Yorkhill poised to mount Champion Hurdle challenge

Fri 9 Mar 2018

Yorkhill looks set to contest the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.

(Click here for the Champion Hurdle statistics, trends, history and replays)

The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old is regarded as a huge talent, but has not found things going to plan over fences this season, having won the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham 12 months ago.

Also victorious in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle in 2016, Mullins' charge is entered in the Ryanair Chase but appears more likely to clash with Buveur D'Air in the two-mile championship on the opening afternoon.

His owner Graham Wylie told At The Races: "If you go back two years, when he won the Neptune, Willie said he thinks he's a Champion Hurdle horse, but at the same time Ruby said he thinks he'll win the Arkle with his mouth open.

"We thought we'd take up chasing last season and he won the JLT and won it very well, and because he wasn't really breathing too heavily afterwards we thought we might have a Gold Cup horse.

"So that was the route this year and by the time he was ready the only available option on a left-handed track was the Lexus (Leopardstown Christmas Chase). He went out in front, went quite a pace and just couldn't keep it up.

"That gave us the view he wasn't ready for a Gold Cup. We thought he was jumping well, he just needed a shorter trip.

"That's why he went to the Dublin Festival for the two-mile race, to see if he could jump at that pace. We don't know what happened that day. He throws in the odd off-day and that was one of them.

"Even after the Neptune, Willie always said he thinks he's a Champion Hurdle horse, so to be honest I think that's where he's going to go next week.

"To be honest, if Yorkhill turns up in the right frame of mind and right form he's got a great chance of being well placed and you never know, he might give Buveur D'Air a race.

"But until the right Yorkhill turns up, we just wouldn't know."

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