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Smad can put Hennessy Gold Cup rivals in their Place

November ends with a big betting race, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury (3.00), and Smad Place looks to have a right profile to land the spoils.

The Alan King trained grey gelding was a very smart staying hurdle,r who finished third in the 2012 and 2013 runnings of the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Seven-year-old Smad Place won two of his four starts over fences last season and looks to have the scope to make up into a top staying chaser this season.

After opening his account with an easy seven length victory over Ardkilly Witness at Exeter, the son of Smadoun posted a smart effort when beating Sam Winner by two lengths in a 3m contest at this venue run in very testing conditions.

Smad Place then ran a stormer when last seen in action at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, and went down by just a neck to O’faolins Boy in the RSA Chase.

King has had this contest in mind for Smad Place ever since, and an opening mark of 155 looks exploitable given that he was rated as high as 161 over hurdles.

The horse is also a second season chaser making his seasonal return, and five of the last 10 winners of the 3m 2f contest fitted that bill.

With the prospect of plenty improvement to come after just four starts over fences, and the King team having begun to hit top gear in the last few days, everything points to a huge run from Smad Place, who has a good record fresh.

Betting on the Hennessy is headed by Irish raider Djakadam, who has been heavily backed to provide trainer Willie Mullins with another big race success.

The five-year-old won his first two starts over fences last season in good style and was close-up and still going well when falling four from home in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen in action.

However, this represents a huge step up in distance and class for Djakadam, and I am not convinced that he will get home for a trainer, who amazingly has a very poor strike rate with his chasers in this country.

A bigger danger in my book is The Druids Nephew, who has shown improved form this season since joining trainer Neil Mulholland.

After scoring in facile fashion at Huntingdon, the seven-year-old ran a cracker when a 1 1/2 length runner-up to Sam Winner at Cheltenham earlier in the month.

That run entitles The Druids Nephew to plenty of respect, and the booking of crack Irish jockey Davy Russell certainly catches the eye.