Lack of rain might be proving problematic for National Hunt trainers on both sides of the Irish Sea, but the jumps season waits for no one and it ramps up a gear at Haydock on Saturday.
The Betfair Chase is the first Grade 1 of the season in Britain and the lack of rain hasn't deterred a strong field of chasers from being assembled. I'd marginally favour A Plus Tard for the big one, but my main interest comes in other races on the day.
Flight Deck can land us a winner at Haydock
The pick of the supporting races at Haydock in terms of betting opportunities looks to be the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (14:25). It has attracted a deeply-competitive field and the one I like is the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Flight Deck.
The seven-year-old has been lightly raced in his career to date, but has been well placed to win three of his four starts in handicap hurdles, including on his seasonal return at Wetherby last month.
While his jumping hasn't always been foot perfect, first-time cheekpieces seemed to concentrate his mind on that aspect of the job last time. He also seemed well suited by the distance of three miles, which was just his second run at around that trip.
Now rated just 3lb higher, he appeals as being open to further improvement.
He also seems to be the lazy, idle type of horse that will be suited by this more competitive environment. It wouldn't surprise if he finds enough to improvement to go close of his revised mark.
Tommy to Master his Ascot rivals
Over at Ascot, the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase (14:05) has attracted a fascinating field of runners, for all that many of them have substantial question marks next to their names.
The two with the biggest doubts attached to them are Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil, both of whom would be very tough to beat at their best on these terms, but both return to action after very disappointing campaigns last season.
In contrast, Dashel Drasher had a hugely-successful campaign last season culminating in victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase in February. However, his record when fresh isn't great and he would likely much prefer a softer surface.
Considering those negatives, the one that makes most appeal is the Paul Nicholls-trained Master Tommytucker. The lightly-raced 10-year-old enjoyed the first full campaign of his career last season and made plenty of hay by winning three times and running well in Grade 1 company.
He made his seasonal return over hurdles at Wetherby last month and that should serve to blow away the cobwebs.
He could well get the lead to himself and Sam Twiston-Davies is likely to make use of his advantage of race fitness over his main rivals. There is always a danger that he will clout a fence, but it wouldn't surprise if he proves to be difficult to peg back from the front.