Yanworth lays down Festival marker
Classy Yanworth underlined his considerable potential when casting his rivals aside under a confident ride from Barry Geraghty in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Ascot.
Dictating matters from the outset, the Alan King-trained five-year-old, fourth in this year's Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, barely broke into a sweat on his way to landing the Grade Two prize.
Hurdling like a much more experienced campaigner, the 1/3 favourite cantered home under a motionless Geraghty by two and three-quarter lengths from Charbel to give King his first winner in the race, better known as the Kennel Gate, since Medermit in 2008.
The JP McManus-owned chestnut was left unchanged at 16/1 for Cheltenham's Supreme Novices' Hurdle by race sponsors Sky Bet, while Paddy Power trimmed him into 10/1.
"We didn't learn a lot, but he's learning again," King reflected. "Barry said he put down at the third hurdle, but his jumping was exemplary after that.
"It was not ideal for him to have to make the running, but there was no other option really.
"I don't see any reason to go any further. He'll have a break and we'll look for something in February, but off the top of my head I can't think of anything at the moment."
Paul Nicholls saw the novices' chase head back to his yard for the second successive season as Le Mercurey gained a fortuitous victory in the Grade Two contest.
Profiting from the final-fence fall of leader Amore Alato, the 2/1 shot bounded up the run-in to defeat favourite Thomas Brown by six lengths, to follow in the hoofprints of Ptit Zig, who took the prize for the Ditcheat handler 12 months ago.
Assistant trainer Tom Jonason said: "Sam (Twiston-Davies) thought coming to the last that if he jumped it well, he still might have picked him up.
"All he ever does is gallop, he's improved a lot since last year, when he was quite weak and had quite a difficult year as a four-year-old over hurdles, but we bought him as a chaser. He had a wind op over the summer and has improved, he had to step up again from Plumpton last time which he has done."
Trainer Seamus Mullins gave his bank balance a boost after Western Cape (33/1) added to his Southwell bumper win with victory under former Royal Marine Kevin Jones in the opening maiden hurdle.
"It was very nice and I'm not surprised he won," said Mullins. "I am not a gambling man, but no way was he a 33/1 shot so I had £50 on him to win."
Meanwhile, Daryl Jacob is hoping to be back in action on St Stephen's Day after being hurt in a schooling fall at Nicky Henderson's stable yesterday.
The Wexford rider bruised his ribs and wrist and was taken to hospital to be checked out.
Jacob was taken off his rides at Ascot yesterday and today, and will not ride in the early part of next week, before racing's three-day festive break.
That gives him a week to be fit enough to be back in the saddle on December 26, when there are seven meetings topped by Kempton's showpiece card featuring the King George VI Chase.