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ALL eyes will be on the meeting at Haydock Park in what are sure to be atrocious and stamina-sapping conditions.
That has led to the absence of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the big race, the Betfair Chase (3.00), and he is likely to go straight to the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day at Kempton Park.
With Cue Card seemingly on the wane and Bristol De Mai massively underpriced, I fancy we will see trainer Gordon Elliot take the bull by the horns and land this Grade One prize with Outlander (nap).
Formerly with Willie Mullins, the nine-year-old showed he was genuinely top-class when landing the Lexus Chase last year with a storming late run under Jack Kennedy.
Several niggling problems thereafter surfaced but Elliot has managed to cajole him back to form with a brave opening salvo at Down Royal when he jumped magnificently to land the JNWine.com Champion Chase.
That run was probably about 3lbs below his Lexus success, but he is sure to come on for the outing and despite being backed from 10/1 into 6/1 this week, he remains the value in the race and will relish the hock-deep ground.
The big handicap of the day os over an extended two-and-three-quarter miles over the brush hurdles at 2.25 and, with several of the 16 runners prominent racers, this could literally be the survival of the fittest.
Three Musketeers looks nicely weighted in the Betfair Stayers Handicap Hurdle and should arrive at the races tight and fit following two runs, one when outpaced in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow and the other a fair fifth of 15 behind Bags Groove at Aintree, on ground which would have been quick enough for him.
Champers On Ice and No Hassle Hoff, stablemate of the selection, look the most likely dangers for this big prize, but ultimately it may not be the best horse that wins but the one that simply handles the conditions best of all.
I can pass on a tip for the very well handicapped Value At Risk in the two-and-a-quarter mile handicap hurdle due off at 1.50 and his chance is there for all to see off a mark of just 145 after running a cracking second to Unowhatimeanharry at Aintree.
However, I just have my doubts about him handling the very testing going and I much prefer the claims of Clyne (nb) who simply revels in the mud and has a really good record at Haydock Park.
Twice touched off by the classy The New One, another lover of this flat Lancashire track, he is tactically versatile and looks sure to be given a really good tow into the race with El Terremoto set to take them along at a brisk pace.
At Ascot, I am firmly on the side of Top Notch in the Christy 1965 Chase due off at 2.05, while the feature Coral Hurdle at 2.40 should go to the new kid on the block Defi De Seuil.
Finally, on the evening card at Wolverhampton, have a second look at both Powerful Dream in the low-grade sprint handicap at 6.45 and the well handicapped Ingleby Angel in the extended nine-furlong handicap at 8.45.
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