Few jumpers have a better record at Ascot than the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname. He triumphed in the Betfair Chase at the Berkshire course in February 2019 by 17 lengths with three Grade One winners behind him. It was at Ascot in November, in an enthralling duel, that he ended the mighty Altior’s record of 19 successive victories over jumps and Cyrname was a short-priced favourite last Saturday to take a second Betfair Chase with only three horses daring to join the highest-rated chaser in Britain. But it was not to be. On rain-soaked turf, soon officially changed from soft to heavy, Cyrname was never going with quite his usual zest. When Riders Onthe Storm loomed up beside him three fences out, Cyrname lacked the spark to respond and Harry Cobden’s mount was back in a tired third place when at the last fence he never seemed to take off properly and crashed heavily on landing.
What looked like a shocking fall drew gasps from the crowd and as Cobden dashed consolingly to the stricken Cyrname’s head few of us were watching Riders Onthe Storm progress to the winning post to score a victory presented to him when the 40-1 challenger Traffic Fluide also tumbled at the last. Many of us were numb with shock and as the screens were erected around Cyrname with praiseworthy speed by the Ascot staff I found myself immediately thinking of the racecourse departures of the likes of One Man, Dawn Run, Dunkirk and Buona Notte. Sometimes it seems that the worst only happens to the most exuberant, the best and boldest jumpers.
Compared with other animals we love, their sheer size and athleticism give horses a kind of majesty and an imagined impregnability when you stand beside them.