The right Place at the right time
Our horse-by-horse guide to the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.
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Arguably hasn't lived up to early expectations but a fair sort who isn't rated too far off the best of this following a 5lb rise for his good second to Fair Along at Newbury. That run was as good as anything he's produced in his career and the possibility remains that he can build on that after just 12 starts over obstacles while his record in soft ground is excellent.
A wonderful servant to his connections, winning at both the Cheltenham Festival and York's May meeting in 2009 but that year was the last time that he got his head in front. Handles these conditions well enough and shaped a little better last time but would be a surprise winner in this company.
Master Of The Hall
Disappointing in the Charlie Hall Chase on his reappearance even allowing for the demanding nature of the assignment. Also disappointed on his third and most recent start over hurdles back in February of 2010 but has shown some smart form over fences since then - winning twice at this track - and he's won five of his six starts on soft/heavy ground. By no means out of this.
Smart novice who finished a fair fourth (sent off favourite) in The Ladbroke 12 months ago on only his fourth start over hurdles. A shade disappointing last time having run well on his reappearance but fascinating to see him step up in trip with his trainer convinced that he'll be "really effective" over it. It may help his hurdling which can be a little sloppy and he obviously has the class to be a factor if his stamina holds out.
Reve De Sivola
Top-class novice in 2009/10 who beat all bar Peddlers Cross in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival before winning at Punchestown. Didn't go on as hoped for over fences with mistakes plaguing his races but made a satisfactory return to action from almost a year off when a distant second behind Big Buck's at Newbury. Handles testing ground well and holds live claims if going forward from his reappearance.
Progressed rapidly last season, finishing third behind Big Buck's in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham and was in the process of running a big race against the same rival when unseating at Aintree. Very disappointing when faced with a seemingly straightforward opening at Wetherby on his reappearance but connections are confident that they have got to the bottom of that performance and expect him to go close.
Makes the step up from handicap company but the Haydock contest he won under top-weight had previously been landed by Dynaste, Grands Crus and Diamond Harry. He can be expected to be right in the mix if making the same progress as that trio and, with conditions no problem, it would be dangerous to underestimate, arguably, the most progressive horse in the line-up.
An open looking race following the sad defection of Big Buck's after entries had closed.
Smad Place is the obvious beneficiary from the great stayer's injury but does have to bounce back from a very tame effort at Wetherby and many will be prepared to forgive the grey one bad run.
It will be fascinating to see if Trustan Times can continue the good recent run of the Fixed Brush Hurdle winners while a peak form Reve De Sivola would be entitled to go close but I wasn't convinced by his run at Newbury where he was the first off the bridle and the form may flatter him.
Master Of The Hall is completely unexposed in this discipline and Prospect Wells unexposed over this trip but I'm of a forgiving nature and Smad Place gets the nod to build on last season.