Across the cards: four things to note on an action-packed Saturday
Can Yanworth make a winning return?
Considering he has won 12 of his 19 starts, it’s hard to believe it has been a bit of a rocky road for Yanworth, who makes his return in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle (1.55 Haydock).
Now aged nine, Yanworth announced himself as a truly classy horse at Cheltenham in January 2016. But doubts began to creep in when Yorkhill beat him in what was then the Neptune Novices' Hurdle, and he then failed to win the Champion Hurdle in 2017 despite being sent off favourite after winning three big prizes en route.
His four chase starts yielded two wins and a second, but he was far from a natural over fences and trainer Alan King turned his attention to the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he finished a disappointing sixth.
After an 11-month absence, Yanworth is back and King said: "The important thing is that he's been pleasing me at home since he returned to Barbury Castle and he's working as well as he's ever done."
Yanworth is 7lb clear of his nearest rival on ratings, Kilcooley, who is reappearing from an even longer absence, while rock-solid campaigner Clyne tries his hand over three miles again. Last year's winner Donna's Diamond, Warren Greatrex's filly Petticoat Tails, Man Of Plenty and Shades Of Midnight complete the field.
Will Alan King complete a Kingwell hat-trick?
Alan King has won the last two renewals of the Kingwell Hurdle (3.00) and he will hope to make it a hat-trick with the redoubtable Sceau Royal, who reverts back to hurdles from fences.
Having won the Elite Hurdle over this course and distance in 2016, Sceau Royal went on to finish sixth in the Champion Hurdle. More recently, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s horse has plied his trade admirably over fences and is likely to have another date with his Tingle Creek conqueror Altior in the Champion Chase next month.
King, who won this race with Yanworth in 2017 and Elgin last year, said: “His target is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but he's in very good order and he could well get his ground. He was a good enough hurdler to finish third behind Yanworth in this before he went chasing.”
The £60,000 prize is well worth rerouting for, but it won’t be easy for Sceau Royal as he is due to face the Colin Tizzard-trained Vision Des Flos, who gave Buveur D’Air an ever so slight fright in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown last time. Unison and Jolly’s Cracked It represent the older brigade while novice Grand Sancy, who chased home Elixir De Nutz in the Tolworth Hurdle last time, takes his chance for Paul Nicholls.
Is Ben another star for Kirby?
Philip Kirby already has one very exciting chaser in his string in Lady Buttons, but Top Ville Ben could join the mare and enter that league if he were to add the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase (1.35) to his CV.
The winner of both of his starts over fences so far, including a 46-length beating of the 137-rated Red Rising at Wetherby last time, Top Ville Ben’s enthusiastic racing style makes him a sight to behold.
Kirby said: "His jumping has been excellent so hopefully he'll continue to go the right way. He was a good jumper of a hurdle and then it all kind of fell apart – he got a bit brave and started stepping at the hurdles.
"Then he schooled over fences at home brilliantly, and so looked like he would make a chaser at some stage."
The seven-year-old tends to freewheel for the first mile or so before staying on dourly, and those tactics have been seen to good effect around Ascot this season courtesy of horses like Wenyerreadyfreddie and Cyrname.
Top Ville Ben is a top-priced 40-1 shot for the RSA Chase and Kirby added: "It's a nice pot to have a go at and he deserves to take his chance. All being well the plan would be to head to the RSA after this."
However, this looks a wide-open renewal and Top Ville Ben could face competition for the lead, as Now McGinty has improved rapidly since cheekpieces were applied and scored in style for the in-form Stuart Edmunds yard at Chepstow last time.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Mister Malarky produced a similarly taking effort at Newbury, while Coup De Pinceau and Yalltari complete the field.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: "He is a progressive young horse who won well at Newbury last time. He has put himself in the picture to take his chance in a race like this. This will help us decide whether to go down the novice or handicapping route at Cheltenham."
Can Triumph contender down last year's Triumph winner?
Coeur Sublime, a 20-1 shot for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and Farclas, who landed that Cheltenham Festival event last year, represent Gordon Elliott in the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park, a race which the Jessica Harrington-trained Forge Meadow will bid to win for the second consecutive year.
Elliott said: "Coeur Sublime missed a Grade 1 at Leopardstown two weeks ago as the ground was too quick. He needs to improve but as a four-year-old he's getting plenty of weight from the others.
"He's in good form and so is Farclas, who has been disappointing so far this season. We're trying blinkers on him to see if they might improve things."
Harrington said of Forge Meadow: "She won the race last year and it made sense to go back and try and win it again. She would probably like the ground a bit softer than it is, but she hasn't really run a bad race all season."
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