Alan King: Horses to follow
For all the success Alan King has enjoyed since taking out a licence back in 1999, if there was ever a season in that space of time when he required his troops to rally to the call then the 2015-16 campaign was it.
Alan King provides the latest on some of his team
Without the services of his two shining lights from the previous year in Uxizandre and Balder Succes, there was a void at Barbury Castle Stables that needed filling quickly if the season was to be a success.
Having established himself as a useful bumper horse, Yanworth made an instant impact over hurdles after tasting victory on his first four starts over hurdles, before meeting with defeat in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival.
King said: "He is back in good form and has summered very well. The plan is to start him off at Ascot on November 19 in the two-mile-three Coral Hurdle and take a view from there as to whether we go up in trip or stay where we are. I thought it was a very good starting point.
"Last season was marvellous really. It went very well bar Cheltenham. Things didn't quite go to plan. He was probably beaten by a very good horse, but we lost a lot of ground on the home turn. He (Yorkhill) quickened away from us and we could never really cut it down.
"It took quite a lot out of him. It was the first proper race he had and that's why we didn't run him again.
"I would not be at all surprised if he ended up being a World Hurdle prospect, but we will see. I think two miles on testing ground would be fine, but I'd be surprised if we come back – I think it will be two and a half and up."
While Smad Place has yet to strike at Grade One level, the nine year old gifted King one of his greatest triumphs when making all in the Hennessy and following it up with a win in the Cotswold Chase.
Although the Gold Cup proved a step too far on his final start, a trip back to Newbury in November is very much on the agenda as he bids to become the first horse since Arkle in the 1960s to win the prestigious Grade Three handicap on back-to-back occasions.
King said: "Smad Place could go for the Old Roan at Aintree on Sunday, failing that the Charlie Hall, although that looks like being hot.
"He will go back for the Hennessy, hopefully. It is not going to be easy off his new handicap mark as he is on 167 now.
"We will duck and dive a bit through the season. He has been to every Festival since he was four. He has been placed in two World Hurdles, narrowly beaten in a Sun Alliance.
"He has always been a good horse. He struggles against the very best but I don't think he was better last year, I think things just fell right for him. He has always been very talented.
"It (Hennessy) was a day we will never forget. It was a hell of a sight to see him winging around Newbury like that. I must admit I thought he was going too hard up front. He came out of it really well and the fact he had a prep race made a huge difference as well."
Although Uxizandre has not been sighted since providing Sir Anthony McCoy with what was to be his final ever Festival winner in the 2014 Ryanair Chase, the eight-year-old is back in work ahead of making an anticipated return to the track.
King said: "He is only cantering at the moment and I wouldn't imagine he would be ready much before Christmas. Quite where he will start I've no idea. He has to go left handed so that limits me somewhat. We will have to see what is around when he is ready.
"It is great to have him back. Hopefully we will work towards the spring. Whether it is the Queen Mother or Ryanair, only time will tell. We will have to see how much ability he retains.
"He looks marvellous and is moving very well, so it is so far so good. Ground is key to him, he is a much better horse on good ground and the visor helped at Cheltenham."
Uxizandre is not the only above-average warrior making a return after an enforced absence with Grade Two-winning hurdler Ordo Ab Chao working his way back to the racecourse.
King said: "He is back. He is only just cantering and was supposed to go novice chasing last year but he got pneumonia and pleurisy. He was a very sick horse for a while.
"He would not be ready for some time. We hope he would make a decent chaser. Two and half for him on soft ground is what he wants and it will be December time before we see him."
One young hurdling prospect to keep an eye on is Winter Escape, who made it three from three with a Grade Two success at Kempton in February.
King said: "Winter Escape was a horse we always loved. We took him up to Doncaster twice to get him some better ground in the winter. He hacked up both times, then he won his graded race at Kempton where he knuckled down very well.
"We took the view to put him away after that. I think it was a blessing as he looks marvellous and a lot stronger. I'm probably going to start him in the Greatwood, that's the plan."
Alan King with an insight on the rest of his big hopes for the season:
"He loves Cheltenham. He has had a wind operation since last season. He has always made a slight noise so we sent him to Ben Brain. He is in very good form and loves to be fresh.
"He will go straight to the BetVictor. He wants a nice break between races and wants to be kept fresh. Hopefully we've learned how to train him now.
"We've probably not got much of a margin with his handicap mark, but he is a grand old horse."
BIG CHIEF BENNY
"He won a couple last year and ran pretty well all the way through. The plan is to stick to handicap hurdles with him.
"We will start him off over two and a half and he might get a bit further in time. He doesn't want it too deep, but he would go on anything else."
"He is a horse Nigel Bunter and I bred so it is quite satisfying to see him progress. He has always loved his jumping.
"He has won over a mile and a half on the Flat and ticks a lot of the right boxes. He will have a little break before going jumping next month. I might just keep him to the sharper tracks.
"He won his first two bumpers and we decided to leave him in bumpers for the rest of the season. In a way I'm pleased as he is a much stronger horse. He was quite powerful last year but he really has developed. He is not the best work horse but he never has been.
"He is working away now and schooling and he will be out as soon as we get the ground for him. We might start at two as he is quite a free horse but he will be a two-and-a-half-mile plus horse in time."
"She is a good mare and ran a blinder in the new mares' race at Cheltenham to finish second and we made sure she didn't win until the new season started. She remains a novice and her target is to go back for that race again.
