OBVIOUSLY a workable mark helps, but two other vital requirements at Haydock is proven stamina and the ability to handle very testing ground.
Step forward Bold Ransom who has a lot going for him in the featured Peter Marsh Chase, and who can lift a valuable staying handicap which he has always looked capable of winning.
Bold Ransom hasn’t had a lot of racing for a 10-year-old, having missed all last season, but has returned seemingly as good as ever.
Not surprisingly, he needed his comeback run at Carlisle in November, his first for 610 days, but showed ability before tiring up the hill.
This was confirmed next time at Haydock when he made most of the running to beat Captain Americo convincingly with his rider able to ease him down near the finish.
He has been raised 9lb and is also up in class, but he was rated 132 at his best two seasons ago and still looks well enough treated off a 7lb lower mark. He has course winning form, which lends further encouragement, and dropping back half a mile to three miles shouldn’t be a concern.
Heavy conditions will put the emphasis on stamina and he has ticks in the right boxes on both counts.
The mud-loving Pearlysteps is out to make amends for a last-fence fall when holding every chance in the Tommy Whittle Chase over the course and distance before Christmas. It looked as though Carrington Brook had just taken his measure when he hit the deck but has the right credentials for a real slog and races off the same mark.
While According To Pete is an old friend who has done us a few good turns, bouncing back to form at 33-1 in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day was hard to predict. I can assure you it wasn’t a belated Christmas box for yours truly even though I have been accused at times of following him over a cliff-edge.
He was 8lb out of the handicap, hadn’t won for over three years, and he is now 7lb higher. To be honest, a few fancied horses disappointed that day and I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the form which could be suspect. I also think the veteran will struggle to give a stone to Bold Ransom from a stable that can do little wrong at the moment.
The 2009 Grand National hero Mon Mome was a casualty when attempting a repeat last year and he ran really well on his first run since over fences when chasing home Mostly Bob at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
It showed there is plenty of life left in him yet and this will be another step in the direction of Aintree again.
Consigliere is back up in the weights again after his wide-margin success at Wincanton and he will find life more difficult. There is little margin for error and I think he will find one or two better treated.
Rarely does a Haydock meeting pass by without Donald McCain getting his name on the scoresheet and Cinders And Ashes is difficult to oppose in the williamhill.com Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, formerly the Rossington Main, which the trainer won with Peddlers Cross two years ago.
A useful bumper horse last season, Cinders And Ashes has carried on improving over timber with two victories in the mud at Aintree and over today’s track.
McCain should also be on the mark with Real Milan in the rewards4racing.com Fixed Brush Novices’ Hurdle. He scored with a lot in hand on his hurdling introduction at Uttoxeter and a penalty shouldn’t hinder his progress.
Celestial Halo has plenty in hand of his three rivals on official ratings for the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial which has no bearing on the real thing at Cheltenham as the field doesn’t have any genuine Champion contenders.
Nevertheless, it’s still a nice prize to win and Celestial Halo, who has benefited twice from the falls of fancied rivals in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and a Newbury handicap this winter, can confirm recent running with Torphichen. He beat Alan King’s mudlark at the Berkshire venue and meets him on 12lb better terms.