The Grand National hero of 2017, ONE FOR ARTHUR, returns to action in one of the big races of the weekend when he takes on 11 rivals in the £75,000 Grade Two Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock Park.
Saturday’s 3m1f contest has gone the way of top-class chasers Our Vic (2010) and Bristol De Mai (2017) in recent years, with the latter subsequently gaining back-to-back renewals of the Grade One Betfair Chase, also at Haydock.
Injury has restricted One For Arthur, who is trained in Scotland by Lucinda Russell and former champion jockey Peter Scudamore, to just one start since his famous National triumph.
On his eagerly-awaited comeback last month, the ten-year-old got no further than the third fence when unseating Tom Scudamore in the Grade Two Betway Many Clouds Chase over the Mildmay Course at Aintree.
If all goes well at Haydock, he will be primed for another tilt at the big one on Saturday, April 6.
Among his stiffest opponents this weekend will be top-weight VALTOR, a horse previously trained in France by Eric Leray who triumphed by eight lengths on his UK debut in the Listed Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot just before Christmas.
The ten-year-old, who finished sixth in the Grade One Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris in May, was purchased by leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede with this year’s Randox Health Grand National in mind.
His handler, Lambourn-based champion trainer Nicky Henderson, reported: “Valtor was very impressive at Ascot and jumped very well.
“He was at the bottom of the handicap at Ascot and will now have to carry top weight in the Peter Marsh Chase.
“He was a horse we were looking at the Grand National with. He was well handicapped, but we threw him in first time out at Ascot and he has now gone up 12lb!
“He had not won a race for more than two years in France before he won at Ascot.”
Our Vic’s trainer David Pipe is represented at Haydock by DAKLONDIKE, who has won on three of his last five starts. The seven-year-old rallied to beat BALLYARTHUR by a length in the Smarkets Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock on his most recent outing.
Pipe, whose stables are on the Devon/Somerset border, said: “Daklondike disappointed at Cheltenham in November, but battled well last time. The visor helped him that day, as did the Soft ground.
“He prefers Soft to Heavy ground and, hopefully, they will get more rain at Haydock as staying chases in that type of ground really suit him.”
Of the rest, CAPTAIN REDBEARD, trained by Stuart Coltherd and ridden by his son, Sam Coltherd, has never finished outside the first three in five attempts at Haydock, including when second behind The Dutchman in last year’s Peter Marsh Chase.
While lightly-raced ten-year-old ROBINSFIRTH, the mount of champion jockey Richard Johnson, is out to defy a 400-day absence. He has not raced since capturing a Grade Three handicap chase at Cheltenham in December 2017 on what was just his 11th career start.
BALLYDINE is another with not many miles on the clock. Charlie Longsdon’s nine-year-old was last seen when going down narrowly in the Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury on December 29. He will wear a tongue tie and cheekpieces for the first time on Saturday.
WAKANDA, from the Sue Smith yard, a Grade Two-winning novice at Haydock in 2015, has since landed four Listed handicap chases, the most recent being the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster nearly a year ago.
Another course scorer is RED INFANTRY, who drops down in trip after finishing second in the London National Handicap Chase at Sandown Park last month.
The Peter Marsh line-up is completed by OTAGO TRAIL, from the in-form Venetia Williams stable, who was third in the Listed Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on his penultimate start, likeable veteran CHASE THE SPUD and Dan Skelton’s THREE MUSKETEERS.
Haydock’s seven-race programme also features £75,000 The New One Unibet Hurdle over 2m, a recognised trial for the £450,000 Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The entries are led by SILVER STREAK (Evan Williams), who finished second in the Grade Two Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, and MOHAAYED (Dan Skelton), who has landed big handicap hurdles at both the Cheltenhema Festival and Ascot over the last year.
Recently-retired The New One, who landed the race named in his honour a record four times (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018). will be parading before the contest.
Henderson also holds the key to £30,000 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle with MISTER FISHER, an impressive winner at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.