Cotton Mill looks set up to weave his way home
JEREMY SCOTT'S classy Melodic Rendezvous tops the weights on his seasonal bow in a cracking edition of the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton this afternoon.
The Tolworth hero missed last season's Cheltenham Festival after scoping badly, but is unbeaten in his last three.
While there is little doubt that he has the potential to concede weight all round under Nick Scholfield here, it's not insignificant that he got turned over at short odds on his reappearance at Exeter 12 months ago.
Given the depth of quality among his six rivals today, Melodic Rendezvous might just prove vulnerable. Paul Nicholls' Far West is an obvious danger, having signed off last term by keeping on for second behind Our Conor in the Triumph Hurdle.
He won four on the spin before that, and the fact that Nicholls has nominated him to vie for the Ditcheat stable's fourth success in five years in this Listed two-miler is notable.
Still, while there will be plenty of people anxious to see him frank Our Conor's form, he struck as more of a stayer than a speedster last term, so good ground on this fast track may not suit.
Karinga Dancer represents the irrepressible Harry Fry-Noel Fehily axis. He is on a five-timer after collecting on his handicap bow at Aintree, but has lots more on his plate off a 12lb higher mark.
Ahyaknowyerself, AP McCoy's mount, looks exposed, so this might be a decent opportunity for Cotton Mill to get back to winning ways.
John Ferguson's select Newmarket team is proving as efficient as ever right now, and this fellow tends to run really well fresh.
He sluiced up on his hurdle debut after over a year off in September 2011 before going on to prove himself a serious novice, famously running out whilst upsides Simonsig at Cheltenham.
Last term he came back after nearly 10 months off in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, posting a storming effort to get closest to the exceptional My Tent Or Yours.
At Cheltenham and Aintree, things didn't go Cotton Mill's way, but he has since dropped a few pounds in the ratings to a mark that is just 3lb higher than the 145 he ran off at Newbury. As such, Denis O'Regan's mount appeals as being potentially well handicapped.
When you add in that he goes especially well after a lay-off, that he will love the bit of forecast decent ground and that he excels on this sort of quick track, odds of 11/2 are too big.
Fehily, whose superb recent spell has seen him lead the chasing pack on McCoy in the jockeys' table, has a fine book of rides. The west Cork native rides Court By Surprise in the Badger Ales Trophy, a three-mile chase that rarely fails to throw up a decent spectacle.
Standing Ovation, Masters Hill, De La Bech, Ballyoliver and Pantxoa all have chances, but Court By Surprise gets the nod after getting chinned at Chepstow.
The Emma Lavelle-trained eight-year-old was a useful novice, though he didn't quite make the grade in better company.
On his return under Aidan Coleman at Chepstow, he raced handily and led out of the back straight the final time, which is an awfully long way from home at the Welsh circuit.
When Pete The Feat crashed out at the last under Fehily, Court By Surprise was left three lengths clear, but it was no surprise that he eventually got ground down in the shadow of the post.
Although he was beaten, it was a game display that confirmed he has matured, so he is fancied to score off a 1lb higher mark now that he has the benefit of a race under his belt.
Fehily and Fry will also take all the beating in the mares' handicap hurdle with Highland Retreat. This is wide open, but Highland Retreat won on her track debut last term before winning once more and finishing in the first four in her next six starts.
On just her eighth run, she has the scope to improve again.
Best Bet: Court By Surprise