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Far West to thwart Melodic Rendezvous in Elite Hurdle

Saturday’s Elite Hurdle at Wincanton sees the return of two of the most promising hurdlers of last season in Far West and Melodic Rendezvous. The former was sent off at 4-1 for the Triumph Hurdle after winning his first four races in great style but had no answer to Our Conor.

Time may show that he was facing an impossible task against a horse currently second favourite for the Champion Hurdle. He holds an entry in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham next weekend and this race will enable Nicholls to map out his season.

The big danger is Melodic Rendezvous who was a leading fancy for the top novice hurdles last season only to miss out through injury. He rattled off a sequence of three wins, the most recent being a nine-length victory over Puffin Billy at Exeter.

Karinga Dancer steps up in grade after winning well at Aintree, although he may have to improve his hurdling to be successful at this level. Cotton Mill would be a threat to all if he can recapture his form of early last season when second to My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle.

The Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase is the feature race on the card and David Pipe saddles the likely favourite in Standing Ovation. The six-year-old is on a four-timer and sneaks in at the foot of the weights with just 10st 2lb to carry.

Poungach could prove the best of the Paul Nicholls-trained pair whilst Pantxoa has been in superb form for Alan King. A bad mistake three out cost him a winning chance behind Twirling Magnet at Cheltenham last time and he should feature in a wide open contest.

The Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at 3.15 could have an impact on the betting for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March as Wonderful Charm clashes with Meister Eckhart. Both horses were useful over hurdles and have the potential to prove top class over fences.

Selections: 12.20 Heath Hunter, 12.55 Upton Mead, 1.30 Call Me A Star, 2.05 Far West, 2.40 Standing Ovation, 3.15 Wonderful Charm, 3.50 Now Ben