The Betfair Ascot Chase is the big race of the weekend and the focus point will unquestionably be the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname.
The lofty official rating of 176 that the eight-year-old was given following his electric win in last year's renewal of this race made him a subject of ridicule and admiration in comparable measures. However, any doubts as to whether he deserved it were largely blown out of the water when he became the only horse to ever beat Altior over jumps in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot in November.
The significant momentum he gained that day followed him to Kempton where he was sent off as the 5/4 favourite for the King George VI Chase for what was his first attempt at a trip as far as three miles. Unfortunately for his supporters, it didn't happen for him on the day, with him trailing in 21 lengths behind his stable mate Clan Des Obeaux.
Thus, Cyrname will arrive to Ascot on Saturday on something of a retrieval mission in the eyes of many.
The factors why we can forgive King George defeat
However, I wouldn't view it as such, as there were potentially as many as three factors at play with Cyrname at Kempton that are likely to have contributed to his underperformance and make it a very forgivable defeat.
The first factor was the ride he was given. Prior to the race, Cyrname's connections seemed to have no doubts about his stamina for three miles, but the tactics Harry Cobden adopted suggested otherwise. Given that Cyrname has been seen to best effect when being aggressively ridden to make use of his high cruising speed and excellent jumping, giving him a comparatively negative ride in an effort to conserve his stamina didn't appeal as playing to his strengths.
The second is that for all the ride he was given was negative, the argument could be made that Cyrname raced a bit flat by his standards. He didn't seem to travel or jump with his usual exuberance. The reason for this could well have been just how tough of a race he had when beating Altior on his seasonal reappearance in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot just under five weeks earlier.
Nicky Henderson made no secret of the fact that the race had flattened Altior and taken him a long time to get over it, so it wouldn't be a surprise if Cyrname was still feeling the effects of it when he ran at Kempton.
The third factor is the convincing evidence that suggests Cyrname didn't stay the three-mile trip. The sectional times for the race show that Cyrname recorded a remarkably slow time for the final three furlongs, suggesting that lack of stamina was very much a factor on the day.
Whether all three of the above factors were at play in his performance or whatever the proportion of their role was in it, Cyrname's run in the King George VI Chase is very forgivable.
What Next for Cyrname? Another clash with Altior over the minimum trip perhaps?
One can be sure that Paul Nicholls will have focused on freshening him up since that run.
As is well established, Nicholls tends to vaccinate his string after the Christmas racing as well, so it would be fair to assume that Cyrname could well tighten up a bit from whatever he does on Saturday. That said, I would still be expecting a big performance in what are ideal conditions for Cyrname, especially in the absence of a rival that looks a genuine threat to him.
Assuming all goes to plan on Saturday, the next question for Cyrname's connections will be "what next?" In my opinion, it will be a great pity if he isn't given the chance to prove himself going left-handed at the Cheltenham Festival. He hasn't had the opportunity to race that way around since he started his meteoric rise up the ranks just over a year ago and there is very little evidence to draw from his form since then to suggest that it should be an issue.
The Ryanair Chase is the only Cheltenham Festival entry that Cyrname currently holds, but one question that I would love to see tested at some point is how he would cope in a top-class chase over two miles.
To me, he looks to have all the tools to be a force at that trip. Given that staying trips seem to be off the table with him now, his connections may be tempted to try the minimum trip with him. Personally, I believe Cyrname would be right in the mix with Altior, Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi if given the opportunity.
Time will reveal all, but we might well get some guidance as to what the future holds for Cyrname after the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.