It is Peter Marsh day at Haydock on Saturday and Keith Melrose from the Racing Post provides his best bets on the card.
The Altcar Novices' Chase rarely produces a big field, but it often has a handy winner. Taquin De Seuil, Bristol De Mai, Waiting Patiently and Sam Brown have all used the race as a platform to big-race success and this year Stage Star is fancied to keep the trend going.
The early odds have Lac De Constance ahead of Stage Star in the betting, and strictly on ratings, he would appear to have an edge. But that does not allow for conditions, which are likely to be extremely testing.
The selection won a Grade 1 novice hurdle on similarly deep ground at around this time last year in Newbury's Challow Hurdle and his chasing career has been solid.
He won small races at Warwick and Plumpton either side of being turned over on good ground in a Grade 2 at Newbury. He is a strapping sort and it is therefore entirely possible that softer ground suits him best.
Stage Star can improve in these conditions and should be treated as at least an equally likely winner to Lac De Constance, who has his own issues to shrug off after coming a cropper in the Wayward Lad at Kempton last time.
The 2m handicap chase at 12.55 looks ripe for a bet. Considering this is a 0-130 handicap on a big Saturday card, it really is not much of a race.
It is easy to see why early favourite Sholokjack is so appealing. He won a point-to-point and his first two hurdles races before coming up short in a Grade 2 novice and is bred to thrive over fences. However, his sole chase run so far ended at the second fence, where he landed too steeply and fell.
Contrast with Wheelbahri, who this time last year was rated just 79 but has progressed at a rate of knots since to win on six of his last eight starts. His most recent win at Kelso came in a race that you would not describe as deep, but he and the runner-up are both horses to be positive about and they came miles clear of the rest.
Wheelbahri is a prominent racer and sound jumper who digs deep. You need all of those things when the mud is flying at Haydock, even over 2m, and he should not be underestimated in this company.
But for Haydock, Bristol De Mai would be a likeable veteran who once snuck into a place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He owes his career to this track. From nine runs here he has won six races: three Lancashire Chases, a Peter Marsh, an Altcar and last year's Grand National Trial.
The most recent of those, when he finished second but was later awarded the race after the winner was disqualified, showed Bristol De Mai retains all of his old enthusiasm. He would have won that race by daylight had it been over this 3m1½f trip. He was last seen in the Betfair Chase, when he was well held but did not run badly considering he now returns to handicaps from a mark in the mid-150s.
Beyond Haydock, the two factors that matter most to Bristol De Mai are deep ground and being fresh. He gets both of those here and should be taken very seriously as he bids for a seventh course win.