Tony Calvin explains why he believes Cue Card is a worthy favourite for the Betfair Chase. Elsewhere on the Haydock card, our man selects a couple of runners that could benefit from the heavy ground.
It promises to be brutal, attritional stuff at Haydock in heavy ground on Saturday and I am struggling to see past Cue Card winning his third Betfair Chase at 15:00.
Hardly original I know, and I won't be putting him up as a bet, but I can really only see two winners here - a dangerous thing to say, I realise, especially as Silviniaco Conti is also a dual winner of the race and the ground could be a big leveller - and if Cue Card runs to form then it will take a career-best from Coneygree to beat him.
That could well happen as Coneygree was proving unstoppable over fences before a hock injury put him on the sidelines. But it will prove to be a masterful training performance if his small stable can produce him cherry-ripe to win a race of this nature, in likely bottomless ground, after such a lengthy absence.
Cue Card may well have been put in his place by two of today's rivals, Irish Cavalier and Menorah, in the Charlie Hall first time up. But his jockey is adamant the ground was too quick for him there - and ideal for the first two home - and admitted it was pilot-error in riding him so aggressively in the circumstances.
With race-fitness on his side on softer ground, if he runs up to the form of his seven-length defeat of Silviniaco Conti in this race last year, or his King George or Betfred Bowl wins, then it will take a 176+ chasing performance to beat him. And Coneygree only ran to an official mark of 172 when winning the 2015 Gold Cup.
It wouldn't surprise me if Cue Card went off at around the even-money mark, for all the questions Wetherby raised about this 10-year-old. Which I suppose makes him a bet at the current prices, but I will leave that one to you.
Two big-priced fancies for the Fixed Brush
The Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at 13:50 is a very tricky race to call, for all there are just four runners.
My Tent Or Yours is the obvious horse to beat on his Champion Hurdle second to Annie Power but whether a slog round here in testing ground first time up is ideal is another matter.
The race-fit Old Guard is a big threat back over hurdles, as his Greatwood Hurdle defeat of the subsequent County Hurdle winner Superb Story last season - he gave the runner-up 16lb and a two-length beating - doesn't give him that much to find. But no bet for me.
The "Fixed Brush" handicap hurdle at 14:25 has been won by some high-class horses in its' ten year history, so don't be necessarily put off by the top-weights with a lot of experience under their belt. Three of the winners have carried 11st 12lb to victory.
I was initially tempted by Ballybolley and Thomas Crapper in the race, as both look to be on tempting marks, but both would prefer better ground and I am going to go against that historical slant (though youngsters have done well, too) and put up Point The Way and Western Cape at 15.014/1 and 18.017/1 respectively towards the bottom of the weights.
You could say that I have missed the boat as they were 33s and 50s in a place on Monday afternoon, but a few have obviously fallen by the wayside since - annoyingly so to some degree, as we are down to 15 runners - and there is still some mileage in their prices.
Point The Way loves it heavy, and in that context he shaped very well on good ground at Sedgefield on his comeback, and there looks to be plenty more to come from this five-year-old. He looks very fairly treated on his defeat of subsequent scorer Sharpasaknife at Market Rasen in February.
Western Cape is not obviously as well-handicapped, having been raised 5lb for his comeback second at Worcester, though they did pull well clear of the third and the winner ran well in defeat next time.
He also shaped very well there over 2m7f on good ground and represents the team that gave us a great run for our money with Greatwood Hurdle third Song Light last Sunday. Western Cape is another with soft ground-winning form at this trip in the bank, as well as being a lightly-raced 5yo.
In fact, he could have the most scope for improvement in this field off his lowly mark. Let's hope so, anyway.
At the five-day stage I fancied three in the staying handicap chase at 15:35. None of them run and amazingly the race has cut up to just six runners. Pass.
Thoughts on a high-class Ascot card
Over at Ascot, the Grade 2 chase over 2m5f at 14:05 also screams no bet to me, especially after the no-show of Tenor Nivernais. And, in general, it is a very hard day to eke out a bet given the small fields.
I thought Dodging Bullets ran with credit on his Exeter comeback and is well worth a shot at this trip, and Old Roan runner-up God's Own (second to Third Intention, to whom he was giving 16lb and was beaten under 2 lengths, at Aintree) was another big player.
But they head the market and both have doubts over them to varying degrees - not least God's Own's 10lb Grade 1 penalty - so no bet.
I definitely don't have a betting opinion in the Ascot Hurdle at 14:40 - Yanworth deserves be favourite but I wouldn't have that much between him and Zarkandar in the market myself - but my two against the field in the 15:15 are Vaniteux and Some Buckle.
I think Vaniteux could be chucked in on a mark of 154 on his Arkle run - a race in which he was still in there pitching against Douvan when unseating two out, and one which has worked out pretty well - and the world and his partner saw how well Some Buckle was going at Aintree last time when taking the fourth-last home with him.
Both are towards the head of the market, which is predictable as this is another race that has really cut up at the overnight stage, and to be honest I wanted bigger prices about them. I think Vaniteux is the likeliest winner - and maybe one worth considering at 33-1 each-way for the Champion Chase before the race - but the strong-travelling Some Buckle looks a back-to-lay option for the in-running traders.
Sorry, we have just the two plays, but I only tip what I bet, as regular readers will know.
Back Point The Way at 15.014/1 in 14:25 at Haydock
Back Western Cape at 18.017/1 in 14:25 at Haydock