JLT favourite Yorkhill on festival trail at Leopardstown

Yorkhill: a general 7-4 shot for the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham

PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) Yorkhill bids to strengthen JLT claims By Brian Sheerin 8:45AM 22 JAN 2017

WITH less than eight weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival the majority of novice hurdles and chases seem to produce pointers towards March and the spotlight now turns to Yorkhill in the 2m3f Grade 3 novice chase at Leopardstown this afternoon (2.10).

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A general 7-4 shot for the JLT Novices' Chase, Yorkhill will be bidding to follow Killultagh Vic, Vautour, Djakadam and Sir Des Champs, who have won this race for Willie Mullins in recent seasons.

There were fireworks last year when Ruby Walsh somehow managed to get Killultagh Vic home in front despite a last-fence mistake that brought both horse and rider to a standstill.

If Mullins is going to record his sixth success in the last ten runnings in this contest, he hopes it will be done in less extravagant fashion by Yorkhill. He also runs Bellow Mome.

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He said: "The trip and track will be ideal for Yorkhill. We are hopeful he'll be able to keep his unbeaten record over fences. I thought his jumping was quite good at Fairyhouse, but he did edge to his left so going back left-handed will certainly suit.

"This is quite a hot contest, though, so it will not be plain sailing for us as both Anibale Fly and Gangster are rated 148 and we will need to be in top form to score."

He added: "It may be tough for Bellow Mome off his rating but I thought he ran well for a long way over 3m at Grade 1 level here at Christmas but he may find a few of today's rivals a bit too pacey."

Martin up for the challenge

Tony Martin was quick to blame the ground for the poor performance of Anibale Fly in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton where he was pulled up early in the race.

Despite that blip, Martin reports his charge to be in rude health and is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Yorkhill.

Martin said: "He has been in very good form and is working well since Kempton. I put that poor run down to the ground but I have absolutely no worries whatsoever about running him on Irish ground today."

Another possible danger to Yorkhill is Gangster, who was formally trained by Willie Mullins but now resides at Henry de Bromhead's Waterford base.

His rider David Mullins said: "If Yorkhill doesn't bring his A game we will be there to pick up the pieces. He has run some solid races over fences and deserves a shot at this."

The field is made up by the Jessica Harrington-trained Jett and Mouse Morris's Baily Cloud who are likely to start at double-figure prices.

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