11.50 - Virgin Bet Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (1m7½f)
It was only a three-horse race in which GREEN BOOK finished second over C&D back at the start of the month but, nonetheless, the Venetia Williams inmate gave best only to a rival that was making it 4-4 under rules for Donald McCain.
The Authorised gelding moves into a handicap now off what looks a plausible mark of 122 and his case if further strengthened by Ned Fox claiming 10lb from his back in this Conditional Jockeys' event. With his fitness now aided as well, he could be hard to beat and he won't mind the testing conditions underfoot.
Nordic Combined is approaching a mark from which should be able to capture a race, though David Pipe's charge has a poor win-ratio. Donald McCain's Chti Balko is a three-time C&D winner - all on heavy ground - and he may improve from last month's comeback, his first start post wind surgery.
Selection: Green Book
Next Best: Chti Balko
12.20 - Virgin Bet Novices' Chase (2m)
Four runners and none are ruled out in haste. Adrimel didn't jump well enough on his chasing bow this month at Exeter but he was a useful hurdler (winning three of five) and could soon come good once he works out the fences.
Fugitif showed an aptitude for this discipline at Worcester (2m½f, good to soft) on first attempt last month, easily accounting for a next-time-out winner, and should have more to come despite taking on better opposition now. He's considered the main danger to DREAMS OF HOME for Donald McCain and Brian Hughes.
He ran out of puff on his chasing bow at Carlisle (2m4f, soft) in October but that may have been a fitness issue as much as anything after 225 days off. He has since justified favouritism at Ayr over this trip, doing so in good style from the front and having found plenty when he was challenged. With more to come, he is narrowly preferred over Richard Hobson's runner.
Selection: Dreams Of Home
Next Best: Fugitif
12.55 - Virgin Bet Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Fillies' & Mares' Listed, 2m3f)
Nina The Terrier won her first three starts over timber for Alan King and was even-money favourite to score in this grade at Newbury last month when she came down at the last. She may well have played second fiddle to smart prospect Elle Est Belle there regardless and compensation is surely possible granted a clear round now.
Current Mood was well held in a three-mile Cheltenham Grade 2 just last Saturday, her second defeat in that company at Prestbury Park since she won minor events at Ffos Las (2m) and Ludlow (2m5f) previously this term. She takes class-drop now and is down in trip but there has to be a minor worry this will come too soon.
Haute Estime was outpaced over the minimum here last month, having won nicely on hurdles bow at Kelso in October, she could find more upped in trip bit needs to.
RUSSIAN RUMOUR was very well supported for her hurdles bow last month in a maiden at Lingfield (2m3½f, good to soft) and she made a decisive race-winning move in the home straight to thwart the fast-finishing favourite. This is clearly a tough challenge but there may be more to come from the Make Believe filly and she might end up being the value shout in this line-up.
Selection: Russian Rumour
Next Best: Nina The Terrier
1.30 - Virgin Bet Handicap Chase (2m)
Word Has It won maiden/novice hurdle at Carlisle and Kelso in the spring for Donald McCain and should have something to offer before too long now switching to the larger obstacles - he's one to pay attention to in the betting.
SHAKEM UP'ARRY was well-fancied for his introduction to chasing at Ffos Las (2m, soft) in November and showed enough to suggest he will do well, before he unseated his rider after the midpoint. With Luca Morgan easing his burden to the tune of 5lb now, the Ben Pauling-trained inmate has to be considered a key player again.
Jonjo O'Neill's French import Phill The Brill was a winner in his homeland when last spotted over a year ago, he sports a tongue-tie on debut for new connections and market support behind him would be noted.
Casa Tall has won 2-3 so far this season and is only up 3lb for the most recent of those at Exeter, while Destined To Shine won first time up last season over fences and remained very consistent afterwards. Kerry Lee's challenger has undergone a second wind op in his down time and again could do well fresh.
Selection: Shakem Up'arry
Next Best: Casa Tall
2.05 - Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle (2m3f)
Mackelduff scored at Aintree (2m4f, good) on seasonal/handicap bow in October and certainly was not disgraced since in a 2m5f Cheltenham contest (third) over further from this mark. Olly Murphy's charge is the obvious starting point.
Oliver Sherwood's Little Awkward has shown ability and returns from a wind op for his handicap debut, needing a close look in the betting from what's a fair mark on paper.
UP FOR PAROL was third in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow in October over this sort of trip having ended last season with wins at Wetherby and Ffos Las over timber. He was well backed since for his chasing bow back at Ffos Las, but his jumping failed to convince as he managed only fourth. The form of that Persian War run has though been positively advertised and Jamie Snowden's charge is no afterthought back over timber.
Stellar Magic still has scope for better and is worth monitoring on comeback for Philip Hobbs, while N'Golo showed ability for Willie Mullins last season - winning three times before tackling a succession of Grade 1 novices at the spring festivals - and could do well for new handler Ann Duffield before long, though he's on a stiff mark for now.
Selection: Up For Parol
Next Best: Mackelduff
2.40 - Virgin Bet Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (3m1½f)
Trainer David Pipe has won the prize twice in recent times with Broadway Buffalo (2014) and Daklondike (2018) and he has excellent claims once more with REMASTERED.
He was progressive last season over fences as a novice, winning three times before a decent fifth behind Galvin at the Cheltenham Festival in the National Hunt Chase.
He had a hurdles spin at Aintree in early November, finishing a close third, to tune him up and was looking a big danger to all since in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury before he came down at the fourth last. From an unchanged mark here, there's every reason to suspect he can go very well three weeks on.
Buzz De Turcoing scored on second chase start at Ayr last month and has scope for better if taking to this big-field scenario against experienced opposition, while Kelso winner Calipso Collonges is another being asked a more searching question now.
Shanty Alley operates on testing ground and has proven stamina for this sort of exam, Ben Case's 7YO typically comes on for a run and while he unseated five weeks ago at Uttoxeter on his comeback, he has been dropped 2lb for that and has Jack Andrews taking a further 5lb off, so it wouldn't be a major surprise to see him going well from an each-way perspective.
Next Best: Shanty Alley
3.15 - Virgin Bet Fives Handicap Hurdle (3m)
A tough get-out stakes for punters on this Haydock card as this looks wide open. Sultans Pride was as good as ever when landing a soft-ground Kelso handicap (3m2f) last month in first-time cheekpieces on his reappearance. He's 5lb higher now and should challenge again.
BALLYMILLSY won with something to spare at Newton Abbot (3m2½f, good to soft) in October for Sam and Nigel Twiston-Davies and his defeat at Cheltenham last month can be forgiven. There were some quality operators in against him there and the form stands up to scrutiny.
He reached at the fourth last flight and put himself under pressure from there on, finishing fifth eventually. He has been eased by the handicapper for that effort and now gets Jordan Nailor claiming 3lb too. Neither this track nor the forecast conditions will hold any fears and he could quickly bounce back today.
Mr Harp didn't shape without promise in a better race at Sandown a fortnight ago and will benefit from this longer trip, while he's another with form in the book when the mud is flying.
Next Best: Mr Harp