s a tough race for them to come into first time out.
“Nico hasn’t seen him that tired before – he has put a lot into it.”
Henderson was keen to give credit to the winner, adding: “It was a great front-running performance. I don’t think they have gone as fast as they might have gone and he was always happy to sit on his tail and he couldn’t get past him.
“Fair play, they are fitter and better on the day.
“We have to look onwards and upwards, but where we go I have no idea. It hasn’t answered a lot of questions but we will sort them out.
“I think first time out would be the time he would be most vulnerable. He has been good first time out before, but we have never had to throw him in as deep as this first time.
“This was the obvious race to run in. He has still got the time to get to Kempton if that is the route we take and I don’t see why we shouldn’t, personally, and we will be having a good look at it.
“Different ground on a different day, you might get a different result.”