Kingwell Hurdle preview: Cheekpieces to aid Yanworth cause
Friday 17 February 2017
By Racinguk.com staff
Yanworth gets the chance to enhance his Cheltenham Festival claims in the Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.
Connections appeared to be favouring a step up in distance following the seven-year-old's comeback victory in November's Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
However, with fellow JP McManus-owned gelding Unowhatimeanharry emerging as the dominant force on the staying scene, Yanworth was switched back to two miles in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and an impressive victory coupled with the defections of Annie Power and Faugheen mean he is now as short as 7-2 to secure Champion Hurdle glory on March 14.
Having missed an intended engagement in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown a fortnight ago after pulling a muscle, Yanworth instead warms up for the Festival in Somerset and trainer Alan King is hoping the application of cheekpieces may bring about some improvement.
"Yanworth is in great form. The stiffer track at Sandown would have suited him better than Wincanton, but the slow ground should offset that, and he coped with Kempton well enough when winning the Christmas Hurdle," said the Barbury Castle handler.
"Yorkhill is the only horse to have beaten Yanworth in seven races over hurdles and he is unbeaten at two miles, and, unlike some, I have no worries about his jumping being good enough to win a Champion Hurdle.
"He was sharp when schooling on Monday morning, and we also hope that first-time cheekpieces might also make him that bit slicker at his hurdles."
Yanworth is one of two King-trained runners in the Grade Two contest, with Sceau Royal bidding to get his season back on track.
The five-year-old bolted up on his first start of the campaign at Cheltenham before running away with the Elite Hurdle over this course and distance.
He was sent off as a leading contender for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle three weeks later, but finished a disappointing fourth and has not been seen in competitive action since.
"The more the ground dries up at Wincanton, the better Sceau Royal's chance," the trainer said on his website www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He has been off since the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, when he didn't run his race, and, though it would not worry me going straight to Cheltenham as he runs well fresh, it makes sense to try to blow away the cobwebs here, and he is in great form."
Jeremy Scott's stable stalwart Melodic Rendezvous won this prize in 2014 and is back for more, as is last year's winner Rayvin Black.
The latter, trained by Oliver Sherwood, was runner-up to Buveur D'Air in the Contenders Hurdle a fortnight ago.
Sherwood said: "He's got it all to do with the mainprotagonists, but there's not a lot else I can run him in.
"He'll love the ground. I'd love it to rain all day tomorrow, but I don't think it will.
"I've not done a lot with him since Sandown, just a bit of swimming, which he enjoys.
"Hopefully he can pick up some place money and we'll see if there's a kink in the armour of the top ones."
Contenders Hurdle third and Fighting Fifth hero Irving also makes a swift return to action for Paul Nicholls.
Dan Skelton's Christmas Hurdle third Ch'Tibello and Alex Dunn's outsider Seven Nation Army complete the seven-strong field.