New partner for Yanworth still unknown ahead of Stan James Champion Hurdle

ALan KING has only one concern ahead of Yanworth's tilt at the Stan James Champion Hurdle '“ the absence of a confirmed jockey.

Yanworth ridden by jockey Barry Geraghty Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA.

With Barry Geraghty, retained rider to owner JP McManus hospitalised after suffering rib and lung injuries in a fall at Kempton on Saturday, riding arrangements remain up in the air.

Yet King remains bullish about a horse who has won seven out of eight starts over hurdles, the only blemish coming in last year’s Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival when Yorkhill prevailed after a dream run around the final bend. However, the horse has won all three starts this season since dropping back to two miles – Ascot’s Coral Hurdle, Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle and Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle last time out.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And with the past two winners Faugheen and Annie Power sidelined with injury, this year’s race is for the taking.

Jockey Henry Brooke's fine form continued at Musselburgh with a win on Ballythomas. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“I don’t know who is going to ride him and we need to speak at the weekend, as we do need to find out,” said King. “Obviously I would like them to come and have a sit on him. No one has ridden him over a hurdle bar Barry Geraghty, so whoever rides him we want to come and school him and ride a bit of work.

“The good thing is he has come out of Wincanton very well. We gave him a thorough check-over after Wincanton. The vet, physio and Dan Horsford, who rides him every day, are all delighted with him.

“He didn’t have a great preparation for that (Wincanton), but I just felt we needed to get a bit more match practice in him. He is a bit slow over a hurdle when he gets in tight and I did think at Wincanton he was much sharper. If anything, he does jump a hurdle like a fence.”

As for the other McManus contenders, Nicky Henderson expects Noel Fehily to step in for the ride aboard Buveur D’Air, who made a successful transition back to hurdles at Sandown, while the ride on stablemate My Tent Or Yours is up in the air. One of the mounts will almost certainly go to Mark Walsh, who rides many of the McManus horses in Ireland.

Jockey Henry Brooke's fine form continued at Musselburgh with a win on Ballythomas. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Meanwhile, Whisper is more likely to contest the RSA Novices’ Chase than the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival.

Nicky Henderson feels the extra distance of the three-mile RSA will suit the nine-year-old, who is two from two over fences this season. He does have victories in a Grade One over three miles to his name – both were over hurdles at Aintree in 2014 and 2015.

“He just needs to get into his rhythm, but two and a half (miles) at JLT pace might not give him the chance,” said Henderson.

Trainer Colin Tizzard ended all speculation about Thistlecrack running in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup by officially taking him out of the race yesterday.

The gifted nine-year-old, who became the first novice ever to win Kempton’s King George Chase on Boxing Day, was last week ruled out for the season with a tendon injury, but his Gold Cup price collapsed on the betting exchanges after Tizzard said at the weekend that his star chaser would have a scan on Tuesday.

However, the Dorset handler never mooted the possibility of him running in the blue riband race on March 17, and has now scratched Tom Scudamore’s mount from the list of entries.

Tizzard said that Thistlecrack’s “second scan came back exactly the same as the first” and that he hoped to have him back in action by Christmas.

Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt and Outlander are among the 15 horses taken out of the Randox Health Grand National at the latest forfeit stage.

Owner Michael O’Leary had suggested he would not run any of his big three after disagreeing with the weight they had been allotted and he has kept his word, with the Gordon Elliott-trained trio now heading to the Cheltenham Festival.

Henry Brooke’s fine form continued when Ballythomas took Musselburgh’s opener yesterday.

His 41st winner of the campaign, he’s one short of his career-best tally despite missing seven weeks with multiple injuries suffered in a fall at Hexham last October.

Sue Smith’s Straidnahanna and Blakemount have been entered in Uttoxeter’s Midlands National on March 18.

Yorkshire runners are completed by Phil Kirby’s Courtown Oscar.