Bryony Frost reports Yala Enki in excellent shape as he bids to make it third time lucky in the rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Frost will bid for more big-race glory in Saturday’s extended three-mile-five furlong showpiece – initially scheduled for December 27, the day after she steered Yala Enki’s stablemate Frodon to Grade One glory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
After finishing third in the 2018 renewal when trained by Venetia Williams, Yala Enki filled the same spot under Frost in the Grade Three marathon 12 months ago, on his second start for Paul Nicholls.
Although the pair made an early departure in last month’s Becher Chase at Aintree, Frost points out the evergreen 11-year-old’s second in a Grade Three at Cheltenham in November puts him in the mix once again.
She said: “He has schooled since Aintree – and if anything he is schooling even better than before, so we will ignore the mishap at Aintree.
“The Cheltenham run off top-weight was a mega run for him – and I really do feel he is better this year, in his work at home and just the way that he is.
“His jumping has seriously sharpened up, and Paul and Clifford (Baker, head lad) have been given him lots of schooling sessions which do him the world of good.
“It would have been nice for it to have gone ahead when it was supposed to, but he hasn’t dulled down when he was ready to rock and roll.”
With testing conditions almost certainly guaranteed this weekend, Frost cites another box ticked in favour of Yala Enki, who is one of two runners in the race for Nicholls alongside last year’s runner-up Truckers Lodge.
She added: “The more testing it can become the better it is for him – so fingers are are firmly crossed that it will be on, come hail, rain, snow or whatever.
“If we get there and it’s raceable then I will be really looking forward to it, because he has stamina in abundance.
“It is a long way, but he is tough and he enjoys that sort of challenge.”
Frost is confident Yala Enki will not be out of his comfort zone early on either.
She said: “This race is like a cavalry charge at the start, and you have to find your position really fast.
“He has got plenty of pace on early doors. He likes to get travelling quickly, so he is perfect for that sort of start.
“It is all about a positive start and getting in a quick rhythm and staying out of trouble and trying to find your fences economically.”
Frost believes the switch back to regulation fences will be a positive step too, following Yala Enki’s first-fence fall last time.
She said: “When I say he is economical that was probably the trouble we had at Aintree – because he is used to where the guard rail is and how stiff a regulation fence is, and he knows exactly how much he needs to give respect to it.
“On his normal regulation fences he knows exactly what he has got to do. He doesn’t lose any energy by being too exuberant or giving it too much air.”
Frost blames herself for Yala Enki’s defeat on his return at Cheltenham, but she will not make the same mistake again.
“That race at Cheltenham is one I kick myself for – because I should have kicked harder down the hill, and it could have been a different story,” she said.
“But I was riding him from the horse I knew the year before.
“Now I know I can ask even more of him and that my petrol tank will last longer. We’ve got each other sussed now.”
Victory aboard Yala Enki would complete a whirlwind few weeks for Frost, who is still receiving the plaudits for her King George success.
She said: “The amount of love sent our way and for the team and Frodon has just been mad.
“I’m still talking about it and doing stories now. I think I’m blissfully ignorant to quite what we achieved that day.
“There are lots of little twists of fate that have come about. It is just so cool how something can come together in one big hit.”