Kingwell Hurdle: Runner-by-runner

Yanworth takes another step along the path to the Champion Hurdle in the Kingwell at Wincanton and we have a guide to the field.

Sceau Royal looks the value call to beat Yanworth

Irving

In-and-out performer who was a disappointing odds-on shot for this race 12 months ago having also been a beaten favourite in 2015. Won Fighting Fifth on his return this season to confirm that on his day he can produce high-class form, even if he'd likely have been second had Petit Mouchoir not come to grief. Fell early on in Christmas Hurdle before disappointing run behind Buveur D'Air last time, so arrives with plenty to prove but, while far from the safest conveyance, has ability to run well on a going day can't be totally dismissed.

Rayvin Black

No match for Buveur D'Air last time but did have Irving behind, as was the case when winning this race last year. Not sure that form amounts to much in truth and telling that connections tried chasing in January as they look for options with this likeable eight-year-old. Likely to front-run but has plenty to find even were conditions to remain testing and would be very disappointing for the race as a whole were he to win it again having been brushed aside in receipt of weight by Sceau Royal here in November. Looks fairly rated now and a return to handicap company for something like the Imperial Cup, in which he's twice run well, appears a logical step following what should be a solid run in defeat.

Yanworth

One-time Stayers' Hurdle hope who has been diverted along a Champion Hurdle path as a consequence of the wealth of options his owner boasts. Cards have fallen nicely for him since that decision was made, given the absence of both Faugheen and Annie Power, and now looks one of the more likely winners at Cheltenham following a taking display at Kempton over Christmas. Entitled to have been vulnerable under those speed-favouring conditions but kept tabs on The New One before running away from his rival after the final flight. Connections will expect something similar here and very much the one to beat if the first-time cheekpieces help sharpen up his jumping a little.

Ch'Tibello

Now rated 149 having stayed on to pick up the pieces in third behind Yanworth at Kempton. That followed opportunistic Haydock victory over Melodic Rendezvous and the best may still be to come from this six-year-old, who won last year's Scottish Champion Hurdle (handicap). Seemingly versatile as regards conditions and while both wins in the UK at left-handed tracks, he's matched or indeed bettered that form in defeat going right-handed. Will need to improve but looks capable of doing so and rates a live contender, albeit expectation is for a similar run to last time where he stays on for a never-threatening third or fourth.

Sceau Royal

Stuck in the mud in the Fighting Fifth last time but started favourite for that race on the back of two most impressive wins, including over course and distance. Gave weight and a beating to Rayvin Black here and seems clear that he wasn't right during last year's spring festivals, an assertion made by connections. Certainly looks capable of reversing form with Irving under much more suitable conditions and remains among the more interesting each-way options in the Champion Hurdle market at a big price. Fair to say that if he can't beat Yanworth here, he's unlikely to at Cheltenham so we should learn plenty and surprising perhaps that he's around the 4/1 mark.

Melodic Rendezvous

Beat Zarkandar under his favoured testing conditions to win the 2014 renewal of this and ran well enough to take second last year, albeit with no excuses. Sliding mark reflects declining form of an 11-year-old who has perhaps never quite scaled the heights which had once been expected and it was a moody performance in handicap company at Uttoxeter last time. This smaller field at a familiar venue may help and he was second to Ch'Tibello at Haydock late last year, but would need heavy ground and a prayer to have a chance against that rival, let alone the highest-rated horses in the race.

Seven Nation Army

Outclassed behind Finian's Oscar on Sunday and this maiden over hurdles is making up the numbers.

CONCLUSION: No doubt Yanworth is the one to beat and connections will have been delighted – surprised, even – by the way in which he won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. A repeat of that form may well be enough but with the ground improving and a dry forecast, a sporting chance is taken on Sceau Royal. It's notoriously difficult for five-year-olds to make their mark at the highest level over hurdles and Yanworth should have his measure at Cheltenham, but his turn of foot and slick jumping could prove the difference under what should be speed-favouring conditions. Either way, the pair should dominate with the market having the others in the correct order.

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