14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Smad takes place in Ascot line-upHeadlines
Smad Place

Trainer Alan King is optimistic his Long Walk Hurdle runner Smad Place can take full advantage of the enforced absence of Big Buck's at Ascot.

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

"He disappointed us at Wetherby, 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, telling At The Races: "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 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. I've just got a feeling over three miles he's going to be really effective," he told

Nicky Henderson will be happy if his two runners Cucumber Run and Master Of The Hall could pick up some prize money, saying: "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.

"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. The handicapper put him up for that and hopefully his rating puts him somewhere in the firing line."

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