POET, a classy performer rated 110 on the Flat, could hardly have made a more impressive start over hurdles at Newbury where he jumped superbly to beat a decent field of maidens. He looks a very useful recruit to the winter game and should remain unbeaten. Melodic Rendezvous, runner-up in the Champion Bumper at Punchestown, loved the mud when beating Royal Boy at Cheltenham and will be suited by a stamina test though the runner-up was having his first start since winning a point-to-point in March 2011 and will be expected to turn the tables. The latter's stablemate Golden Hoof has won a couple of minor races very easily and could be anything while Court Minstrel won a Cheltenham maiden before a close third in a Grade 2 there in November. The unbeaten Pendra faces his stiffest test but there's no reason why he shouldn't make further progress and only Le Reve can be ruled out of what should be an informative contest.
Court Minstrel (IRE) 6-1 (11-7) Took keen hold, held up, hit 3rd, headway on inside when not clear run approaching 2 out, switched right before last, bumped and hampered soon after last, stayed on well run-in, went 3rd, never able to challenge, 3rd of 8, 3l behind Dodging Bullets (11-7) at Cheltenham 2m nov hdl G2 (1) gs in Nov.
Golden Hoof (IRE) Evensfav (11-5) Tracked leaders, led just after 2nd last, soon clear, impressive, won at Sandown 2m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Dec beating Lord Protector (10-12) by 8l, 6 ran.
Le Reve (IRE) 12-1 (11-0) Held up in rear, headway 3 out, soon ridden and weakened, 4th of 8, 18l behind Meganisi (11-5) at Newbury 2m nh nov hdl (3) sft in Nov.
Melodic Rendezvous 4-1 (10-12) Mid-division, smooth headway to track leaders 2 out, not clear run and switched left approaching last, ridden to lead flat, kept on, won at Cheltenham 2m 1f NH nov hdl 4-6yo (3) hvy in Dec beating Royal Boy (10-12) by 3/4l, 8 ran.
Pendra (IRE) 4-7fav (11-5) Tracked leaders going well, went 2nd 3 out, led next, edged left last, ridden and stayed on well flat, won at Plumpton 2m nh nov hdl (4) sft in Dec beating Workbench (10-12) by 4l, 12 ran.
Poet 3-1 (11-0) Tracked leaders on inside, went 2nd going well 3 out, led approaching last, kept on well flat, won at Newbury 2m mdn hdl (4) sft in Dec beating Veloce (11-0) by 2 1/4l, 18 ran.
Royal Boy (FR) 6-1 (10-12) Held up mainly in 4th, tracked leaders on outside 2 out, came towards stands side rail and effort before last, soon ridden, stayed on to take 2nd final 100 yards, not reach winner, 2nd of 8, 3/4l behind Melodic Rendezvous (10-12) at Cheltenham 2m 1f NH nov hdl 4-6yo (3) hvy in Dec.