For a horse with such an outstanding record, Yanworth has had his knockers. Following a glorious first attempt at three miles, the naysayers were silenced as the Alan King-trained star, winner of ten of 14 starts, showed a liking for a greater test of stamina to consign his disappointing run in the Champion Hurdle to the past.
Even though staying distances had been the plan for Yanworth earlier in the season, the Liverpool Hurdle represented a huge jump up in distance but the JP McManus-owned chestnut accepted the challenge under Barry Geraghty to hold off Coral Cup winner Supasundae and halt the Robbie Power and Alan and Ann Potts bandwagon.
“We hoped the three miles would suit but we hadn’t been that far before and it’s a long run-in,” said King, who registered a third victory in the race following Spendid (2002) and Blazing Bailey (2008).
“It was a brave call to go from two miles up to three and I must admit I wasn’t confident as it wasn’t the ideal preparation, but we got away with it.”
‘Last throw of the dice’ After notching a first success at the meeting this week following on from a blank Cheltenham, King was relieved to make his mark at the business end of the season.
“This was my last throw of the dice,” said the trainer on his 99th success of the campaign. “He lost his place down the hill at Cheltenham and his race was over but he did run on very well. He won a Christmas Hurdle and a Kingwell so we had to go to the Champion. I have no regrets. We had to try that, it didn’t work but we’re back on track now.”
That track is set to lead to fences next season as King added: “The exciting thing is he could be a better horse over a fence and he’ll go novice chasing in the autumn. You probably start him off at two and a half with a view of possibly going to three. He has an entry at Punchestown but I’d like to put him away.”
Approaching two out nothing was travelling better than Snow Falcon, one of only three runners to come on from the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but he could not go with Yanworth and Supasundae, who fought out the finish.
Geraghty was hit with a four-day ban for using his whip above the permitted level and with excessive force, while Power got two days for his use of the whip on the runner-up.
Regarding Supasundae, who did not enter the winner’s enclosure after the race on veterinary advice, Power said: “He got very hot but he’s fine. He’s 100 per cent and has just gone to the cool-down area. He’s run a cracker for a first run in a Grade 1.”
Noel Meade was thrilled with Snow Falcon and has some intriguing targets in the pipeline.
“I’d have preferred to have won, but no excuses,” he said. “He jumped great and I thought he was going to win going to the last. He’ll probably go for the Stayers’ at Punchestown if he’s all right, but I’d also like to take him to Royal Ascot for the Ascot Stakes, although I’ll have to have a good look as he might be borderline to get in and so could need another race.”