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Key questions as Yanworth takes on new Cheltenham test in cross-country

Yanworth (white cap) returns to Cheltenham in Glenfarclas Chase
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3.05 Cheltenham
Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase | 5yo+ | 3m6f | ITV4/RTV

Yanworth is no stranger to Cheltenham but encounters a new test on his return to the home of steeplechasing when he faces 15 rivals around the unique cross-country course.

JP McManus' nine-year-old has competed at Cheltenham on seven occasions with mixed fortunes, including two Grade 2 wins and a disappointing showing when favourite for the 2017 Champion Hurdle.

He made a successful cross-country debut at Punchestown last month on his second start for Enda Bolger and is one of three runners for the trainer.

Yanworth has to concede weight to all including Neverushacon, Ballyboker Bridge and Hurricane Darwin, who filled the next three places at Punchestown last month.

Yanworth: makes his first start over Cheltenham cross-country course on Friday

Bolger, who is also represented by 2015 winner Josies Orders and Blue Templar, said: "We were pleased with Yanworth's win last time. He was dropping back in class compared to what he was used to. He's in good form and I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles the course. 

"He faces a tough enough task with top weight and the most important thing is that he comes back safe and sound.

"It's been a bit of a rush with Josies Orders as he had a touch of colic in September which meant we were held up. He's in good order but will probably need the race.

"Blue Templar is an average horse compared to Yanworth and Josies Orders. He's got quite good cross-country form, but he wouldn't be in the same class as the other two. However, 10st 8lb is a nice weight and he might be good enough to run into a place."

Will the French dominate again?

Successful in the cross-country race at Cheltenham last month, French trainers return with a team of four headed by the five-year-old Easysland, a five-time cross-country winner who is seeking a fifth straight win on his first Cheltenham visit.

French winner: Diesel D'Allier was successful in last month's cross-country race at Cheltenham

His trainer David Cottin, who is also represented by Amazing Comedy, said: "Easysland would love deep ground whereas Amazing Comedy would be helped if it's not too heavy.

"Easysland is a real cross-country specialist and I hope he can do something special at Cheltenham. Amazing Comedy knows the track by heart and ran really well in this race last year when he was only beaten two lengths in fourth. He has quite a lot less weight to carry than Easysland so we will see how that plays out."

What they say

Jessica Harrington, trainer of Neverushacon
We were delighted with his first cross-country run at Punchestown when he ran second to Yanworth, giving him 5lb. He’s getting 8lb from him this time, so we’re hoping for a big run. He jumps well but the ground would be a concern if it’s very soft.

Gordon Elliott, trainer of Out Sam
It’s a new discipline for him, so we’ll have to see how he takes to it. He seems in good form and the softer the ground, the more he’ll like it.

Michael Scudamore, trainer of Kingswell Theatre
He handled the really soft ground better than we had expected last time. It had gone gluey and horrible, which wasn't ideal, and nor would be more rain before this race, but he's as well as ever and he saves his best runs for this track.  

Richard Hobson, trainer of Chic Name
The rain has gone against him. His jumping is better on better ground. He won't travel with as much enthusiasm in soft ground but he loves the course and has a lovely weight, so I'm sure he'll still run a massive race.

Patrice Quinton, trainer of Decret
He'll be having his first start over cross-country fences. He jumps well and seems tough. He's a little like Pasquini Rouge, who twice ran well at this meeting, in that he's very cool and doesn't pull at all.

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He's in good form and I'm looking forward to seeing how he handles the course
E.W. Terms