Superstars Altior and Cyrname on course for Ascot clash on Saturday

A maximum of five horses will contest Saturday's Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase, but most importantly the two highest-rated chasers in Britain in Cyrname and Altior were among the five-day entries.

Paul Nicholls' 176-rated seven-year-old, who won the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase by 17 lengths from Waiting Patiently over course and distance in February, and Nicky Henderson's 175-rated all-conquering four-time Cheltenham Festival winner are on track to square off in a blockbuster clash.

Altior, who is unbeaten over obstacles, is a top-priced 4-5 with Cyrname available at 11-8.

Dave Stevens, of Coral, who are 8-13 about Altior, said: "Although Cyrname is officially rated 1lb higher than Altior, and is proven over Saturday's 2m5f trip, we still favour Altior to come out on top on his first try at this distance, such was his dominance and superstar status over two miles and his connections' belief that he now needs to go further."

William Hill are best-priced about Altior and shortest about Cyrname, going 4-5 and 11-10 about the pair and spokesman Rupert Adams said: "Cyrname's proven at the trip which gives us confidence in his chance, allied to the fact Altior's not at his best going right-handed means we've been happy to take him on and we're laying Altior like we've never seen before."

Ascot reported the clash had boosted advanced ticket sales by a whopping 25 per cent. Director of racing Nick Smith said: "This is why people go racing and it’s great for us, it’s become quite an unexpectedly big day and our advanced sales are up around 25 per cent on last year."

Ascot are understandably thrilled with the clash and an excited Smith added: "It’s been on the cards for a long time, both connections put it on the table very early as the ideal starting point and as the days and as the days and weeks have gone by you fear something will happen or there will be a change of plan, but to have a clash of this magnitude so early in the season really is great for racing.

"It’s often said the big guns over jumps hide from each other apart from the King George and the festivals, so to have the best two horses in Britain meeting on their seasonal return is a credit to connections. 

"The beauty of them clashing so early is it sets up a potential rematch in the King George, or it could answer some real questions and shape the season and where they go from here on.

"We are thrilled, with the Hurst Park worth £125,000 and the Coral Hurdle – which is normally the feature race on the card but it has been overtaken this year somewhat – it's got the feel of a major race day."

Altior's stablemate Top Notch (161) is a best-priced 16-1, with Warren Greatrex's Keeper Hill (146) at 33-1 and Dan Skelton's 66-1 shot Solomon Grey (138) completing the possible runners.