12.50 - Patrick Coyne Memorial Altcar Novices' Chase (Grade 2, 2m4f)
A great start to proceedings with this Grade 2 contest attracting six rivals all with their merits. The top pair on ratings are Minella Drama and Papa Tango Charly.
Donald McCain's charge was a winner at Uttoxeter on chasing bow in October and most recently finished a well-held fifth behind Edwardstone in a Sandown Grade 1 in December. This isn't as tough on paper and the longer distance should aid him.
Papa Tango Charly is progressing nicely after a pair if wins at Carlisle (2m4f/2m5f, soft) this season. He's got scope for better again rising in class and won't be troubled by conditions.
SHAKEM UP'ARRY gets the vote to lower their colours for Ben Pauling's team. He was perhaps a better hurdler than a record of one win in nine attempts suggests, often contesting hot races and finishing second in a Grade 1 last winter.
He unseated Kielan Woods in November's chasing bow at Ffos Las but he made no mistake here over shorter since, jumping well and cruising clear as he desired in a handicap. He, too, should be fine at this extended trip and is fancied to come out best.
Selection: Shakem Up'arry
Next Best: Papa Tango Charly
1.25 - Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 1m7½f)
More Grade 2 action here as Haydock stages their Supreme Novices' Hurdle Trial and they've attracted one of market leaders for the Cheltenham contest in JONBON.
Nicky Henderson's charge - a full brother to Douvan - came with a tall reputation as soon as owner JP McManus had parted with 570,000 gns to acquire him and, so far, he's not let anyone down.
He's won a bumper and two hurdles races under rules and showed plenty speed to pull clear at Ascot in this grade last month. Both that race and his Newbury debut were unusual in that the opening part of the races were run at a crawl. Henderson and Aidan Coleman would surely love if this was more conventional.
His likeliest rival on paper is Might I, though Harry Fry's charge was unable to live with Jonbon's stablemate Constitution Hill at Sandown in December, beaten some 14-lengths by the impressive winner. Jonbon's supporters may be hoping for something similar, though he has not yet demonstrated a likeness for demolition jobs and it might just be a late burst for another merited win.
Richmond Lake is 2-3 over hurdles for Donald McCain and Brian Hughes and, though dropping in trip, will aim to give Might I a fight for the minors.
Next Best: Might I
2.00 - New One Unibet Hurdle (Grade 2, 1m7½f)
Unlike the previous race, it's unlikely that there are any serious Champion Hurdle contenders in this trial contest, with TOMMY'S OSCAR expected to score and currently trading at around 50/1 for the Cotswolds showpiece in March.
Ann Hamilton's charge is clearly thriving as he bids to record a fourth straight success. His sequence began here over 2m3f on good ground in November and most recently he was seen winning at Musselburgh over this trip on good-to-soft on New Year's Day.
He gave lots of weight to the field that afternoon and though rising in class here, he's well clear on ratings and looks the one to beat with multiple soft-ground wins ensuring no fears on the ground with Danny McMenamin back in the saddle.
At the other end of the spectrum is 12YO Hunters Call for the Olly Murphy team. He's flying after a summer wind op, easily winning on his comeback at Bangor (2m3½f, good to soft) and then running a cracking third in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham (2m1f, good to soft) in December. This trip might, however, be sharp enough for him.
The others all have plenty to prove. Navajo Pass stunned Buveur D'air to win this race last year but has looked a shadow of himself in two Sandown appearances this term. He's also got to ship 6lb to market leaders.
Rockadenn hasn't been with Alistair Ralph long. The ex-Paul Nicholls inmate is a heavy-ground winner and he ran well in second here last month over further. His earlier Doncaster run shows that he has a mountain to climb with an on-form Tommy's Oscar, but he could be second-best.
Selection: Tommy's Oscar
Next Best: Rockadenn
2.35 - Peter Marsh Handicap Chase (Grade 2 Limited Handicap, 3m1½f)
Last year's ultra-impressive winner ROYALE PAGAILLE is back to defend this Peter Marsh crown and with the Venetia Williams team in thriving form, a major challenge is once more forecast.
The win 12 months ago came on the back of a hugely impressive, strong-travelling Kempton win over the Christmas that marked Rich Ricci's French import out as being better than average.
