Forest fire set to burn off contenders at Haydock
Forest Des Aigles' fondness for a ruck in the muck should serve him very well in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
Lucinda Russell's seven-year-old has plenty to find on the ratings, but he is in pretty inspirational form, having won his last three races over fences.
The expectancy, too, is that he is still progressing ahead of what will be just his ninth start since thoughts turned to chasing.
Forest Des Aigles has gone up 21lb since his winning spree began at Hexham in October, but above all else with this race in mind is his expertise on heavy ground.
Conditions are likely to be pretty desperate on Merseyside, which must surely be a worry for a good chunk of the field.
Not so Forest Des Aigles, who cannot have it wet enough.
And after having proven his stamina with a fine success over three miles at Bangor in mid-December, everything looks in place for a big show.
Un De Sceaux is expected to put the novice Brain Power firmly in his place when he goes for a third consecutive victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
Brain Power has been the talking horse in the build-up to the Grade One, with the bookmakers desperate to tell us about the big-money gamble on him.
But Un De Sceaux has been there and done it all before and is unlikely to be too ruffled by this latest pretender to the crown.
Willie Mullins' 10-year-old is arguably one of the most underrated jumps horses in training.
Despite having won an extraordinary number of races, seven of which at the highest level, he rarely gets a mention in the same bracket as the more-vaunted leviathans from the Mullins yard.
There is, of course, little argument he is better when the mud is flying, so the forecast for further wintry showers in Berkshire will be greeted with quiet satisfaction in Closutton.
In any case, Un De Sceaux's class and course nous are likely to overwhelm Brain Power, who unseated at Sandown on his last start and meets the hot favourite on level weights.
Guitar Pete was an unheralded winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup but deserves another day in the spotlight when he runs in the bet365 Handicap Chase.
The grey's big-race success at Cheltenham was rightly shuffled into the background following the demise of Starchitect, who appeared to have the Grade Three handicap held in safekeeping.
Guitar Pete still tidily outmanoeuvred a better field than this and has only gone up 5lb, which seems fairly generous.
One blip in the BetVictor Gold Cup aside - and even then he was victim of fate - Nicky Richards' inmate has been in cracking form this season.
There seems very little reason to suggest his hot streak will be coming to an end any time soon.
ASCOT: 12.40 Nayati, 1.15 Drumcliff, 1.50 La Bague Au Roi, 2.25 Night Of Sin, 3.00 GUITAR PETE (NAP), 3.35 Un De Sceaux, 4.05 Santini.
CHELMSFORD: 6.15 Fast Act, 6.45 Kath's Lustre, 7.15 Crumblecreek, 7.45 Titan Goddess, 8.15 Satchville Flyer, 8.45 Authentic Art.
HAYDOCK: 12.55 Le Frank, 1.30 Testify, 2.05 Lostintranslation, 2.40 The New One, 3.15 Forest Des Aigles, 3.45 Lake Field, 4.15 Southfield Royale.
LINGFIELD: 12.20 Pearl Spectre, 12.50 Motown Mick, 1.25 Broughtons Story, 2.00 Epicurious, 2.35 Lawless Secret, 3.10 Fearsome, 3.40 Morning Has Broken, 4.10 Secret Strategy.
NAVAN: 12.25 Stooshie, 1.00 Roundstone, 1.35 Burren Life, 2.10 Smokey Joe Joe, 2.45 Bonbon Au Miel, 3.20 Bandon Bridge, 3.50 Castlebawn West.
TAUNTON: 1.05 Diamant Bleu, 1.40 Enola Gay, 2.15 Irving, 2.50 Geordie Des Champs, 3.25 Brianstorm, 3.55 Space Oddity.
DOUBLE: Forest Des Aigles and Guitar Pete.