Well-regarded Clan Des Obeaux takes next step on ladder for Nicholls at Haydock
The Betfair Chase takes centre stage on the most valuable jumps fixture in Britain away from Cheltenham and Aintree, but there is plenty of intrigue elsewhere. James Burn highlights some of the card's other attractions
Clan the man for Nicholls
Paul Nicholls must love Betfair Chase day having saddled the great Kauto Star to four triumphs in the big one, but the graduation chase (1.15) is another the multiple champion trainer is no doubt fond of, having won it for the last five years.
In his bid for six of the best he turns to Clan Des Obeaux, long held in high regard and only five years old, so there could be more to come.
He was beaten half a length by the smart Whisper in a two-runner affair at Kempton this month and Nicholls, whose best winner of this race is probably Politologue last year, said: "He ran nicely the other day and this looks a good race, a competitive one, but it should suit him."
'Horses for courses'
Like the graduation chase, the 2m3f handicap hurdle (1.50) boasts prize-money of £50,000 and Evan Willams is hoping to land some of that with Clyne, even if the trainer admits his last race was the big target.
Edged out by The New One in the Welsh Champion Hurdle five weeks ago, Clyne, who will be ridden by emerging conditional Mitch Bastyan, performed with credit and is two from three at Haydock.
"The race he was trained for was the last run but he was beaten fair and square," said Williams.
"That's as good as he is and he's gone up in the handicap - that's why we're claiming off him - but there was no shame being beaten by The New One.
"That was the target and he was very fit for it, but he loves it around Haydock and I think that's a major tick in the box because it's a funny old place, as in horses for courses. I couldn't over-emphasise how much he loves tracks like Haydock."
His rivals include the consistent Verni, whose trainer Philip Hobbs said: "He's in very good form. He likes Haydock and soft ground, so hopefully he'll run very well."
McCain: we like Waterlord but he'll need it
Waterlord, fourth in the 2015 Champion Bumper for former Godolphin chief executive John Ferguson, makes his first start for Donald McCain in the Listed novice hurdle at 12.10.
He was second on his hurdling debut at Huntingdon in December 2015 but has been off since and was bought by McCain in May last year.
"He had a problem last season," said the trainer, "but he's a nice horse who we like. We'd thought we'd run him in a big-field novice hurdle somewhere, but it's the first race on fresh ground at Haydock and it seemed a sensible place to start.
"He'll come on for the run and it's the slowest ground he's run on. He's a grand horse, but big and heavy, and we can only do so much at home, so a race will do him the world of good."
Champion Johnson aiming to be part of National Jockey Day
There are few tougher sportspeople than Richard Johnson, yet even he had to wave the white flag on Friday and relinquish his rides following a Wincanton fall on Thursday. He hopes to return at Haydock on what is, appropriately, National Jockey Day.
Quoted on his Betway blog, Johnson said: "I've twisted my hip and I’m quite sore. It’s unfortunate but that’s part of the job and hopefully some rest should mean I'm fine to ride this weekend."
It could be a lucrative day for Johnson and an even more lucrative day for the Injured Jockeys Fund, the beneficiary of the Betfair-inspired charity mission.
Betfair will give up to £50,000 to the IJF by donating £1 every time the #NationalJockeyDay hashtag is used on Twitter. In addition, fans can donate £5 by texting 'IJF’ to 70800.