Geraghty gets Yanworth home in Cheltenham Novice Chase
Novice chaser Yanworth, described by jockey Barry Geraghty as a "work in progress" finally started to get his act together over the bigger obstacles when he won the Betbright Dipper Novice Chase at Cheltenham yesterday.
Some of those who sent off Yanworth 2/1 favourite for last year's Champion Hurdle, before he ran a stinker, might never find a place in their hearts to forgive him and, to this point, his chasing career had not exactly set the world on fire.
And, even after a much better round of jumping, he nearly threw the race away by pricking his ears and idling halfway up the run-in.
That required Geraghty to go into overdrive to get him home by a neck from Sizing Tennessee, with Willoughby Court, the 2017 Neptune Hurdle winner, eight lengths back in third.
Trainer Alan King, whose landmark 1,500th winner this was, has been working on getting the long-striding eight-year-old to shorten into a fence with Yogi Briesner, the former British three-day eventing team coach, and the benefits were in evidence on several occasions.
"He's had two good sessions with Yogi," explained King.
"He is a big horse, who just wouldn't shorten into a fence. Today was a big step in the right direction."
Neil Mulholland was the quickest trainer out of the blocks in 2018, winning the first two Jump races with Tikkanbar at Cheltenham and Dieg Man at Catterick.
Noel Fehily made all the running on Tikkanbar and the length and a quarter he had to spare over Ainchea in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle would, no doubt, have been more had his mount not been so hit and miss at his obstacles, but that may partly have been caused by inexperience.
Last year, Cheltenham was good to Nigel Twiston-Davies and that rolled over seamlessly into 2018 with a double, courtesy of Ballyhill and Wholestone.
"One more run and Wholestone will be back for the Stayers (Hurdle in March)," said the local trainer."
At Exeter, where numerous fences were omitted for low sun or bad ground, Adam Wedge mistakenly steered 4/7 favourite Report To Base around the third-last before cruising to a comfortable success over Valhalla in the beginners chase.
The winner was disqualified by the stewards and Valhalla placed first. Wedge was banned for 21 days. (© Daily Telegraph, London)