By Gordon Brown
Four-time Grade One winner Yorkhill, a horse whose considerable but decreasingly-witnessed talent has fascinated jumps racing fans for several seasons, will shortly have a new home in the Scottish borders.
Having left multiple champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins, he is shortly heading to the Greenlaw yard of Sandy Thomson.
Formerly owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, he will now be carrying the black and white colours of businessman David Armstrong who has had the ten-year-old at his home in the North-East for the past fortnight.
Yorkhill landed his first Grade 1 in the 2016 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown then saw off Yanworth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle before adding a third victory in the top company at Aintree.
He was sent over fences the following season and scored again at the Cheltenham Festival, this time in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase, and a month later was only pipped by a neck by Road To Respect in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novices’ Chase.
The world looked his oyster at that stage and at various times since he has been mooted as a possible for almost every big race in the jumps calendar from the Champion Hurdle to the Grand National and almost everything in between.
But in the three subsequent campaigns since his memorable Cheltenham success, where he at times looks almost unsteerable, while at the same time showing all of his talent, the pickings have become increasingly slim.
His two most recent runs saw him fall when making heavy weather of things in the Ladbroke Trophy Chase at Newbury and he was tailed off when pulled up under a big weight in a handicap chase at the Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Armstrong, who intends sending Yorkhill to Thomson’s Lambden stable next week, said: “He’s a bit of an enigma to himself and the old boy has got a few issues - he had clearly lost his way with Willie.
“After Leopardstown Graham decided to draw a line and said to me ‘Take him, he’s free’. When he came over he spent about ten days with Phil Cramp at the Hambleton Equine Clinic and they gave him a thorough going over from everything to a full MRI scan to treatment on his fetlocks.
‘We also had his back looked at by the renowned chiropractor John Paterson and he is now eating a lot better and is starting to put some condition back on. He’s been with us nearly two weeks now and I’d say he’s on the mend although he’s fit enough.”
Armstrong is already eyeing up an engagement for his new acquisition and added: “His mark is down to 150 and I’ve told Sandy to try and get him ready for Ayr in April. It’s well known he prefers going left-handed and he should get his ground as well.
“My first preference is the Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase on the Friday over an extended 2m 4f and he might also be entered in the Listed two-mile chase on Scottish National day. I’m excited about him but I’ve told Sandy that if he’s not 100%, even if it’s the week before Ayr, he’s done, as there will be nowhere else to go.”
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