Race To Cheltenham Week Two: Kevin Blake's tips to help build your free bet pot

Cyrname at Ascot
Cyrname is fancied to win the Betfair Ascot Chase

You're already well up if you followed Kevin Blake's advice to put £20 on Convertible last week as you build your Cheltenham free bet pot, and he has two further tips for Saturday's racing at Ascot...

"A rock-and-roll ride over two-miles five-furlongs is what put Cyrname on the map and a return to this might well just see him return to the sort of level that brought him to the top table in the first place."

Harvey set to relish stiffer stamina test

The Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices' Chase (13:50) isn't the highest-class renewal of the race that we have ever seen, but it will give the Fergal O'Brien-trained Hurricane Harvey the opportunity to prove himself to be a smart novice chaser as he bids to give away a 5lb penalty to all his rivals.

The seven-year-old wasn't considered a natural jumper of a fence by his connections at the outset of the season, but he has warmed to the task and produced a strong round of jumping on his way to winning the December Novices' Chase at Doncaster back in December. That was his first attempt at three miles on the racecourse and he seemed to relish the stamina test that the longer trip represented.

Even with that extra emphasis on stamina, it still took him time to get on top of his main rival Milanford and this even stiffer test promises to suit him well.

One slight concern is that while his jumping was good in the main at Doncaster, he did show a slight tendency to jump to his left and hopefully that won't be to his detriment around this right-handed track. It is a tough ask for him to concede weight all around in this contest, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he proves equal to the task.

Tactics and trip could be key to seeing a peak Cyrname

The Betfair Ascot Chase (15:35) is the main event of the day at Ascot and it will see Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls attempt to get Cyrname back on track in familiar surroundings.

Cyrname has been a contentious figure at the very top of the list of the highest-rated horses in training ever since his spectacular 17-length defeat of Waiting Patiently in this race two years ago. In five subsequent starts he has arguably only run to that sort of level on one occasion when memorably inflicting the first jumps defeat on Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase over this course and distance in November 2019.

Since then, his record has been more hit and miss than one would expect from a horse of such talent. He looked to be back on track when making a winning return to action this season in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, vanquishing dual doubts about his ability to be fully effective over three miles and around a left-handed track in the process.

Unfortunately, that proved to be just a brief return to form, as it was followed by a poor run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton where he seemed unsuited by a switch to more restrained tactics.

Paul Nicholls made it clear that he felt the riding tactics utilised on him were the main issue at Kempton and one assumes that a return to more forceful tactics will be the order of the day on Saturday. This could well prove to be the key, as ever since Cyrname defeated Altior over a year ago, his connections have been trying different tactics and trips to try and get him to stay longer trips.

A rock-and-roll ride over two-miles five-furlongs is what put Cyrname on the map and a return to this might well just see him return to the sort of level that brought him to the top table in the first place. If that proves to be the case, we could be in for a treat at Ascot on Saturday.

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