Vendor offers value in Festival markets

 

At the best of times, it can be hard enough to find the lane that climbs up to the stables at Barbury Castle. On a morning when the old hangars and airfield fences loom and recede in the fog, it feels as though Nature herself is conspiring in the sequestration of one of the strongest Cheltenham teams in the land. Those who eventually obtain his lair, however, find Alan King providing all the illumination necessary.

With the Festival imminent, King might pardonably confine himself to platitudes about growing tension and diminishing expectation. Instead, even as a pale disc of sun emerged over the hidden Wiltshire downs, King volunteered an unequivocal insight – not so much on the relative merits of his two JCB Triumph Hurdle candidates, Grumeti and Balder Succes, as on the parity of another juvenile in his care. For while that pair contest a championship race off level weights, Vendor has just 10st 4lb in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle on Wednesday.

The French import was allotted a rating of 122 after his debut for the stable, at Newbury on New Year's Eve. "He just missed the last, landing very awkwardly, and did well to pick the other horse up," he said. "But for that, I don't think he'd have come off the bridle. I couldn't quite believe the mark the handicapper came up with, so we just thought we'd look after it for Cheltenham. He has gone up to 129 since, just standing in his stable – but I'd be very disappointed if he's not a whole lot better than that."

Ideally, King would have liked to harden Vendor with another run. "But you can't show your hand too much," he said. "He hasn't run on good ground as yet, but his action suggests he might even improve for it. I expect something will come along and ruin everything. But whatever happens at the Festival, I've no doubt he's a high-class horse in the making – every bit as good as Grumeti or Balder Succes."

Clearly, King does not intend that as faint praise for two horses "right up there with the best" of those who have compiled his excellent record with juveniles. He is glad, moreover, that Wayne Hutchinson, such an able deputy during his stable jockey's recent absence through injury, is guaranteed a good mount on whichever Robert "Choc" Thornton rejects. Grumeti was lame after spreading a plate earlier this week, but King was yesterday "much happier" with the horse and is confident he should be able to line up.

King continues to wrestle with a dilemma over Medermit, who stayed on strongly behind Riverside Theatre at Ascot last month. "Every day I wake up I have a different idea of what we should be doing," he said. "If it went soft he'd certainly go for the Ryanair Chase, but that doesn't seem very likely. I'm sure he'll stay three miles, but whether he would get three and a quarter in the Gold Cup is another matter – especially as it looks like the race is going to be fiercely run."

The decision gains extra gravity from a relative lack of ammunition in the biggest races of the week – a situation certain to be redressed in years to come, to judge from the depth among his stable's novices. Quite apart from the juveniles, he has Montbazon and Batonnier over hurdles and Walkon and Invictus over fences. As usual, moreover, he has several strong contenders in the handicaps, not least Hold On Julio in the JLT Speciality Chase.

"We got a few out and went to find fresh blood," King said. "Certainly, this is the best bunch of young horses we've had here in a long time."

Turf account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Gentle Bob (4.05 Wincanton) Getting his act together over fences and on the same mark as when miles clear of the rest behind an improver at Ffos Las last time.

Next best

Qalinas (3.00 Wincanton) Unfinished business with this one, who suggested he has much more ability than this rating before disappointing on his final start last term.

One to watch

Buck Magic (Kieran Burke) Was a respectable fourth at Newbury on Saturday but arguably recoiled somewhat from his comeback effort and can do better again.

Cheltenham countdown: 5 days to go

My top fancy for the Festival Anthony Bromley, the agent who bought Long Run and Kauto Star.

Triolo D'Alene had form on smaller tracks in France but has continued on the upward curve since joining Nicky Henderson, winning really well at Ascot. Nicky's very pleased with his condition going into the Pulteney Novices' Chase.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game