HAYDOCK is tough going at the best of times, this Saturday could take that to the next level.
The Tommy Whittle is the highlight, an old school handicap chase, and we have seven races in total.
Race 1 - 11.50 Betway Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
Only five are set to go to post in this two mile handicap hurdle - the heavy ground will have put a good few of you'd have to think.
It's good to see Top Gamble going strong at 11 and he is plenty lower in the weights over hurdles than he is over fences.
But he's not shown much for a good while and this is his first spin over hurdles for nearly five years.
It looks between James Moffat's Minella Charmer and Donald McCain's FIN AND GAME and it is the latter that just takes preference.
He's a horse that has promised plenty without winning much but it looks as if the game is finally making sense with the seven-year-old.
He's on the same mark as when second to Cornerstone Lad in heavy ground here and ran promisingly behind Bold Plan last time out. Both of those efforts are rock solid and the return to two miles and Lorcan Murtagh taking 3lbs off are both positives too.
Minella Charmer has more to offer than his current mark, but top weight and with no run under his belt makes me think his day will come later in the season.
Bang On doesn't look up to this while Notwhatiam is completely out of sorts.
SELECTION: Fin And Game
DANGER: Minella Charmer
Race 2 - 12.25 Betway Novices' Chase
We're short on numbers again here - only three for this novice chase.
And on numbers it should fall to Nicky Henderson's PRECIOUS CARGO on his chasing bow.
He impressed when joining from Lucinda Russell's and was not disgraced in Grade 1 company at Aintree.
Chasing was always going to be his thing and while Haydock is no easy place to start, connections will be disappointed if he can't see off his rivals.
Those rivals are the 125-rated Coole Well and the 137-rated Moonlighter.
Coole Well has a lot of ground to make up with these, while Moonlighter has a bit to prove in conditions.
In all honesty it's not much of a betting heat and it is probably best to keep your powder dry.
TENTATIVE NOD: Precious Cargo
Race 3 - 1.00 Betway Abram Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Listed Race)
This is far from the deepest Listed race you'll see through the season, but represents a great chance at some welcome black type for those brave enough to face the heavy Haydock ground.
The top rated mare is Early Morning Rain coming in at a mere 129, demonstrating the wide-open feel to this.
But the majority of these have the world in front of them and the ratings can go out of the window to an extent.
The one top of the shortlist is ROSIE AND MILLIE for the in form Michael Scudamore team.
She showed promise in bumpers but has already shown marked improvement going over hurdles in her two starts.
She was second to a decent Nigel Twiston-Davies yardstick on her hurdling bow and backed that up with a resounding win next time out.
The ground should hold no fears and she very much looks a horse on the up.
Deja Vue is another with a big chance. She hosed up last time in handicap company and why the company was very weak, she must be plenty better than her mark of 122.
Trainer Anthony Honeyball is good with up and coming horses and her two wins on heavy are reassuring, even if she does have stamina to prove.
Henry Daly must think highly of It's Probably Me to run allow her to make her hurdling debut in this. But she has some smart bumper form to her name and Daly does like to run some of his better types at the Merseyside track. She could be one to keep an eye on heading forwards.
Sweet Adare deserves a shot at this after two handicap wins and will have friends in the betting, but she is more exposed than some of these and may have found her level.
SELECTION: Rosie And Millie
DANGER: Deja Vue
Race 4 - 1.35 #betyourway At Betway Handicap Chase
Another smallish field next up with six set to go in this trappy little handicap chase.
Not much comes into this in form and there's 17lbs between the top and bottom weight.
Venetia William's team are in as good a form as you could hope for and it's the lightly-raced CHAMBARD that makes most appeal.
He ran a blinder on chase debut behind the impressive Champagne Court and was then sent off a warm favourite at Leicester next time out.
He could only manage second there, but the return to soft ground makes you think he is still nicely-handicapped, especially in comparison to some of his rivals.
Rose Sea Has won convincingly at Sedgefield last time out but has been chucked up 6lbs and carrying 11'12 around here as a four-year-old is a monumental ask.
Sir Egbert still looks handicapped to the hilt and Joke Dancer fell on his only previous go at chasing. They are both hard to trust.
Race 5 - 2.05 Betway Casino Handicap Hurdle
Phil Kirby's team aren't at their flying best but the signs of them clunking back into life are there and his SAKHEE'S CITY must have a bit of wiggle room left in his mark.
He's far from unexposed but has found a different level for whatever this season and tends to run his race.
He started off the year with a second to the well-treated Mr Scrumpy and then went one better in soft ground at Wetherby next time out.
The trip is the unknown, but it could be that it helps him take the next step up on the handicap ladder. The ground should be no issue whatsoever.
Big Shark is completely unexposed for the Philip Hobbs team. But a mark of 133 is no gimme and this is a hefty ask of a five-year-old on his fourth outing.
Secrete Stream is another on the shortlist. He is obviously a tad fragile, but goes well fresh and remains only 4lbs higher than his win here two starts ago, of which he came into fresh too.
Ruth Jefferson continues to pop in the winners and this is likely to have been a plan for a good while. He should be primed.
Sue Smith's Silva Eclipse is more unexposed than most of these and can't be ignored. He won on heavy two runs back but this is plenty deeper and his profile is not the most convincing.
SELECTION: Sakhee's City
DANGER: Secrete Stream
Race 6 - 2.40 Betway Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase
The main event comes up next and at least we have three places getting paid.
The obvious place to start is with THE HOLLOW GINGE who has a massive chance for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
He's only six and has only had three goes over fences. They've all been encouraging and this extra stamina test is just what the doctor ordered.
Vintage Clouds is steadily dropping back down the weights but hasn't looked right yet this season.
Daklondike is hard to trust and looks high enough in the weights currently. However, if a few of these are off song he could be in the mix and he certainly stays.
Crosspark would be the likeliest winner for me had the ground not been as testing. He stays all day and jumps like a stag on the whole.
This would have been right up his street in better conditions as he's certainly not handicapped out of things just yet.
Top Wood is as consistent as they come but surely the handicapper now has the better of the 12-year-old?
SELECTION: The Hollow Ginge
Race 7 - 3.15 Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap Hurdle
Another small field to close the card and it is hard to look past CHTI BALKO for Donald McCain.
He came good last time out and the yard are flying. He's been chucked up the weights but this is his perfect ground.
Poetic Rhythm is another that loves the mud but has had a hard old time of things. I'm not sure you could trust him with your pennies anymore.
Romeo Brown is a horse on my radar but this is a big step up. There's more to come from him though.