"There is a Newbury meeting at the beginning of November and there is a valuable mares' race so we will start her off in that.
"We will avoid the winter ground with her freshen her up and bring her back for Cheltenham. She goes on soft ground but is better on better ground."
"He has always shown me a lot at home. He was in training with James Fanshawe but he was probably quite weak and backwards so they didn't run him on the Flat.
"He has had two runs for me, winning well at Haydock on his second start. He will have another run in a bumper then go hurdling, but we've just got to wait for the rain."
"I was very pleased with him at Chepstow and he was put up another two pounds. I won't do it just yet but I think he is crying out for two and a half. He is not the quickest at home. He might improve for a step up in trip as I think he might be found wanting in those good two-mile handicaps.
"We will duck and dive a bit. There is a possibility he could jump a fence but we will see how he gets on in his next couple of runs. There is half a chance he could run in the Masterson at Cheltenham on Saturday."
"He was a decent Flat horse when with Peter Chapple-Hyam. He is the first horse I've trained for Mrs Hay so it is great to have them on board.
"He had his first school earlier this month and took to it well. I believe he loves a bit of soft ground and gets a trip well and there are more juvenile hurdles won through stamina than speed. He would be between a month and six weeks off a run.
"That's the dream, the Triumph, but you have got to see how he takes to hurdling."
"She is on the back burner after meeting with a setback about a month ago and we won't see her until the second half of the season, which is a great pity.
"We will try to get her back and if all is going to plan we will have one or two runs, then go for the David Nicholson at the Cheltenham Festival."
KEEP IN LINE
"He was too brave at Huntingdon but I'm hoping that will give him a lot of confidence. He will appreciate softer ground. He is a decent horse to have with a great attitude. Hopefully he will progress."
LABEL DES OBEAUX
"He had a good season last year winning a Grade Two at Sandown. This time last year his work was so bad I was seriously worried about him, but he is working a whole lot better this year.
"The plan is to go novice chasing with him. I'd hope he would take to it and two and a half would be his minimum. He will get further and he loves soft ground. He could be an exciting prospect for the chasing game."
"He won very well in a bumper at Towcester. I don't know how good a race it was, but he couldn't have won it any better. He is very straightforward and works well.
"We will probably start him at two and a half but he will get further and he is ready to start when we get a drop of rain. He is very likeable and hopefully he will just keep progressing."
"His best run to date was at York over a mile and six when he was beaten a head. He loves his jumping and is a horse that we love and will have some fun with.
"He will get a trip and though he has run well on soft ground the Flat lads that have ridden him have said that he is not at his best on it. He would not want deep winter ground so we will get him out and if he does have to have a winter break then so be it."
MESSIRE DES OBEAUX
"He didn't come over until late on last year and we didn't want to sacrifice his novice status. We ran him in the Victor Ludorum finishing a close third then he ran in the Fred Winter.
"He is a big, fine horse. Whether he runs in a handicap or a novice, I'm not sure.
"He is a lovely horse and I think he will have a good season, but I can't wait another year until he jumps a fence."
"He is a lovely, big horse. He won his bumper at Doncaster. It was a small field, but he did it well. He has been working well and will go straight over novice hurdles. I was inclined to give him another bumper run, but we will go hurdling. I expected him to win his bumper."
"She won her bumper at Huntingdon last year. She was quite sick after that but she is back in good form and will go straight mares' novice hurdling. She would be about a month away."
"He won three times for me last year and is in good form. He disappointed in the Triumph but again the horses were not firing.
"He went back to the stud and has done very well. He is likely to start off in the Masterson Hurdle at Cheltenham.
"He was a fairly mature horse last year and he has not grown much, but he is happy with himself, which is the main thing. His work is very good so I'm hoping he will pay his way.
"We will stick to two miles, as I don't think he is crying out for a step up in trip."
"He is an ex Sir Michael Stoute-trained horse that didn't come to me until February last year. Although we schooled him it was too late to start him hurdling.
"He has been running consistently well all summer. He was maybe just past his best in the Ebor. We've given him a break. He is back in cantering and he will be ready to run in November time when we will start him off novice hurdling. We will start him at two miles but I'm sure he will get further. He has a great attitude and is very likeable."
WHO DARES WINS
"He has been running well on the Flat this summer and I was delighted with his run back at Chepstow the other day. It was a really good run for a four-year-old.
"The two and a half miles really suits him and the plan is to go to Cheltenham for the Open Meeting and the intermediate hurdle there. He will be top weight, but it gives him a nice bit of time between runs."
"He was a good horse last year winning a good race at Ascot. He pulled up lame at Market Rasen on his last start and had a cracked pelvis. He is fully recovered now and is another going novice chasing.
"Over two miles he will be very exciting . He is much stronger now and hopefully fences will calm him down a bit."
WISHING AND HOPING
"He is one of the few we have got to go novice chasing this season. We gave him a school at the end of last season and a few pops this year. He is nearly ready to go. Whether we start him at two or two and a half, I'm not sure.
"He was very free last year. I'm hoping fences will make him back off a bit. He is quite good. He is a very good actioned horse that wouldn't want soft ground and he doesn't stand much racing."
"He had a good season and won two big handicaps at Doncaster. He is plenty high enough. He is 138 so there is not much room for manoeuvre.
"He will have one run somewhere in the first half of November, then I would love to run him in the Becher at Aintree. If that worked well we would try train him as a National prospect.
"If he didn't end up there we would probably try for the Scottish National."
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