It's an exciting day for Paul Nicholls at Ayr, Wetherby and Ascot, with yard stars Cyrname and Black Corton running. Read his thoughts on the duo here...
"Black Corton is full of life as usual and I am hoping that the wind op he had in the summer might just tease a bit of improvement from him."
He was a brilliant novice over hurdles for Willie Mullins but hasn't run for 920 days so obviously had his problems before he was sent to us by Malcolm Denmark in July. He has done lots and lots of steady work but whatever he achieves here he is bound to improve for the outing after such a long lay off and if he has a nice run round and finishes fourth or fifth I will be absolutely thrilled with him. Then he will go chasing.
Can Cyrname stay the trip?
He runs here because we want to find out for sure if he truly stays three miles. There is obviously a bit of a question mark about that after his defeat in the King George VI Chase at Kempton but I think that was most likely down to the hard race he had when he beat Altior in their duel at Ascot. He was trained to the minute that day, 100% ready after a stunning piece of work round Wincanton ten days before Ascot.
Cyrname looks fine and has done plenty but I haven't been able to take him for a racecourse gallop this time. I've planned three away days for him but had to call them off because the ground was too quick. He isn't quite as wound up as last year and there is natural improvement to come but he is fit and ready to go.
He has had exactly the same work schedule as Frodon and you saw what he did at Cheltenham. Although Cyrname was beaten on the two occasions he raced left handed over fences when he gave away ground by jumping a bit right handed at times that was ages ago and I don't think it is an issue now. He was still a tearaway then, is more settled and laid back these days and Harry Cobden says he now jumps left handed at times.
In the past we always had to work him on his own because he wanted to go flat out but he is more relaxed these days and breezed upsides Black Corton the other morning. The good thing is that he doesn't have to go blitzing off in front in his races so I do think Cyrname will probably get three miles.
He is clear top on ratings in the Charlie Hall but his handicap mark was achieved over two and a half miles so hopefully this race will show us where to go with him in the future. It should answer a lot of questions.
He is a horse I've always like and won nicely at Plumpton 12 days ago on his seasonal debut on decent ground. This will be tougher as he is up 7lbs for that to a mark 139 and has to give weight to all his rivals. Good to soft going should be fine for Dr Sanderson but he wouldn't want it getting any deeper. He schooled great on Thursday morning and seems very well and I just hope this doesn't come too soon after Plumpton.
He was so unlucky in this a year ago when he was forced through the wing of the last fence, somehow recovered to finish fifth and was then disqualified. Capeland put the record straight on his return to Ascot with an easy success which saw him raised 10lbs to a mark of 153. He is still paying for that and looks handicapped to the hilt but he clearly likes Ascot so I am hopeful of a tidy run even though he has it all to do at the weights.
It's a worrying sign of the times that this race is worth £25,000 in prize money compared to £60,000 a year ago. That is a huge drop.
Not much between the two
15:05 - Scaramanga & Malaya
Scaramanga has had been quite busy on the flat this summer and ran very well to be second in a decent handicap at this track ridden by Frankie Dettori in July. I gave him a little break after that and he will be sharper for his run at Bath a couple of weeks ago. With his jockey Bryan Carver claiming a handy 5lbs Scaramanga should run well provided the ground is not too deep.
Malaya loves Ascot, is in good shape and though she is handicapped up to her best I think she could run OK. On her day Malaya is pretty smart and runs here rather than at Haydock where it would have made no sense to be taking on Verdana Blue at level weights. There isn't much between her and Scaramanga.
Full of life
Black Corton has been a great flag bearer for the yard, has won 14 times and is so willing, he is rarely out of the money. Although he found life tougher last season he was placed every time and ended the campaign with a cracking run in the Betway Chase at a Kempton.
He is full of life as usual and I am hoping that the wind op he had in the summer might just tease a bit of improvement from him.
Black Corton ran very well in this race last year giving Vinndication 12lbs and he goes well fresh so I am expecting him to be in the thick of things again.
Adrien du Pont struggled last season and was basically disappointing but he seems fine at home and with Bryan Carver taking off 5lbs he has an attractive low weight and is more than capable of showing more here. He doesn't help himself by pulling so hard and needs a strong gallop so that he can settle before easing into the race.
He is a useful staying type who did well for Lucinda Russell before joining us and won a Pertemps qualifier at Musselburgh on his second start for Team Ditcheat in February. He will enjoy the ground at Ayr, has had a wind op over the summer and will benefit from the run in this before he goes chasing.
He did well last season winning three times and was also runner up in a Listed hurdle at Haydock. He is tough, consistent, and in good shape so should have a decent chance in this Scottish Champion Hurdle Trial handicap with his jockey Lorcan Williams claiming a useful 3lbs.
Best chance - Black Corton E/W. He always gives his best and I'm hopeful a wind op In the summer can bring about a bit of improvement.