This was once the weekend when Paul Nicholls would get his season going at full tilt, but the Ditcheat handler does not have a Kauto Star to fire at Haydock’s Betfair Chase this weekend.
Nicholls is short of the firepower of days past and has been relieved of the champion trainer crown by Nicky Henderson.
The ten-time champion will not have a runner in Saturday’s feature event, while Henderson has side-stepped the Grade 1 with Might Bite.
More on that race to come, but first a Nicholls runner on the undercard that can hopefully turn some profit.
The 2m5f Graduation Chase (13:15) has been won in each of the last five years by a Nicholls runner, and at odds of 5/2, Clan Des Obeaux can maintain that run.
Harry Cobden’s mount ran the talented Whisper to within a half-length on his reappearance at Kempton last time out and the Seven Barrows inmate is rated 12lb higher than anything he meets now.
With the benefit of that effort behind him, Clan Des Obeaux can improve and defy the weight he must concede to the likes of Big River and Born Survivor at Haydock to continue his trainer’s exceptional record in the race.
In the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (14:25) it might just be worth taking a chance on good old Zarkandar for the Nicholls team.
Now ten, he landed the Grade 2 Rendlesham over course and distance back in February and could be set to go well fresh this time.
He has been a tremendous money-spinner for connections down the years and odds of 22/1 are, perhaps, writing him off too soon albeit in a competitive and deep race.
On that note, this might not be the time to desert the mighty Cue Card either who is looking to win the Betfair Chase (15:00) for third year in a row and the fourth time in five years.
Trainer Colin Tizzard is convinced Cue Card, now 11, is “as good as ever” and while that may not strictly be true, he could be up to winning this.
Kauto Star famously wound back the clock to win this very race in 2011 and Cue Card can do similar now to put the obituaries on ice at odds of 15/8.
Harry Cobden takes over in the saddle after Paddy Brennan was axed and the supremely popular Cue Card is just the sort to put on a show for his new partner.
Bristol De Mai took advantage of his departure at Wetherby to win the Charlie Hall last month and is 5/4 favourite to add this prize for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The Betfair Chase has a history of producing spine-tingling moments and Cue Card is fancied to create another.