Haydock Park stages a tremendous seven-race programme on Saturday, 23 January which features both the G2 The New One Unibet Hurdle (3.15pm, 2m, 5 entries) and the G2 Peter Marsh Limited Handicap Chase (2.40pm, 3m 1.5f, 18 entries).
The Peter Marsh Limited Handicap Chase boasts an outstanding roll of honour featuring the likes of Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Little Owl, Bregawn, The Thinker and Jodami as well as Grand National hero Earth Summit.
The 18 entries in 2021 are headed by 156-rated Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams), who has looked most impressive this season with victories at Haydock Park and Kempton Park. The seven-year-old, who runs in the famous silks of Rich and Susannah Ricci, holds an entry in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. Herefordshire-based Williams is no stranger to success in this contest, having taken the honours with General Wolfe (1999) and The Outlier (2007).
Another contender successful last time out is Sam’s Adventure (Brian Ellison), who put up a game performance to land the Betfair Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, staged over the same distance at Haydock Park, by four lengths on 19 December.
North Yorkshire-based Ellison is keen to return to Haydock Park with Sam’s Adventure and reported today: “Sam’s Adventure is in good form and the plan is for him to run in the Peter Marsh Chase on Saturday.
“This race has been the target since his last win at Haydock where he was very impressive.
“He stays the trip and handles testing conditions, so we would be hopeful of a good run.
“It looks a competitive race judging by the entries, but you would expect that and we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”
Sam Brown (Anthony Honeyball) was a G2 winner on this card in 2020, when taking the G2 Altcar Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles. He ran well on his reappearance when third, beaten three lengths, behind Imperial Aura in the Listed Colin Parker Intermediate Chase on 1 November at Carlisle.
Other horses coming into the contest in good form include Clan Legend (Nick Alexander), a winner over the Mildmay Course at Aintree last month, and Cobolobo (Jonjo O’Neill), who had no problem with very testing conditions when scoring last time out at Exeter.
Another progressive performer engaged is Cap du Nord (Christian Williams), who landed the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury in November.
Trainer Christian Williams is currently considering his options for the eight-year-old and said today: “Cap du Nord is a possible for the Peter Marsh Chase, but I think the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster is our first preference.
“We entered just in case Royale Pagaille doesn’t turn up at Haydock, but we are leaning towards Doncaster.”
Perfect Candidate (Fergal O’Brien) is now a 14-year-old but is far from a back number, taking the My Odds Boost On Betfair Stayers' Handicap Chase by an amazing 45 lengths at Haydock Park on 21 November.
Takingrisks (Nicky Richards) lifted the G3 Scottish Grand National in 2019 and showed signs of a return to form last time when fourth in the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November.
The G2 The New One Unibet Hurdle commemorates the outstanding performer The New One, who won this contest a record four times – 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018. The New One won over £1 million in prize money and was successful on 20 of his 40 starts, which also included a joint-record three victories in the G2 Unibet International Hurdle plus the G1 Aintree Hurdle and G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Wayne Jones, who looked after The New One throughout his racing career, continued to take care of The New One following his retirement in December, 2018 and the pair attended The Horse of the Year Show. Sadly, The New One passed away in October, 2020, following a bout of colic.
The five entries for The New One Unibet Hurdle this year are headed by Buveur d’Air (Nicky Henderson), who is the 1/2 favourite with sponsor Unibet. The 10-year-old, owned by J P McManus, is an eight-time G1 winner including the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2017 and 2018. He has been off the course since sustaining an injury at Newcastle in November, 2019. Buveur d’Air was successful on his only previous visit to Haydock Park when taking a novices’ chase back in December, 2016.
Song For Someone (Tom Symonds) looks a most progressive performer, having won his last three starts in G2 company, most recently landing the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. The New One’s trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is the most successful trainer ever in the contest with his sixth victory coming a year ago courtesy of Ballyandy, who is entered once again.
Completing the quintet are Navajo Pass (Donald McCain), fourth in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle last season and the winner of a competitive handicap hurdle at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day, plus Ribble Valley (Nicky Henderson), third to reigning champion hurdler Epatante in the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November.
Donald McCain said today of Navajo Pass: “It is very possible that Navajo Pass will run in the New One Unibet Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday.
“We’re very limited really in where we can go with him really.
“It looks like being a very competitive race with the likes of Buveur d’Air set to run.
“He ran earlier this month so it is quite a quick turnaround, but there is every possibility that he will run.
“It was a good performance at Musselburgh and hopefully there is still plenty more to come from him."