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Last Updated: 21/12/12 12:11pm
Reve De Sivola: Hoping to build on a promising comeback
Connections of Reve De Sivola are optimistic their seven-year-old can build on his promising reappearance behind Big Buck's when he lines up in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.
The Nick Williams-trained gelding stayed on well to take second spot when beaten nine lengths by the four-time World Hurdle hero in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury three weeks ago.
It was an encouraging performance by Reve de Sivola as he had been sidelined with a tendon injury since finishing third in the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at this meeting 12 months ago.
With Big Buck's out of this weekend's Grade One and the rest of the season with injury, the way is clear for a different horse to set down a marker in the staying hurdle division.
"We're hopeful. He ran a good race and if he can do the same he'll be should be thereabouts," said Reve De Sivola's owner, Paul Duffy.
"It's wide open now but no-one likes to win a race when a horse like Big Buck's is injured.
"It's sad for racing and sad for Ascot, but there are a few horses who've got a similar sort of chance and Reve De Sivola is in the mix.
"He was pretty fit when he ran first time, but hopefully he can come on for it.
"He has come back from a tendon injury so we have to make sure we look after him."
With regular partner Daryl Jacob serving a suspension, Richard Johnson takes the ride.
"When I had horses with Richard Phillips he rode for me there. He's a strong jockey and good in a finish," said Duffy.
"We would have liked to have had Daryl. He knows the horse and he's his ride.
"We had various options and Nick (Williams) and I agreed on Richard Johnson. Hopefully they will be a good combination tomorrow."
Trustan Times takes a big step up in class after defying top-weight in admirable fashion in the "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
Dougie Costello, who rides the Tim Easterby-trained six-year-old, feels the horse is on an upward curve and that this race is his acid test.
"He's stepping up in company so tomorrow will tell us a lot," said the jockey.
"He has been a solid horse for the last two seasons and he has grown up and matured a lot this year.
"He pulled up in front at Haydock with 11st 12lb on his back. I always thought he wanted good ground as he moves like a good ground horse.
"He's big enough and strong enough to go through sloppy ground. I hope it is sloppy as I don't think he wants to get stuck in it.
"He was very impressive at Haydock and he seems to take his races better than last year. His best run last year was his first run.
"He is stepping up in company now so he has to prove himself. You'd like to think he'd be in the first three whichever way he goes."
Trainer Alan King is optimistic his runner Smad Place can take full advantage of the enforced absence of Big Buck's.
The five-year-old disappointed behind Tidal Bay in the John Smith's Hurdle at Wetherby on his reappearance seven weeks ago, but King is expecting a much better show this time.
"It is very sad that Big Buck's is out for the season, but the Long Walk Hurdle now has a real open look, and we have to fancy our chances with Smad Place," the Barbury Castle handler told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He disappointed us at Wetherby on his reappearance, but we were not happy with him when he got back and he subsequently missed the Hennessy meeting at Newbury.
"We have tweaked a few things at home and Smad Place was much more like his old self when we galloped him last Saturday so, hopefully, he can get back on track."
Jockey Robert Thornton is in similarly confident mood.
"We are very hopeful. He ran up at Wetherby and was slightly disappointing, but he's had a few checks and a full MOT just to iron out a few things, he told At The Races.
"He seems in cracking form and is coming to himself so we are quietly confident.
"He's run some cracking races behind Big Buck's. It's got to be tempting with Big Buck's out for the rest of the season. You don't like to see that, but hopefully we can make the best of it."
With Big Buck's on the sidelines and Five Dream also out of the contest due to an infected foot, champion trainer Paul Nicholls relies on Prospect Wells.
He has shown smart form at two miles for the last couple of seasons and Nicholls feels he could be even more effective over a longer distance.
"He's in no man's land in the handicap and I'm convinced he wants a trip," he told www.betfair.com.
"I've just got a feeling over three miles he's going to be really effective."
Nicky Henderson will be happy if his two runners Cucumber Run and Master Of The Hall could pick up some prize money.
"I put them in there thinking we would be running for place money with Big Buck's in there and even though he is out, I probably still am thinking like that," said the Seven Barrows trainer.
"We have nowhere else to go with them and now they're entered they might as well run.
"Master Of The Hall is coming back to hurdles as there is nowhere for him to go over fences.
"I always thought Cucumber Run wanted better ground but he ran very well at Newbury in soft ground last time.
"The handicapper put him up for that and hopefully his rating puts him somewhere in the firing line."