Fontwell Placepot: Sunday February 24

Paul Nicholls looks to be the key man in the National Spirit Hurdle

It's probably Fontwell's biggest card of the year today, and that's where we're going to try and crack the Placepot.

"Priest Island could hold the key to this race: he’s undoubtedly well handicapped on his debut form, but that was nearly two years ago and he’s run just the once since."

14:10 - This opening novice doesn't really live up to the rest of the card. In fact, we can quite safely bank on Seebright, his fairly useful efforts over hurdles to date enough to make him a clear best choice.

14:40 - As the market suggests, we can quickly whittle this novice chase down to three. One of that trio, Tenor Nivernais, would never usually enter calculations for the Placepot but this time he actually hinders us, as the threat he poses is enough to rule out us banking on either Shoegazer or Poungach. If pressed for a lead selection, the more experienced Shoegazer is probably the one, but, as stated above, with Tenor Nivernais a lurking danger taking both is advised.

15:15 - A tough handicap chase in which none of the runners fill us with confidence, though at least there are eight of them, giving us three places to aim at. Time To Think gets one of our spots. He's been off a couple of months since his reappearance, which raises slight concerns, but he was consistent around this time last year and is on a fair mark. Our second berth goes to Financial Climate, who won a bumper and a hurdle race here and has spent most of the intervening time running over the wrong trips or building up experience. Today represents his handicap debut and, although his mark looks stiff on the face of it, his hurdles form and promise of better to come over this sort of trip gives him a chance from a BHA mark of 112.

15:45 - Fontwell must be thankful to Paul Nicholls, who saddles three of the six runners in the National Spirit, preventing it from being a near-worthless Grade 2. We can stick with Nicholls for our perm, Dark Lover being the lead selection based on his fine fourth in the Betfair Hurdle last time, when he shaped as though a step up in trip would suit. Prospect Wells gets narrow preference over Brampour for our second spot, though unlike the second race we see this as a leg in which, if you're feeling miserly, a banker on Dark Lover could be a realistic option.

16:20 - Hunters are rarely easy and this leg is no different. Although Radetsky March's previous issues make him a less-than-ideal prospect, such is his ability (which his latest run suggests he retains) relative to his rivals that banking on him and keeping our fingers crossed is probably a better option than trying to make solid cases for a couple of the others in the seven-strong field.

16:50 - Priest Island could hold the key to this race: he's undoubtedly well handicapped on his debut form, but that was nearly two years ago and he's run just the once since. Nevertheless, with main form rival Thundering Home out and few of his rivals making much appeal, he's in. We'll recommend a backup option, though, in the form of Ya Hafed. He's well handicapped on Flat form and has yet to race away from the mud over hurdles, so there's every chance he could improve if the ground isn't as testing today.

Selections:
14:10 - 1
14:40 - 1, 2
15:15 - 3, 6
15:45 - 3, 5
16:20 - 2
16:50 - 6, 7
= 16 lines

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