There's a good card at Wincanton this afternoon, and that's where we'll head for Saturday's attempt on the Placepot...
12:55- Fletchers Flyer showed plenty of promise in bumpers last season, winning at the Punchestown Festival, and he has made an encouraging start to his hurdling career, finishing a close-up third in a strong race at Ffos Las before winning with a bit in hand at Ascot. He hasn't looked completely straightfoward (has hung right) but he's clearly a talented performer and is in excellent hands, so should give a good account.
13:30- This isn't the strongest of contests and it could be worth turning to Merchant of Milan as he got back on the right track when finishing fourth at Huntingdon last time. He doesn't have much in hand over the assessor, but is more likely than most to give his running. We will also include Bang On Time as he attracted support returning to handicap company for his new yard at Towcester and, although he unseated early that time, he may yet do better.
14:05- Viva Steve wasn't at his best when finishing fourth at Newbury last time, but it's possible that his stamina was stretched by the three-mile trip, and he ought to fare better granted today's test. He hasn't quite matched his hurdles form over fences yet, but it's still early days in this sphere, and he could prove to be fairly treated. Neville hasn't impressed with his finishing efforts, but he often travels strongly into contention and, provided he takes well to chasing, he could grab a place at a decent price.
14:40- Volt Face shaped better than the bare result when finishing third at Towcester last time, still upsides at the last when making a chance-ending error, and he has the scope for better over hurdles if brushing up on his jumping. He's no banker proposition, however, so we'll also put Blue Buttons, hailing from the in-form Harry Fry yard, in the permutation. Blue Buttons ran respectably at Sandown, and she's proving to be quite a consistent mare who handles heavy ground, so is likely to give a good account.
15:15- Black River could prove a class apart if he's turned the corner, as his last win suggests he might, but his patchy profile is a concern for Placepot punters, and Filbert makes greater appeal. Filbert's jumping let him down in the closing stages at Exeter, but there's little doubt he's competitive from his current mark, and he ought to go close. Big Fella Thanks is now 13, but he has run well fresh, races from a fair mark and faces optimum conditions, so it would be little surprise to see him launch a bold bid.
15:50- Celestino has shaped reasonably well in a couple of juvenile hurdles since joining Paul Nicholls and has to be given a good chance on handicap debut in a race that doesn't look particularly strong. Celestino has a bit to find on the bare figures, but he is open to more progress than most of these and, with three places on offer, we'll rely on Paul Nicholls' unexposed juvenile going close.
13:30- 3, 4
14:05- 4, 5
14:40- 2, 6
15:15- 2, 6
= 16 lines