Alan King‘s Yanworth gets his chance to prove he belongs in the top drawer of two-mile hurdlers when he runs in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Owned by JP McManus, Yanworth heads a small but select field of six for the Grade One contest on Monday.
Absent from the field is two-time defending champion Faugheen, with trainer Willie Mullins again deciding to hold fire on his seasonal reappearance.
There will be one former Christmas Hurdle hero in the line-up after Nicky Henderson declared My Tent Or Yours will be a second McManus-owned contender for the big hurdles contest in Britain over the festive period.
Recent Cheltenham International Hurdle scorer The New One represents Nigel Twiston-Davies while Mullins has elected to send high-class mare Vroum Vroum Mag across the Irish Sea.
Dan Skelton‘s Ch’Tibello and the Richard Harper-trained Gray Wolf River complete the sextet for Kempton.
Yanworth, 13/8 with ComeOn! for the Christmas Hurdle, was one of the most exciting novices in Britain last season, running up an impressive four-timer en route to the Cheltenham Festival.
Standout amongst those performances was his Prestbury Park win on trials day where he scampered clear of a decent field on the bridle for an impressive success.
He wasn’t quite at his best come March and was forced to settle for second in the Neptune behind Yorkhill, who was the beneficiary of a clever ride from Ruby Walsh.
There was some talk of Yanworth going down the stayers’ hurdle route this season but his reappearance win at Ascot last month has convinced connections to try their hand over the minimum trip.
The New One was pencilled in for a novice chasing campaign this term by the Twiston-Davies team before frost scuppered his intended debut at Exeter.
He wound up in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham and duly won the race for the third time in his career. He is 7/2 with ComeOn! to follow up at Kempton.
My Tent Or Yours won this race in 2013 but looked to have lost some of his sparkle behind The New One earlier this month and is 10/1 for his Seven Barrows handler.
The biggest threat to Yanworth could still hail from Ireland. Vroum Vroum Mag was narrowly beaten on her reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace by Apple’s Jade but the Rich Ricci-owned mare remains of the highest quality.
She easily accounted for Identity Thief and My Tent Or Yours over this trip at Punchestown last spring and, ridden a bit closer to the pace, could put her Fairyhouse form well behind her on Boxing Day.
Vroum Vroum Mag is 9/4 to win the Christmas Hurdle with ComeOn!
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