Eleven will go to post for Haydock’s Grand National Trial on Saturday with the weights headed by the 2018 Welsh Grand National winner, Elegant Escape who has had a wind operation since finishing sixth in his bid to follow up in the Chepstow feature over the Christmas period.

The market is headed by Lord Du Mesnil – 4/1 at BetVictor – who has won his last three including over C&D last time. The handicapper has had his say, however, and Richard Hobson’s seven-year-old is 27lbs higher than when scoring at Newcastle at the end of November, but who is to say that he has yet reached his ceiling?

Today’s feature card comes from Sandown and clerk of the course Andrew Cooper has called a “precautionary inspection” for 8 am yet described the course as “borderline raceable” which seems a slight contradiction. Still let’s hope the card gets the green light although conditions are sure to be extremely testing.

In the opener Faustinovick (1.20) has been disappointing so far this term, but is held in high regard by Colin Tizzard and gets the vote despite the steadier of 12st 4lbs. Jonjo O’Neill takes the mount in this conditional jockey’s event and I would expect him to make plenty of use of his  mount given he is dropping down to the minimum trip for the first time. Captain Blackpearl is another who drops down in distance for his handicap debut and rates the main danger.

In the Royal Artillery Gold Cup, I hope to see Catamaran Du Seuil (3.00) go one better than was the case at Leicester last time over an extended two-and-a-half-miles. The selection has won over today’s 3m trip and he looks sure to give Major Harry Wallace – who has ridden the winner of this famous race twice in the last decade – a good spin this afternoon. The Dr Richard Newland yard have been hitting the bar in recent weeks, but I hope they can strike gold in this prestigious race for military amateur riders.

Thomas Patrick drifted like a barge at Haydock on his reappearance and ran as well as the market suggested he would. If the market speaks in his favour, I will be supporting Tom Lacey’s eight-year-old who is 3lbs lower in the weights today and has bits of form – second to Elegant Escape here in November 2018 – which suggest he could be very well treated despite top-weight. Note he wears cheek-pieces for the first-time this afternoon. 

The vote, however, goes to Alminar (4.00) who scored at Chepstow last time in the manner of a progressive young chaser. A 7lbs rise is fair and Anthony Honeyball’s seven-year-old remains open to significant improvement.

Over at Fakenham and Dundrum Wood steps up to three miles for the first time on his handicap debut and I think connections will be disappointed if he is not up to defying an opening mark of 120. He is very much a chaser-in-waiting, however and will be one to follow over the larger obstacles next term. The vote goes to the Venetia Williams’ trained mare Penny Mallow (3.50) who has been raised 7lbs for her latest second at Carlisle last time but can race from her old mark this afternoon.

Last year’s Foxhunters’ runner up Shantou Flyer has his prep race for the Festival as he bids to go one better but will certainly not be a betting proposition and, earlier in the card, I hope to see Senior Citizen (3.20) build on the form of his second at Doncaster on his chase debut when he ran a terrific race at the weights.

Alan King’s seven-year-old jumped out to his left at Town Moor and this track should suit. The likely market leader is Rizzardo who carries a 7lbs penalty for scoring at Huntingdon last week but is 2lbs “well-in” on official figures.

At Lingfield I am looking forward to seeing if Makram (3.40) can go one better than when second at Kempton on debut, when he fluffed the start before powering home down the outside. He will get further than 7f in time, but he receives 7lbs from previous winner Amazing News and he can swoop fast and late to get off the mark at the second attempt.

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