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?
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there