Top-weight Definitly Red heads a field of 10 for the £75,000 G2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase (2.40pm), one of the highlights on an excellent card at Haydock Park this Saturday, 18 January, Peter Marsh Chase Day.
First run in 1981, the limited handicap chase, staged over three just shy of three and a quarter miles, has a fantastic roll of honour including four horses who went on the land the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Little Owl (1981), Bregawn (1982), The Thinker (1987) and Jodami (1993 & 1997).
The best horse to land the contest in recent years is Bristol de Mai (2017), a two-time winner of Haydock Park's most prestigious contest, the G1 Betfair Chase (2017 & 2018).
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison/Henry Brooke, 11st 10lb) has contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the last two years – he finished sixth in 2018 and was brought down last year.
The 11-year-old, who is a four-time G2 victor over fences, ran creditably in handicap company last time out when fourth in the G3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on 7 December.
Market leaders Acting Lass (Harry Fry/Sean Bowen) and Prime Venture (Evan Williams/Isabel Williams, 7) are looking to back up good performances over the festive period.
Acting Lass was just denied by Regal Encore in a valuable three-mile Listed handicap chase at Ascot on 21 December, while Prime Venture stayed-on to take a close fourth in the G3 Welsh Grand National on 27 December.
Anthony Honeyball is expecting a bold showing from progressive mare Midnight Tune (Aidan Coleman, 10st 4lb). A G2 winner over hurdles, the nine-year-old relished testing conditions when landing mares’ novices’ chases at Uttoxeter and Exeter on her two most recent outings.
Honeyball said: “Midnight Tune is in great form. This race has been the target and is essentially her Gold Cup.
“She won nicely at Exeter last time where she made all the running and jumped soundly before keeping on strongly.
“She relishes testing ground conditions and, whilst Saturday is a big test, she is a thorough stayer and I hope she can run a big race.”
Trainer Sue Smith and jockey Danny Cook team up with Vintage Clouds, who was third over the course and distance in the Betway Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase on 21 December. Smith and Cook have captured the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase with Wakanda (2019) and Cloudy Too (2016) in recent years. Danny Cook is the joint-most successful jockey of all time in the race with three wins. He also scored on the David Pipe-trained Our Vic in 2010.
Champers On Ice (David Pipe/Tom Scudamore) returns to chasing after a successful first half of the campaign over hurdles. After handicap successes at Ffos Las and Newbury, he finished third in a similar contest at Cheltenham on 13 December.
Scottish-trained challenger Geronimo (Sandy Thomson/Ryan Mania) and Claud And Goldie (Sandy Forster/Richie McLernon) were both successful on their latest starts, winning handicap chases at Newcastle and Kelso respectively.
Flying Angel (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies), a G1-winning novice chaser at Aintree in 2017, and Red Indian (Kelly Morgan/Ben Jones, 5) complete the line-up.
The second £75,000 contest is the G2 The New One Unibet Hurdle (3.15pm, 2m, nine entries), which serves as a trial for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Flakey Dove won both contests in 1994.
The race was named in honour of The New One in 2019, following his record four consecutive victories in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The New One, who was retired at the end of 2018, will parade ahead of the race named in his honour.
Pentland Hills (Nicky Henderson), the winner of last season’s G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, is the 6/4 favourite with Unibet. Stablemate Call Me Lord and G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle victor Cornerstone Lad (Micky Hammond) are also engaged.
The New One Unibet Hurdle – Unibet prices:
6/4 Pentland Hills
7/2 Call Me Lord
4/1 Cornerstone Lad
10/1 Song For Someone
12/1 Ribble Valley
25/1 Minella Charmer
66/1 Eleanor Bob
The other G2 contests on the card are the £32,000 Patrick Coyne Memorial Altcar Novices' Chase (1.30pm, 2m 4f, eight entries) and the £30,000 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (2.05pm, 2m, 11 entries). Declarations for the three non-handicap G2 races are made at 10am tomorrow, Friday, 17 January.
The going at Haydock Park is currently Heavy. Further rain is forecast today, with drier conditions expected from Friday. Temperatures are expected to remain mild.