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Guide To Alan King Contenders Ahead Of The 2016 Cheltenham Festival

Thursday 3rd March 2016

Ever since Fork Lightning landed the William Hill Handicap Chase at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival, handing Alan King his first winner at the meeting, the Wiltshire based trainer has gone from strength to strength at National Hunt racing's feature event. Over the past 11 years, King has had 15 Festival winners, including three championship race wins - My Way de Solzen (2006 World Hurdle), Voy Por Ustedes (2007 Queen Mother) and Katchit (2008 Champion Hurlde). 

Here we take a look at leading contenders from Barbury Castle stables that will be making the trip to Prestbury Park in a bid to add to King's 95 career victories in graded races. 

Smad Place

12/1 to win the Gold Cup with Paddy Power

A seasoned Grade One performer over both hurdles and fences, but has yet to win at this level in 11 tries. He made no impression when finishing eighth in last year's Gold Cup, before looking much improved when landing the Hennessy Gold Cup by 12 lengths on his seasonal debut, and it was a similar story last time out, when landing the Cotswold Chase on trial day by 12 lengths over the Gold Cup course and distance. Sandwiched between those two runs was a fourth in the King George, where, despite not being disgraced, he did find the front three too good and it could well be a similar story in the Gold Cup. There's enough evidence to suggest he's much better than 12 months ago but a place looks the best he can hope for.

Yanworth

6/5 to win the Neptune Novices' Hurdle with Paddy Power

Currently one of only six favourites receiving odds-on quotes from the 28 Festival races, anybody keen to back Yanworth, should act quickly and snap up the 6/5 available with Paddy Power, as it's unlikely to be around come the off. There's so much to like about this six-year-old, who hasn't put a hoof wrong in any of his four starts over hurdles this season, and won with something in hand on each occasion, including a seven length stroll over course and distance on trials day. It's one for the big-hitters at the price but it's hard to make a case against Yanworth, who's certainly the flag bearer for the Alan King yard and owner, JP McManus, at this year's meeting.

Sceau Royal

8/1 to win the Triumph Hurdle with William Hill

With Penzance and Katchit winning the Triumph for King in recent years, there's no doubting he knows what it takes to win the race and in Sceau Royal, he could well be set to complete the hat-trick in the four-year-old contest. The French import has won four of his five starts this season, the last three of which have all been impressive wins and suggest he's heading in an upward trajectory. The Triumph Hurdle course and distance win at the International meeting in December only adds substance to the argument that Sceau Royal is a legitimate contender, and whilst there are more unknowns in this race than most others (given the age and experience of runners) this is a solid each-way chance.

Who Dares Wins

14/1 to win the Triumph Hurdle with Paddy Power

Who Dares Wins was an ever-present on the flat for Richard Hannon over the past two years, with a couple of handicap wins to show for his efforts. In three runs for King, he has demonstrated enough promise to merit respect in the Triumph, none more so than his 20 length, Grade Two win, at Doncaster in December. That momentum was halted in the Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham, last time out, and Sceau Royal is preferred.

Annacotty

20/1 to win the Ultima Handicap with Coral
20/1 to win the Brown Advisory Handicap with Skybet
40/1 to win the Ryanair Chase with Hills

No stranger to Cheltenham having raced at the track eight times (winning three), wherever Annacotty lines up during Festival week, he must be respected, as he proved when landing the Paddy Power Gold Cup, earlier in the season. They Ryanair Chase is most certainly a step too far but the Brown Advisory Plate could represent value at this stage with the shorter trip more likely to suit over the Ultima Chase.

Ziga Boy

20/1 to win the Ultima Chase with bet365

Winner of the Skybet Chase in January, Ziga Boy has to be respected judged on that form but struggled in the Betbright Chase, last weekend. If he gets in, he'll be towards the bottom of the weights and won't be without a chance. Midnight Prayer is also entered in the race, but Ziga Boy looks the pick of the pair. 

Untangling the Fred Winter

Gibralfaro (16/1), Oceane (25/1, Paddy's Runner (33/1) and Pemba (25/1) are all entered in the Fred Winter, with Gibralfaro representing the best chance for King. The French import made an impressive start to live in Britain with back-to-back wins in juvenile hurdles before coming unstuck in the Adonis, last weekend. He has to bounce back from that but could be a lively each-way chance, given he should have a lot more improvement to come.

Of the others, Pemba showed some signs of promise early in the season, but a disastrous showing at Exeter, last month, means he has a lot to do to enter the reckoning. 

Katie Too

25/1 to win the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle with Betfair

Began the season amidst plenty of hype, winning her first two starts as odds-on favourite. Disappointed last time out at Sandown, she'll have to bounce back in addition to finding a little more to have any chance.

Salmanzar

33/1 to win the Pertemps Final with bet365

Never quite taking to chasing, last season, Salmanzar looked promising on his return to hurdles at Market Rasen in January before struggling to build on that in at Exeter in February. Could be worth a second look off an attractive weight, especially if the going is soft or worse, but not one to be pinning much hope on. 

Winner Massagot

33/1 to win the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle with Betfred

Made a promising start to life outside of novice company when landing a two mile handicap hurdle at Ascot back in November, but has not built on that in two subsequent runs. Big ask to bounce back here but must be well regarded in the King camp to have raced in Grade One events as a juvenile, 12 months ago.

Best Bets Involving Alan King Horses @ Cheltenham 2016

Yanworth to win the Neptune Novices' Hurdle @ 6/5 with Paddy Power

Sceau Royal to win the Triumph Hurdle @ 8/1 (each way) with William Hill

Gibralfaro to win the Fred Winter @ 16/1 (each way) with bet365

Annacotty to win the Brown Advisory Handicap Chase @ 20/1 (each way) with Skybet

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