So often with racing there are more questions than answers but not this time as Britain’s top chasers clashed at Ascot, writes James Toney.
Altior’s unbeaten run stretched 19 races and 1673 days but Cyrname played with him and never looked like letting the two-time Champion Chase winner get ahead, claiming a thrilling victory in the Christy 1965 Chase.
Trainer Nicky Henderson had expressed doubts that his horse would be competitive over two miles five furlongs, longer than he’s ever run, and so it proved.
And surely now the idea of a crack at the three mile King George VI Chase on Boxing Day looks a Christmas wish even Santa couldn’t deliver on.
Cyrname, on the other hand, looks primed and jockey Harry Cobden now faces an unenviable dilemma over who he rides, having piloted Clan Des Obeaux to victory last year.
“What a race,” said Nicholls. “He's a changed horse, he took time to mature mentally and physically and has just beaten a superstar horse who ran very well too.
“We’ll head to the King George now, a flat track, right-handed and three miles, it’ll be interesting for sure."
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) November 23, 2019
Altior is famed for his flawless jumping and jockey Nico de Boinville didn’t do much wrong, the extra trip taking its toll on a horse whose reputation has long been built on speed, not stamina.
Surely all roads now lead to a bid for a historic third Champion Chase at the Festival, a feat only once achieved by Badsworth Boy 34 years ago.
It won’t be an easy task, with Willie Mullins’s lightly-raced Chacun Pour Soi still leading the market - but you sense it's the only realistic target on the horizon.
Last year Altior prepared for Cheltenham with wins at the Tingle Creek at Sandown, Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton and Ascot’s Clarence House Chase in January. Henderson will now be plotting and planning his options for future engagements.
“Fair play to Paul and his team, that was a great front-running performance and there were fitter and better on the day,” he said.
“I don’t think you can judge the trip yet and I’ve honestly no idea what he’ll do next.
"It’s a tough race for your first of the season and he’s had a good go at it. He was just very, very tired on that ground. We've never seen him as tired as that.
“It’s onwards and upwards, there’s certainly stuff to sort out.”
Meanwhile, Colin Tizzard's Lostintranslation underlined his growing reputation with a victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the first leg of jump racing's £1 million triple crown.
He could also line up against Cyrname at Kempton this Christmas, another chasing showdown to prove jump racing doesn't just have to be about four days in springtime.