Haydock's Saturday card is one of the strongest of the winter and Keith Melrose from the Racing Post picks out his three best bets on the day.
The prospect of deep ground at Haydock could be a problem for a few, but it will be right up Sam's Adventure's street in the 12.40.
He won the Tommy Whittle, which is held just before Christmas and typically run in the mud, in 2020 and followed up in the Eider at Newcastle.
It has admittedly been a struggle since for Sam's Adventure, but there were excuses at times last season and his mark has tumbled from 147 down to today's 131. This season offers a fresh start and he has been given a wind op.
I would be of the view that Sam's Adventure retains the ability to be competitive off his current mark and these are demonstrably suitable conditions.
The slight doubt is how ready he might be, but if connections had been looking for an easy option there is a 3m1½f handicap chase literally on the same card which they could have opted for.
Running in this 3m4½f race suggests to me that Sam's Adventure is here to put right a few things from last season.
Kauto Star won the Lancashire Chase (3.00) four times, Cue Card and Bristol De Mai have three wins apiece.
The first two are legitimate legends of the sport, whereas Bristol De Mai has earned his place there with no small amount of ability, but plenty of affinity for Haydock and the mud it can provide in winter.
That last point is likely to be pertinent with the amount of rain that has fallen this week.
On the fact of it, Bristol De Mai looks to be regressing at the age of 11. However, he ran twice on heavy ground last season and on both occasions posted a borderline-Grade 1 figure on Racing Post Ratings.
Furthermore, on neither occasion did we see the very best of him: 2m6f at Lingfield is sharp enough, 3m4f here was clearly too far.
Evidently, this trip is just right for Bristol De Mai and, while he like all the others will have to hope the mud catches out A Plus Tard, he is the one runner guaranteed to thrive in it.
The early market for the closing 3m1½f handicap (3.35) looks to be roughly the right shape, with the most interesting horses near the top of the betting.
Lord Du Mesnil is a course specialist who belied huge odds on his return at Bangor, while Fontaine Collonges is likely to win a decent 3m+ handicap this season.
The issues, respectively, are that Lord Du Mesnil is being turned out quickly and Fontaine Collonges' trainer Venetia Williams is still warming up for the season.
There are no such concerns over the highly progressive Houston Texas and he is expected to shorten up further as race time approaches.
Like many from the Nicky Richards yard, Houston Texas has been lightly raced but he keeps on progressing.
He has won staying handicaps at stiff Carlisle on each of his last three starts and shaped like having plenty left to give when completing the hat-trick three weeks ago.
He might well be one for the Eider at Newcastle in February, but for now he can use his race-fitness to best effect against ostensibly superior rivals.