Quality card on show at Haydock

It's not the busiest day, it's more quality than quantity, and I'm really looking forward to going to Haydock, for a superb seven race card.

In truth it's hard to pinpoint their feature race - is it the prestigious Peter March Chase, the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial or the Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle?

Looking at the prize money it's the Champion Hurdle trial and, despite it not throwing up any recent Champion Hurdlers winners, a few top names have won this in the past, like Rooster Booster who took this in 2004, the year after his Champion Hurdle win and Inglis Drever was successful in 2005 before making the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival his own.

Paul Nicholls is well on his way to regaining his Championship and his only entry for the blue ribbon event in March is Pitit Zig, who looks to enhance his reputation with a win in today's race.

Pitit Zig will be ridden by Daryl Jacob who has had a trying week after it was revealed he will not partner Big Buck's when the legendary staying hurdler makes his comeback next week.

The five-year-old showed decent form as a juvenile last season but took it to a new level in France when he was second in a Grade One in June before returning to win at the highest level in November.

He showed he was still on an upward curve when finishing second in the Ladbroke off top weight and Jacob feels he has plenty going for him.

"He absolutely loves soft ground, he showed that when winning a nice race in France," said Jacob.

"He was giving a heck of a lot of weight away to the winner in the Ladbroke, but the way he travelled that day just showed how much class he has.

"I thought that was a great run for such a young horse with that weight.

"He's stepping up in class now, but he'll have to with his rating, and the fact the ground is in his favour and we're going back left-handed will hopefully make him hard to beat."

In the Grade 2 Rossington Main Novices Hurdle all eyes will on the David Pipe trained Un Temps Pour Tout who cost his new connections £450,000 for the five-year-old in November which means only JP McManus has paid more for a National Hunt horse when forking out 530,000 guineas way back in 2004 for Garde Champetre.

The last time we saw him in his native France he finished a very good third behind Pitit Zig and Tom Scudamore will be the man on top.

"He seems to have settled well into our yard, but obviously he has come with a big reputation," said Scudamore. "What he has done at home would suggest he is well up to it and his French form is good.

"He has worked well at home and he has done everything we've asked of him to date.

"Of course they are different obstacles completely in France, they are like mini fences, so while you don't have to completely re-school them, we have jumped him over plenty of English-style hurdles just to get him used to them.

A horse that might be overlooked in this contest is the Alistair Whillans-trained Meadowcroft Boy, a five-year-old who developed into a leading bumper performer last season, following up his debut win at Newcastle in March with a decisive length and a quarter success in the valuable DBS Spring Sales Bumper at Ayr in April.

He made an encouraging start to his hurdling career when scoring by 21 lengths in a novices' hurdle at Carlisle on December 1.

Whillans reported: "Meadowcroft Boy has been in grand form since his win at Carlisle. I don't know what the opposition was like, but he won it well enough.

"He jumped well and is very professional. He is like that at home as he works well, but doesn't sparkle. He just does his work and that's it.

"We were thinking of going to Newcastle on Wednesday, but then we thought we would give him a go at a decent race and see how good he is.

"After this, we will know whether we go handicapping or for the better races in the spring, but his bumper form suggests he is pretty good."

Owner Trevor Hemmings loves winners at Haydock, and the Peter March has been good to him with wins from Arctic Jack and Cloudy Lane over the last ten years.

This year he has another big chance with Vintage Star, who is handled by the Grand National combination of Sue Smith and Ryan Mania.

Mania feels Sue Smith's charge is still progressing, and if he does not end up at Aintree this season he might do next year.

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