Should soft conditions make stablemate Sceau Royal a doubt, Alan King’s Yanworth is likely to be sent off a hot favourite for Saturday’s Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton but may face a stiff test depending on the prevailing ground.
Yanworth is one of owner J P McManus many options for the Champion Hurdle, which include Buveur D’Air and Jezki, however the seven-year-old remains trainer Alan King’s leading hope and following a minor setback is aiming to make a winning final prep on Saturday night. A high-class hurdler, Yanworth is six from seven over obstacles with his only defeat coming to Yorkhill in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. Yanworth has made two winning starts this campaign, making hard work of the Grade 2 Ascot Hurdle before looking much nearer his best in defeating The New One and Ch’tibello in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle. He has looked in need of a test this campaign having needed every yard of the 2m3f on his reappearance and he wouldn’t want a dawdle on Saturday night.
Ch’tibello ran creditably when third behind Yanworth and again is entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle and while he looked just short of the top level in that defeat it is also difficult to make a case for him reversing the form.
Paul Nicholls has entered Irving who made an admirable winning reappearance in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle before an early fall at Haydock and a disappointing third in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown. That was won by leading Champion Hurdle hope Buveur D’Air and had been the intended target for Yanworth before his slight setback. Buveur D’Air won there on the bridle with Rayvin Black finding it impossible to concede four pounds in second.
The latter is an admirable campaigner who won last year’s renewal of the Kingwell Hurdle in soft conditions and if taking his chance on Saturday should prove the value each-way with Yanworth set to go off too short. The Oliver Sherwood-trained eight-year-old loves testing conditions and is a battle-hardened campaigner but while the going is currently soft at Wincanton there is the possibility of drying ground which would almost certainly rule him out.
In contrast should the ground dry considerably then Sceau Royal would have to move right into consideration. Still only a five-year-old, Sceau Royal had disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree after a previously very promising novice campaign. He looked right up to his best when winning at Cheltenham on his reappearance before easily beating Rayvin Black in a Wincanton Grade 2 on good ground. Sceau Royal subsequently disappointed behind Irving in the Fighting Fifth on unsuitably soft ground and will be worth giving another chance when he gets back to a better surface. Drying ground and the minimum trip would make Sceau Royal value against his stablemate.
The Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle is the highlight of Wincanton’s Saturday night card and is live on Sky Racing.