Saturday 2.25 Haydock
This race has only been a Grade 3 since 2011 but it can attract, and has attracted, a quality field with at least two of the runners looking to improve enough to get themselves into Grade 1 contention in March.
Sam Spinner won this race last year off a featherweight but it has been shown the race can be won by the classier types and with the ground on the fast side for this time of year, we may see a big run from one right at the top of the handicap.
Who’s in the Running?
There’s no doubt Tom Symonds’ runner is improving following a win at Warwick in the spring and a good second place at Newbury on his seasonal return, though it must be said we have a fair idea of what his limits are and they would seem to show him up to be not quite good enough for this.
He’s not without a place chance here though and should find conditions perfectly to his liking under jockey James Davies.
Paul Nicholls’ charge is only a five-year-old and with that should have plenty more to drag out of the locker. Harry Cobden coaxed him up into sixth of 18 in the Chepstow Silver Trophy in October and he’s on board again today hoping to encourage him to the next level.
His very best run was his easy win at Wincanton last season on heavy ground and I can’t help thinking underfoot conditions were the main reason for his performance that day and so this may happen a little bit quick for him.
A strong favourite for this race all week, Ian Williams’ runner seemed to improve plenty under Tom O’Brien last time at Cheltenham and with the same jockey up top this time around many believe he’s a banker.
Even on the book he is one of the strongest contenders in this field, but we must wrestle with the question of whether his two wins this season are the result of his improving or whether they are because of running round Cheltenham as the course seemed to suit him so well.
He’ll go well, of that there is little doubt, but at the sort of odds we’ve been seeing going into this weekend he may be too much of a risk back on a flat track.
The 11yo is certainly not out of this and it’s hard to believe Gordon Elliott would send him here if he didn’t have a chance on what is still only his sixth run for this yard.
His most recent hurdle form doesn’t really stack up in the context of what it’ll take to win this so he’d need to suddenly bounce back to the sort of form he was showing several years ago which seems unlikely.
Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman team up here with a six-year-old who has only run six times under rules, winning 2 and finishing runner-up three times.
His seasonal reappearance was along the road at Aintree over 2m4f and he won easily that day, getting better and recording a bigger and better rating as the finish drew on so this step up to 3 miles on a flat track would seem right up his street.
We could be watching a thoroughly decent staying hurdler here even just on his own merits, so even in giving weight away we may find he’s well handicapped for this. He’s already the class horse in the race and he could prove to simply be too good for them in these conditions.
At the weights this horse is not completely out of this contest, though sometimes you cannot ignore the simple things and as a horse that has won three of 22 starts and none of his last 16 you’d be forgiven for having major doubts as to whether he can prove good enough to get beyond all of this field.
We could not pretend to be surprised should First Assignment win this, but it must be said that his price is skinny for a horse who has noticeably improved for running round Cheltenham and this test will be completely different.
With that in mind, plus the class and improvement angles taken into account, PAISLEY PARK looks like the value shout and we’re taking the top weight to put himself firmly in the Stayers’ Hurdle picture for the Festival in March.