LAST Saturday the rain came from nowhere and soaked Cheltenham turning the ground very soft, but those conditions won’t be a patch on the desperate going forecast at Haydock tomorrow.
The Lancashire track has already seen over 40mm of rainfall this week, meaning that the dominant going description is already heavy with the threat of more showers to come.
Even though a whopping 16 runners have been declared for the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (2.25pm), I’d be very surprised if all faced the starter if the rain continues to fall.
What was once the Fixed Brush Hurdle is now a regulation hurdle race, but the trip, which is just shy of three miles, will take plenty of getting on bad ground.
The obvious one is Tom George’s The Worlds End who was still travelling with menace when falling when up-sides two flights from home in last season’s Albert Bartlett.
He made amends by landing his Grade One at Aintree on his last start and most likely would have been my selection for this very valuable prize if conditions hadn’t deteriorated.
The six-year-old has plenty of decent form on soft ground, but I’m not sure he really wants it as heavy as it’s going to be tomorrow.
In fact, it would be no surprise to see him withdrawn if conditions get any worse.
Looking for those that will relish the conditions, and the eye is obviously drawn to the two Paul Nicholls runners at the head of the weights.
Both Silsol and Zarkandar are proven performers when the mud is flying, but have massive tasks from their lofty positions at the top of the handicap.
Instead, I like the look of David Pipe’s CHAMPERS ON ICE at a tasty looking 10/1.
Not only does he have plenty of stamina, but his last three victories have come on mixtures of soft and heavy ground.
This race looks to have been the plan for some time and it can certainly be argued that he is well-handicapped on the best of his old hurdles form.
Pipe’s team are just beginning to hit top form and he looks sure to go well.
Second guessing who will actually run in the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle (1.50pm) isn’t easy, as the confirmed runners won’t be finalised until later this morning.
Current top weight Clyne loves it hock deep and ran a cracker on his seasonal reappearance behind The New One.
If he is allowed to take his chance, he should take plenty of beating, but I prefer to take a chance on Philip Hobbs’ VERNI at around 8/1.
Although he hasn’t had the benefit of a run yet this campaign, he won well twice last season after considerable breaks, suggesting he might be best caught fresh.
Those wins also came on terrible ground, suggesting he will be more than at home here in the mud.
He was a really good second in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival with plenty of smart horses in behind.
Only 4lbs higher in the weights, I expect him to continue on his upward trajectory.
In the opening contest (12.10pm), look out for Nicky Henderson’s Claimantakinforgan who looked really good on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury.
He won on heavy ground here at Haydock last season and looks to be highly progressive.
POINTERS - TOMORROW
Verni e/w 1.50pm Haydock
Champers On Ice e/w 2.25pm Haydock