He's run only twice since. The Gold Cup at Cheltenham proved a little too warm (sixth of 12, laboured from four out) but his seasonal comeback over C&D was encouraging.
He was some 22-lengths behind the easy winner A Plus Tard, the Gold Cup runner-up only just denied another Grade 1 in Ireland since, but Royale Pagaille was in turn some 20-plus lengths clear of the remainder himself in that Grade 1 Betfair Chase.
That's his only defeat in three visits here, and a return to heavy ground won't bother him. He's 7lb higher than last year but if he's in the same mood, that won't stop him.
David Pipe's Remastered was an eye-catcher in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury as he was still moving well when he came down, and he has finished second over C&D in the Tommy Whittle since. He was attempting to give more than a stone to the winner that December afternoon and the roles are reversed here, with Royale Pagaille shipping the weight to him. He's got to be high on any shortlist.
For some each-way interest in the race, Philip Hobbs' Kalooki might fit the bill. He was gutsy at Doncaster (3m, soft) last month to put his nose down on the line in fending off Cat Tiger under a big weight.
He's rated 5lb higher this afternoon with a new pair of cheekpieces deployed but is not yet fully exposed in this sphere and his Town Moor wins bodes well for this longer distance.
Selection: Royale Pagaille
Next Best: Kalooki
3.10 - Stuart Whittle's 40th Birthday Handicap Hurdle (3m)
Dr Richard Newland's FOILLAN carries just 10st 7lb here, getting weight from the field, and is fancied to make it count. He has won two of his previous three starts and really appeared to relish tackling this three-mile trip for the first time at Wetherby this month.
He beat a well-handicapped rival there and the front two were a long way clear of the chasing pack. The handicapper has had his say, with a 10lb rise meted out, but there should be more to come.
Moon King has run well in all three starts this season over similar trips and should continue to do so for Charlie Longsdon and Brian Hughes, he won't be far away in that instance.
The Brimming Water was produced with a well-time run to score at Wetherby (2m5½f, soft) on Boxing Day, just his third start after arriving from Ireland, and should handle a 7lb rise as he now steps up in trip.
Next Best: Moon King
3.45 - Smalley Decorators Handicap Chase (2m)
The form pick is Gallic Geordie for Sam Drinkwater. He'd won three on the trot prior to this week's Newcastle third under his latest 9lb rise. That was a three-way dive for the line and mere pixels split them, so he's clearly got the scope to win from an unchanged mark. It was, though, a tough race and just four days later that's the main worry for him.
Est Illic was well beaten here behind Shakem Up'arry last month (that rival holding graded aspirations today) but this is less daunting and the assessor has dropped him 4lb, leaving him on a very workable mark based on last season's winning efforts.
THOMAS MACDONAGH is a heavy-ground winner over hurdles/fences in the past and produced his best effort of the season when second here last month over 2m5½f on similar ground to this.
Cheekpieces appeared to sharpen him up there, and the blinkers are tried this time. He was only worn down late and it's going to be interesting to see what he's got to offer attempting this shorter trip for the first time over jumps.
Selection: Thomas MacDonagh
Next Best: Est Illic
4.15 - Plank Lane Handicap Hurdle (1m7½f)
Sacre Pierre had a couple of tough assignments at Wetherby and Doncaster prior to last month's drop into a Conditional Jockeys' Handicap at the latter venue. He looked to be coming with a major challenge to the leader in that race when he fell at the final flight. Champion jockey-elect Brian Hughes is back on board this afternoon and, while 3lb higher, a clear round surely gives them every chance of collecting.
FEIVEL was a game maiden hurdle winner last month at Hexham (2m4f, heavy) for Dr Richard Newland and his Fakenham handicap bow on New Year's Day may be best overlooked. He was up on the lead early and helped force was probably too fast a pace, tiring late as the winner came from a fair way back to prevail.
The handicapper eased him 3lb here and he might take full advantage dropped in trip.
It's more than 700 days since Sao Maxence was spotted on the racecourse but he's one to note on handicap bow nonetheless, while The Grey Falco has undergone wind surgery and could be one to go well for Alistair Ralph.
Next Best: Sacre Pierre
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