With underfoot conditions in his favour, Daklondike looks worth siding with to retain his crown in the extended 3m 1f Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock on Saturday (14:40).
This David Pipe trained seven-year-old bounced back to form when showing a tremendous attitude to land this 12 months ago on bottomless ground.
After making headway from the rear to take up the running three from home, Daklondike got headed at the last and found himself two lengths down on the run-in.
He then rallied strongly under an action-packed ride from Ton Scudamore to get up close to home and beat Ballyarthur by a length off a mark of 139.
Daklondike got put up to 148 for that brave display and failed to shine in two subsequent outings.
However, there was a lot to like about his return to action at Newbury last month when a four-length runner-up to Diablo De Rouhet.
He was then far from disgraced at the same venue when a 25-length 11th of 24 to De Rasher Counter in the valuable Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy off a mark of 147.
The Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase represents a return to calmer waters and Daklondike is able to race in it off 1lb lower.
It makes him a leading contender on the pick of his form, and the son of Gold Well has a tremendous strike rate of 62 per cent on soft/heavy ground.
This is also sure to have been his early season target for some time, and Dalondike showed last year that he does not shirk a battle.
That’s a huge plus in what is going to be a gruelling war of attrition and makes him the one to be on at 9/2 with Boylesports.
Lots to like about Early Morning Rain in Listed Mares’
Trainer Jamie Snowdon has his team in good nick, and Early Morning Rain looks to hold leading claims of providing him with another winner in the Listed 2m 3f Abram Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (13:00).
This five-year-old came good at the third time of asking in bumpers when scoring in game style at Plumpton.
He was then far from disgraced when fifth of 16 to Mystic Dreamer in a hot class 2 contest that has thrown-up some smart subsequent winners.
Early Morning Rain looked like the type to do even better when sent hurdling.
That view was confirmed on seasonal reappearance when she stayed on strongly to beat Deja Vu by seven lengths at Fontwell.
She now meets the runner-up on exactly the same terms, so there is no reason why she should not confirm the form with Anthony Honeyball’s charge, who is unbeaten in two starts since.
Early Morning Rain then found life too hot in a Listed contest at Newbury won by the very highly-regarded Floressa, but quickly bounced back last time out when storming to a 27 lengths success on heavy ground at Lingfield.
Judged on that display, she looks well worth another crack at this level and underfoot conditions clearly hold no fears for the daughter of Martaline.
Early Morning Rain is also the highest rated in the 11-runner line up and is clearly going the right way and remains open to further progression.
So, taking everything into account, she looks well worth a wager at 5/1 with BetVictor to go in again.
Course specialist Closing Ceremony value to go in again
In the 3m Betway Casino Handicap Hurdle (14:05), Closing Ceremony looks decent value to enhance his superb record at the track.
This Emma Lavelle trained 10-year-old is unbeaten in four starts over course and distance.
In the last of those back in January, he showed a really willing attitude to land a class 3 by a nose from Silver Eclipse off a mark of 127.
Prior to that, his previous win had come in a Grade 2 where he beat the very smart Seeyouatmidnight by just under three lengths on soft ground off an official rating of 139.
The veteran is now able to race in this off a mark of 131. That makes him a big player at the weights on the pick of his form.
Although well-beaten on seasonal reappearance over 3m at Newbury, that was a hot class 2 affair and Closing Ceremony now drops in grade.
He has a terrific 80 per cent strike rate in class 3 contests, having won four of his five starts at this level.
Closing Ceremony is also entitled to strip fitter for that spin and now has his optimum conditions at a venue where he clearly comes alive.
Hence, at odds of 13/2 with SportNation, he looks well worth siding with in this.