A typically tough Peter Marsh Chase is on the cards this Saturday. Haydock is known for being flat in nature, but jump jockeys will tell you that it takes plenty of getting when the ground is soft which it is right now meaning over 3m1½f things should be gruelling.
Royal Pagaille put up an outstanding performance to win this race last year and is back for another go. His presence also means his main rivals have some very nice racing weights, something that may play a crucial part in this contest yet.
These are the six horses we take against the 10-horse field, all gunning for a first prize of over £42,000:
Twice a winner at Sandown last season, Alnadam is not exactly proving to be prolific otherwise. He jumps well generally, appears to be improving after a quiet start to the campaign, is moving down the handicap despite retaining potential and handles the going.
There is plenty to like about Dan Skelton’s runner then, the worry being that he is not quite back to peak form and therefore perhaps not ready to win a race of this nature yet.
Following his defeat of the top-class Protektorat at Kelso last year and his runner-up effort on ground quicker than ideal over this course and distance in November we were really keen on Empire Steel for the Rowland Meyrick chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.
Indeed, Sandy Thomson’s lovely grey was going best of all in Yorkshire before coming down at the fourth-last fence.
He retains that ability and in fact is clearly getting better. His handicap mark over Christmas didn’t reflect his true ability and it certainly won’t now. Given that he will relish these conditions, he must have a serious chance of landing this race under the best in the business, Brian Hughes.
A Philip Hobbs runner shouldn’t be ignored in a race of this nature, least of all when it’s a last-time-out winner over three miles on soft ground and now runs in a first-time sheepskin noseband.
If the headgear brings about any further improvement then Kalooki has a chance, though we also note that he just got home last time and has been raised 5lbs by the handicapper.
Lake View Lad
Nick Alexander’s runner carries the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings and would be an extremely popular winner round here.
Third over course and distance in a Veteran’s Chase in December, the now twelve-year-old still has it but he’s definitely not at his best and will have to go some to grab a first win since December 2020.
He’s moving down the weights, but needs a faultless display to come home in front.
The Tommy Whittle Chase form is understandably always discussed in the context of this race and it is represented by Remastered of the David Pipe yard.
A runner-up in that and a three-time winner over fences, Remastered brings in some top form and could yet be ahead of the assessors.
The horse who beat him in December, Enqarde, was well fancied for this race but ultimately doesn’t run. Remastered was a beaten favourite that day too so not everything about that run is positive. He still has more to give however and ranks very high on our shortlist.
Last year’s winner for Venetia Williams, Royal Pagaille was ultimately aimed at the Gold Cup at Cheltenham which tells you just how good this horse is.
He was second to A Plus Tard around here in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase in November too, but was soundly beaten that day and is not necessarily better now than he was twelve months ago.
He skipped round Haydock carrying 10-4 when winning in 2021, but carries 11-10 now. While that in itself may not stop him running well, he does give tons of weight away to improving rivals and so may struggle against them.
Whatever happens it will be fascinating to see how Royal Pagaille gets on, though his place at the head of the market surely makes him bad value for punters.
Alnadam has the ability to win a race like this if he is truly back on form which is not guaranteed, while Remastered brings strong Tommy Whittle form into the race and was seriously considered for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore.
The one we’re going to stick with however is EMPIRE STEEL. We’re not taking his 41-length win over Protektorat at face value, but it was a very impressive performance in its own right. He’s gone on since then and should have won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby last time. He is undoubtedly well handicapped.