Haydock stages a competitive seven-race card this afternoon and we're attacking the feature Pertemps Handicap Hurdle with a 9/1 shot.
There’s quality flat action at Lingfield and Ascot this afternoon – I’ve previewed the feature Victoria Cup elsewhere on this site – but jumps aficionados will only have eyes for Haydock.
Not that finding winners will be any easier and the big betting handicap, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (formerly the Swinton), looks wide open with bookmakers going 8/1 the field.
Unperturbed, I’m going to have a crack and – after much studying of form / watching videos (so you don’t have to) – I’ve landed on the Steve Gollings-trained HANDIWORK, who is BetVictor’s 15/2 favourite but is still available at 9/1. The novice Arzal is the general market leader but he has far more on his plate then when winning at Chepstow last time and was pulled up the last time he ran in a handicap, albeit the ultra-competitive Imperial Cup.
The selection, on the other hand, is proven is big-field handicaps like this one having finished a head runner-up in a competitive heat here in in March, his first run in nearly five months. He filled the same spot when switched to the flat on his next start at Musselburgh and arguably ran his best race yet over hurdles last time, finishing a staying-on fourth in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, despite being 2lb wrong at the weights.
The handicapper has risen another 2lb for that effort, but he’s unlikely to have got a hold on the five-year-old just yet. Twice a winner in his juvenile hurdle campaign and far from disgraced when ninth (of 24) in the Fred Winter Hurdle, he probably still has his best days ahead of him and is weighted to overturn the form with Ayr winner and top weight Cheltenian. He should also get the fast pace he needs over this trip.
Winning this prestigious prize would mean a lot to his small yard and its interesting to see they’ve booked the services of Nico de Boinville. He was one of the success stories of last season, with the undoubted highest being his winning ride on Coneygree in the Gold Cup. This is his first ride ever for the stable and I’m hopeful it can be a winning one.
As for the rest, I’ve a healthy respect for Irish raider The Plan Man, who finished fourth in a hot handicap at Fairyhouse two starts back and is just 2lb higher here. Rayvin Black was also considered until I realised all his best form is when going right-handed. SONG LIGHT showed some progressive form before Christmas and would have needed the run when fifth at Plumpton last time, his first outing for three months. He could reward each-way support at 25/1.