The Cheltenham portfolios of many are now beginning to take shape with the Festival barely five weeks away and these will undoubtedly include some supposed bankers and some attractively-priced longshots capable of outrunning their odds.
Most selections in the banker category will hail from the yard of Willie Mullins, with Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power and Un De Sceaux odds-on for their respective races and Vautour could join them if running in the Ryanair Chase instead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, there are a growing list of reasons as to why the biggest banker exists outside of the Mullins team.
Ladbrokes are 4/5 that Yanworth wins the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and here are eight reasons why Alan King’s unbeaten hurdler looks almost impossible to oppose:
Trainer and jockey confidence
“I don’t think I’ve trained anything like it. He’s frightening – in a good way – and he could be very special.”
These were the comments from trainer Alan King after Yanworth’s seven-length victory on the bridle in the main Neptune trial at Cheltenham last month.
This is serious praise, considering King has trained the likes of 2006 World Hurdle winner My Way de Solzen, 2007 Champion Chase victor Voy Por Ustedes and 2008 Champion Hurdle conqueror Katchit in the past.
Meanwhile, jockey Barry Geraghty still thought the horse was a little green during the race, making him open to further improvement.
If anything in the Neptune trial, Yanworth’s jumping was far from fluent for the most part, regularly getting in a bit close.
He lost some lengths on talented rivals at various obstacles. Shantou Village, rated 146 and the Neptune selection of Pricewise, finished second and couldn’t put Yanworth under any real pressure.
Any improvement in the jumping department will make him an even more formidable foe at the Festival.
The form in behind is stacking up
Prior to the Neptune Cheltenham trial, Yanworth landed the Kennel Gate Novice’s Hurdle at Ascot in December and the runner-up that day Charbel has won on his sole start since, beating an odds-on favourite in the process.
The second and third from his hurdles debut at Exeter in the November have also won since, with the runner-up turning up in the Grade One Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle and finishing fourth behind Mullins’ Yorkhill.
In between, Yanworth sauntered to a straight-forward victory at Warwick, with the second Le Prezien winning impressively at Doncaster since. He is now rated 140.
Not ground dependent
Yanworth has won hurdles races on good-to-soft, soft and heavy ground this season and Tony McCoy, who rode him regularly in bumpers last season, only believes the horse will improve for tackling a sounder surface.
On a first attempt beyond 2m1f in the Neptune trial, there were some doubts as to whether the horse would see out the additional 3f, especially on the heavy ground.
However, class can often be seen in horses able to quicken on boggy ground when others appear to be struggling in quicksand and this is what Yanworth did.
The Neptune is run almost identical to most of the trials
One of the big issues with the leading 2m hurdles at the Festival are that the races tend to follow a different pattern to the trials earlier in the season. The trials start slowly and then turn into a sprint at the end, suiting horses able to accelerate quickly from a crawl.
Yet the Festival races have a more end-to-end gallop, which is a greater burden on their stamina reserves.
The early pace in the Neptune is usually much more moderate rather than a blast from the tape, meaning it is much more similar to the trials, perhaps with a slightly bigger field.
Yanworth has been mopping up these races all year.
More of a speed horse
Because of the moderate early pace, there is an argument that the Neptune suits horses that have the speed to win over 2m. Peddlers Cross, The New One and Faugheen have all followed up a Neptune victory with strong performances in the Champion Hurdle in recent years.
Whereas, although the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is run over 2m, the constant quick pace requires horses to have proven stamina over a little further.
Therefore, the Neptune is the best fit for Yanworth.
Those at the forefront of the betting have a great record
The fact that 28 of the last 30 Neptune winners have emerged from the front five of the betting suggests that the way the race is priced up is normally correct.
The similarities between the trials and the actual race must have a large bearing on this, with horses less likely to have an unknown up their sleeves.
Six-year-olds have been the dominant age group in recent years
In 15 Neptune runnings this century, two thirds have been won by horses aged six, this includes First Lieutenant, Simonsig, Faugheen and Windsor Park since 2011.
Most of those prominent in the market this time are in the same age group, including Yanworth.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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