13:05 Haydock

Leg 1 Selections: Theme Tune 

THEME TUNE won twice during the 2020/21 season and ran a decent race to finish fourth at Kelso on his stable debut last time. This is a drop in grade and the only previous time he was seen at this course, he finished fourth in a good-quality race behind Celebre D’Allen off a mark of 123. He is twelve pounds lower now, and Bruce Lynn takes off a further three-pounds plus the cheekpieces are reattached, so his claims are quite strong here. 

13:35 Haydock

Leg 2 Selections: Merveillo

None of these can be safely ruled out but MERVEILLO was pretty smart on the Flat and ran well on both starts in the UK in a pair of good-quality stayers’ events over two-miles and is rated 94 in that sphere. His shrewd handler has clearly been using those couple of Flat starts with an intention of sending him over hurdles at some point this year. Now he gets that chance, this promising four-year-old could take some stopping on his hurdles debut here. 

14:07 Haydock

Leg 3 Selections: Beauport, Ballygriffincottage

BEAUPORT progressed through the ranks over hurdles last season and made a lovely start to his chase career when winning the Listed Colin Parker Intermediate Chase at Carlisle last month. He did very well to beat a Grade One winner in the shape of Millers Bank considering he was conceding fitness and chase experience and is sure to be even fitter here as he drops in grade. 

He gets his conditions and drops in grade, so with more to come, he can defy his penalty and make it two-from-two over fences. His biggest danger is BALLYGRIFINCOTTAGE, who ran a big race when fourth in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival and looks every inch a chaser, so Dan Skelton’s charge will ensure the favourite doesn’t have it all his own way here. 

14:37 Haydock

Leg 4 Selections: Nemean Lion, Moonlight Spirit

This is a quality race for the grade but NEMEAN LION absolutely bolted up on his hurdles debut at Hereford two weeks ago and could end up top-class in this division for Kerry Lee. He jumped and travelled well and scored by nine lengths-plus on the bridle and although this race will ask more of his credentials, he could be up to the task ahead as he clearly possesses a fair amount of ability. 

MOONLIGHT SPIRIT was also classy on the Flat, rated as high as 110 and won a Group Three alongside being highly-tried in the Gold Cup behind Stradivarius. He made a good hurdles debut when winning at Carlisle and although he hasn’t been seen since, it’s interesting to see connections pitch him into the deep-end here under a penalty on his return, so he could run a huge race. Furthermore, his Cartmel-based handler reported he was only 80% fit on his hurdles debut, so better is to come, and he has excellent place claims. 

15:07 Haydock

Leg 5 Selections: Coo Star Sivola, Up Helly Aa King 

Venetia Williams has two participants here, including the top-weight Chambard who won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham on his latest start but Charlie Deutsch has opted for COO STAR SIVOLA, who I know doesn’t have the best record fresh but he has joined this stable on a really nice mark. He won the Ultima at Cheltenham four years ago off a twelve-pounds higher mark and could be primed to run a big race on his return here. 

UP HELLY AA KING was fourth in this twelve months ago and is weighted to finish a lot closer to Blaklion this time around. He won a good veterans’ race on his final start last season and returned with a good fourth at Kelso when last spotted. With his fitness assured and this race likely to be run to suit with lots of pace expected to be on offer, this eleven-year-old might just get the perfect set-up to make a serious impact. 

15:37 Haydock

Leg 6 Selections: Djelo, Jungle Jack

DJELO made a fantastic start to his career for Venetia Williams when winning on the bridle at Exeter ten days ago. He could be tough to beat with loads more to come, though Donald McCain’s JUNGLE JACK would have pushed Harbour Lake close last time without a mistake at the last hurdle and had won his three previous starts. He should give the favourite most to think about here.