Thursday December 17

We think he is pretty good, but Yanworth has breezed home in two small races so far, a Class 3 at Exeter and a Class 4 at Warwick, so we ought to learn a little bit more about this exciting youngster when he puts his unbeaten record over jumps to the test in the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot tomorrow.

As with so many of these smart novices, we need to test the temperature of the water to see whether Yanworth is a two-miler or one who is going to be even more effective over a longer distance, and JP McManus’s dual bumper winner, who finished an excellent fourth at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, might answer that question on the Royal Heath.

Outlining his thoughts on Yanworth’s chance, Alan said:”We have always thought the world of him, and I think he benefited from spending a second season on the bumper circuit.

“He has taken well to hurdling this winter, but I ran him a bit quick at Warwick, though I was keen to get some more match-practice into him just in case the weather closed in and the second has since won at Ludlow. Now I want to run him in a better race over two (miles) to see where we are with him. He will stay further and if we feel that he is going to need to go up in trip I would rather find out sooner than later.”

We have two other runners at Ascot, and, assessing their prospects, Alan added:”Shadarpour, who goes for the boys race, was put up 7lb for finishing second to Unowhatimeanharry at Cheltenham last month, but the winner has won twice since and the form is looking solid. Will Featherstone keeps the ride.

“I don’t want any more rain for Kerrow, who runs in the opening maiden hurdle. Soft ground is ok, but no worse than that. He has been placed in three bumpers and wasn’t beaten that far in an introductory hurdle on his comeback.”

There has been plenty to celebrate at Barbury for the last three Saturdays, and we have fingers and toes firmly crossed that we might get lucky again this week-end at Ascot, where Winner Massagot goes for the £150,000 Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle and an hour earlier Karezak tackles the big boys in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle.

Alan, who won The Ladbroke four years ago with Raya Star, said:”This has been Winner Massagot’s target since he won so well over the track four weeks ago, and, though he has gone up 12lb, he needed that sort of hike to get into this race. He was a horse we really liked last season and he strengthened up through the summer, but he was very free last time so I hope that first race back might have taken the fizz out of him and settled him down.

“Karezak has been running well over two miles and is paying for his consistency by going up the handicap, so we are experimenting in trying him over three, and if he does stay it will open up more options.”