Tony Elves is warm on the chances of the home challenge for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding has made us sit up and notice this Autumn in no uncertain manner as he returned from his break to firstly beat Deputy Dan by six lengths (last year’s World Hurdle winner Cole Harden in third) in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, before slamming three-times previous winner Reve De Sivola by eight lengths in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December.
Thistlecrack was reading from the same script at Cheltenham and was always ridden with the utmost confidence by Tom Scudamore before skipping clear at the last to beat Ptit Zig by 12 lengths. What is most encouraging about the son of Kayf Tara is that he appears to be improving as the season progresses and, in a staying division where there is no longer a recognised superstar, he is emerging to take over the mantle of the likes of Big Bucks and Inglis Drever.
The recent build-up to Cheltenham has been dominated by the Willie Mullins team but there is no white flag of surrender from trainers this side of the Irish Sea and Yanworth showed he means business at the home of National Hunt racing with a smooth-as-silk performance in the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle.
Yanworth had been recommended at long odds for the Supreme Novices when hurdling superbly to make all for a two and three-quarter length win from Charbel and Alan King’s gelding showed he can be effective at two and a half miles when toying with his rivals before racing to a seven length victory from Shantou Village. He was immediately promoted to favourite for the Neptune but championship races at the festival are invariably run at a breakneck gallop and, with the likes of Bellshill and Yorkhill, in opposition there will be no hiding place in a race where stamina could be very much a premium.
Yanworth has both the hurdling craft and the speed necessary to pick up in the two-miler where the uphill finish could again make stamina a strong suit, and let hope King mulls further over his options at the festival.
Barters Hill remains unbeaten in seven starts but Ben Pauling’s stable star had to battle hard to repel Ballydine by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at Doncaster on Saturday. The 4-7 shot never really looked in danger of defeat but several of his victories have been on easy galloping tracks, like Doncaster and Aintree, and the Cheltenham Hill could find him out in the three-miler. The Neptune Investment Management Hurdle would be my choice of engagements should Barters Hill be mine.
Buveur D’Air had come closest to inflicting defeat on Barters Hill when beaten three-quarters of a length in the Listed Bumper at Newbury last February, where stablemate Altior (impressive winner of four races over hurdles) and Final Nudge finished fourth.
Buveur D’Air oozes class and was never out of second gear when scoring by seven lengths from Breath of Blighty in a novice hurdle at Huntingdon on Friday. He is progressing nicely and, should Yanworth sidestep the Supreme Novices, it could be worth having a saver on this fellow on the first day of the festival.