Yanworth pleasing Alan King ahead of Ascot reappearance
Alan King thinks Yanworth looks a stronger horse this season as he makes his comeback in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot. A leading novice last term, he lost his unbeaten record to Yorkhill in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival.
At this stage King is unsure whether he has a Champion Hurdle contender on his hands or whether he should be looking at the World Hurdle, but he expects to know a lot more after this Grade Two event over just short of two and a half miles.
"Yanworth looks fabulous and, if anything, he is a little bit stronger than last season," King told Racing UK.
"Barry (Geraghty) schooled him over nine hurdles on Wednesday and we've been very happy with him. This will tell us a lot. I think two-miles-three is a good starting point and it's been the plan for some time.
"It's a decent field so we'll learn a lot and the ground should be fine. I still haven't worked a horse on grass this season as the gallops aren't watered like the racecourses.
"It will be nice to get him started, the rain this week came at just the right time."
Yanworth faces a tough assignment as he has to concede 4lb to Paul Nicholls' Zarkandar.
Now nine, he missed the whole of last season through injury but showed his ability remains when poised to win at Aintree on his comeback only to nearly fall at the last flight, handing victory to Un Temps Pour Tout.
That is not the first time a bad mistake has cost him a race, as he was absolutely cruising in the World Hurdle won by Cole Harden only to step at the second-last flight, costing him any chance of victory.
It has not all been a tale of woe, however, as he has won a Triumph Hurdle, an Aintree Hurdle and a Grade One in France.
Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham said: " He's been an unlucky horse.
"He came out of Aintree well. He's been fine at home, his work has been good and he's schooled nicely since. He's finished second in a Long Walk there and has been second in this to Annie Power so the trip isn't an issue at all.
"It looks a nice race for him and we hope he runs well."
Evan Williams' Court Minstrel finished second to Rock On Ruby 12 months ago and was runner-up on his comeback to Hargam.
A hard horse to place, he would not want the ground to get much softer.
"The little horse ran a very, very good race last time. He came out of it well and has been very well since," said Williams.
"Our horses have just started coming to hand as the rain has come which is good, although this one wouldn't want too much rain."
The highest rated horse in the field is Neil King's Lil Rockerfeller, who enjoyed such a good season last year.
Stepped up to three miles at Wetherby on his return, the five-year-old was third to Silsol in the West Yorkshire Hurdle and while his trainer sees that distance as his ideal going forward, he does not believe dropping back at this stage of the season will be an issue.
"The only horse we meet wrong at the weights is Zarkandar and then it's only 1lb," said King.
"He's come out of Wetherby well and we were going to go to Newbury next week but myself and the owners had a chat and the prize-money is appalling for the Hennessy meeting in truth so we came here instead.
"He's won at Ascot before, is in great order and he must have a very good chance. He'll be back at Ascot next for the Long Walk with the World Hurdle his ultimate aim, but two and a half with cut in the ground at Ascot will be fine."
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Source: At The Races