Horse Racing: King's Walkon waiting game
King definitely has three other contenders in an attempt to win the Grade Three handicap for the first time in the shape of Salden Licht, The Betchworth Kid and Iolith, but wants to keep a close eye on Walkon's preparatory work.
Right at the top of the three as a juvenile in 2009 with a second place behind Zaynar in the Triumph Hurdle, the McNeill family's grey suffered a major tendon injury when winning at the Grand National meeting a month later. Walkon was given a long time off to recover, but thrilled connections with his comeback run last month when he was only just beaten by Tiger O'Toole under 11st 10lb in a handicap at Ascot. "He's absolutely fine, but I won't decide until I see how he works on Wednesday," warned King. "He's not certain to run, I just want to see him squealing at home first."
All four were given a spin up the gallops at a particularly windy Barbury Castle in Wiltshire yesterday and will step up a gear again later in the week.
Salden Licht has started to live up to the trainer's expectations, appearing for the first time over hurdles this season to lift a particularly strong-looking handicap at Exeter. "It was a competitive race to go for, but he had to start off somewhere and the form is really backing up," King went on. "I think three or four from the race have won since and I was delighted to see Hunterview (third] bolt up at Musselburgh on Sunday."
German recruit Iolith is another to have left the last campaign behind him and has collected novice hurdles at Kempton and Taunton. Until he makes up his mind about Walkon, King has not finalised jockey bookings, but revealed: "If all four run then I think Jimmy McCarthy will ride The Betchworth Kid and Sam Thomas will ride Iolith. Choc (Robert Thornton] and Wayne (Hutchinson] will be on the other two."
Nicky Henderson has three live chances with Triumph Hurdle winner Soldatino, Swinton Hurdle winner Eradicate and a new French import, Solix, the subject of an ante-post gamble.
• Yesterday's meeting at Ayr was abandoned due to waterlogging following 23 millimetres of rain overnight. The rainfall on already saturated ground led to conditions being unraceable.