Timeform's Matt Gardner tackles the Placepot on the second day of Newbury's Hennessy Gold Cup meeting...
"Western Warhorse took a big step forward on just his third start under Rules when finishing runner-up at Cheltenham earlier this month, ought to be suited by the step up to this trip and remains open to further progress..."
12:30 - The opening juvenile hurdle is an excellent race, featuring plenty with appealing profiles, and the best starting point looks to be Calipto, who has the edge of having had a run over hurdles unlike to his main rivals. He's sure to improve on his promising effort at Auteuil in September on his first start for Paul Nicholls but it's also worth including Alan King's Chocala, a fairly useful handicapper on the Flat who has long since appealed as one to excel over hurdles. He makes his debut here and it would come as no surprise were he to go well.
13:00 - At the time of writing there are three places on offer in this handicap chase, meaning that Definite Dream makes plenty of appeal as a banker. The race he won at Carlisle on chasing debut received a timely boost with the second, Firth Of The Clyde, going in at Wetherby on Wednesday and Definite Dream looked potentially useful in beating him by a length, jumping and travelling well. There should be more to come from Evan Williams' six-year-old, and he can make it two from two over the larger obstacles.
13:30 - It's easy to make a case for plenty in this competitive handicap hurdle but the one with the most interesting profile is arguably Western Warhorse, who fetched £130,000 after winning an Irish point a year ago. The five-year-old took a big step forward on just his third start under Rules when finishing runner-up at Cheltenham earlier this month, ought to be suited by the step up to this trip and remains open to further progress. The second selection will be Minella For Steak who has progressed well over hurdles in recent months, winning at Ffos Las and Chepstow on his last two starts. The handicapper has stuck him up 8 lb as a result of his latest triumph, but that is unlikely to stop him running a big race.
14:05 - A non-runner has reduced this Grade 2 field to just four, meaning that Wonderful Charm has to win in order for this permutation to progress. That is the most likely outcome however, as Paul Nicholls' five-year-old has made the perfect start to his career over fences with successes at both Fakenham and Wincanton, largely jumping well on each occasion. The suspicion is that a step up to three miles will see him in an even better light in time, but he ought to land the hat-trick nonetheless.
14:40 - This is a pretty competitive handicap with it being difficult to rule out any of the 11 completely, but the two that make most appeal are Theatrical Star and Cedre Bleu. The first mentioned has looked ready for a return to this trip on his last two outings over two miles and remains feasibly handicapped judged on his novice form last year, whilst Cedre Bleu, who boasts a decent strike-rate over fences when completing, is another that looks on a fair mark. He needs to sort his jumping out but this looks to be his ideal trip and he should be in the firing line.
15:15 - Fabrika and Targita, hailing from the yards of Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls respectively, make their hurdling debuts but they'll have to go some to topple Carole's Spirit, who made an impressive start over timber at Plumpton earlier this month. She won by just a neck that day but was value for plenty of extra over that winning margin, and she rates as an exciting prospect in this sphere.
12:30 - 4, 5
13:00 - 4
13:30 - 14, 16
14:05 - 3
14:40 - 7, 11
15:15 - 3
= 8 lines