Wincanton is certainly the higher-quality of today's two jumps fixtures and it's there we're heading for the Placepot.
"So stark has been Ballyallia Man’s progress in recent weeks, and so impressive his victory over C&D a fortnight ago, that he’s impossible to leave out..."
13:40 - Bury Parade probably has the greatest potential of these, but after such a disappointing debut for Paul Nicholls last time he makes limited appeal for our perm. Parsnip Pete has no such doubts, a winner of his last two starts back in the autumn and looking a quick learner in terms of his jumping, so he's in. Joining him is Saved By John, who isn't quite bombproof (may prove best over further) but is likely to take up a prominent position and showed himself to be in good form when finishing a clear second at Chepstow last time.
14:10 - Neither of the pair that look to dominate this novice (Ambion Wood and Tenor Nivernais) is wholly reliable, the former from the recovering Victor Dartnall yard and the latter simply untrustworthy. Therefore, where a banker on one or the other might have sufficed, we're going to have to include both to be sure of making it to leg three.
14:40 - So stark has been Ballyallia Man's progress in recent weeks, and so impressive his victory over C&D a fortnight ago, that he's impossible to leave out even though he's favourite and 12 lb higher than last time. All other things being equal, we might have included Milarrow, who will surely benefit for this step up in trip, but this leg looks our best option for a banker with eight still entered at the time of writing, so we'll stick with Ballyallia Man on his own.
15:10 - It feels strange to apply the term 'veteran' to the lightly-raced Michel Le Bon, but it's an even confined to such horses that he finds himself in today and, on account of him being relatively unexposed, he's our lead selection. He was runner-up in the Badger Ales Trophy over this C&D back in November and was let down by his jumping more than anything else on his only subsequent start.
Second spot goes to the reformed Desperate Dex, who has remained in good form for all he's been unable to keep up his recent winning streak with second-placed finishes on his last two starts. Neither jumping nor stamina is an issue for Desperate Dex, both assets in fact these days, so he's likely to do himself justice again today.
15:40 - On old form, Vic Venturi would clearly take a lot of beating, though his point form for his new yard is hardly inspiring, so we can take him on. Having much better recent form in the pointing field is Kirkleigh, winner of an Exeter hunter last spring, which is enough to warrant inclusion in this race. The consistent Coombe Hill is as solid a second option as we're likely to get, while a recent run in points should have put him spot on for this first start in hunters for 2013.
16:10 - The eye is instantly drawn to Flying Award in this closing leg, his recent form in similar events on testing ground marking him down as one to keep on the right side of, at least where Placepot betting is concerned. We might have been tempted to bank on him had eight still been in the race, but with one now out we're forced to call in reinforcements. We don't have to look far, as Pericoloso, runner-up to Flying Award at Exeter on New Year's Day, is going the right way and still has room for improvement granted a real test of stamina, something he should get today.
13:40 - 2, 5
14:10 - 1, 2
14:40 - 3
15:10 - 1, 9
15:40 - 1, 4
16:10 - 3, 5
= 32 lines
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