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Yanworth bids to underline Champion claims in first-time cheekpieces

Yanworth (Barry Geraghty) wins the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
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2.45 Wincanton
Betway Kingwell Hurdle | Grade 2 | 1m7f 65yds | ITV4/RUK

Alan King fits Yanworth with cheekpieces for the first time as the seven-year-old bids to underline his claims for the Stan James Champion Hurdle on a track that would not necessarily play to his strengths.

The Christmas Hurdle winner was originally intended to have his final prep race in Sandown's Contenders' Hurdle a fortnight ago, but he was forced to miss that race after what King described at the time as "a slight tweak on the rear hind-quarters" and his place was taken by owner JP McManus's Buveur D'Air.

Buveur D'Air now heads betting for the Champion Hurdle following an impressive defeat of Rayvin Black, but there is only a point between the pair in the sponsors' list.

With Yanworth yet to be beaten in a two-mile hurdle an easy win here might well leave jockey Barry Geraghty with a difficult decision to make come Cheltenham.

King also runs Sceau Royal, who started the season well but has not been seen since disappointing in the Fighting Fifth in November. Irving, who won that race, reopposes, as do past Kingwell winners Rayvin Black and Melodic Rendezvous.

King hoping for second double

Alan King has won this twice before, including in 2008 with Katchit, who was the last horse to complete the Kingwell/Champion Hurdle double.

More open than it looks

Official ratings give Yanworth a clear advantage, but he has less in hand of Sceau Royal or Ch'tibello according to Racing Post Ratings

What they say

Paul Nicholls, trainer of Irving
He always seems to go well in the autumn but can never win after Christmas. He was disappointing last time at Sandown, but the ground was heavy enough for him. He's got a bit to prove but it will be better this time, as they are racing on fresh ground, and if he's on a going day he could be right in the mix. He appears to be in good order.

Oliver Sherwood, trainer of Rayvin Black
He's grand. He's got it all to do, but where else can he go? You've got to pick up what you can, where you can, and if there are any chinks in the other runners' armour he'll be there to pounce. I haven't done a lot with him since Sandown – just swimming really –so he's fresh and well. I'd love it to rain, but it will be tiring enough.

Alan King, trainer of Yanworth and Sceau Royal
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. Yorkhill is the only horse to have beaten him in seven races over hurdles and he is unbeaten at two miles. 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. The more the ground dries up the better for Sceau Royal. He's been off since November, when he didn’t run his race and, although it wouldn't have worried me going straight to Cheltenham as he runs well fresh, it makes sense to try to blow away the cobwebs. He's in great form.

Dan Skelton, trainer of Ch'Tibello
The track should suit and I can't say the ground is an issue, but both Yanworth and Sceau Royal have higher ratings.

Sandown would have suited him bettern, but the slow ground should offset that, and he coped with Kempton well enough. Yorkhill is the only horse to have beaten him over hurdles and he is unbeaten at two miles