Having become well-treated, Definitly Red looks decent value to defy top-weight and land the spoils in the 3m 1f Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock on Saturday (14:40).
This Brian Ellison trained 11-year-old is a classy staying chaser who has a fine 36 per cent strike rate over the larger obstacles having won eight of his 22 starts.
He is also a five-time Grade 2 winner and used to carrying big weights against useful performers on testing ground, so having to shoulder 11st 10lb on this occasion is unlikely to be an issue.
Definitly Red was last successful in the 2018 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, where he made all and stayed on strongly to readily beat Double Shuffle by 4 1/2 lengths off an official rating of 164.
He was rated 162 when running in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup where he was brought down, but is now able to race off a reduced mark of 156.
Eased in weights and Brooke a positive jockey booking
Definitly Red has been eased a further pound in the weights since finishing a solid keeping on 14 1/2 lengths fourth of 18 to Walk In The Mill in the Grade 3 Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree last month under Henry Brooke.
It is the lowest rating that Definitly Red has run off since being pulled-up in the 2017 Grand National won by One For Arthur. That gives him major claims from a handicapping perspective.
Definitly Red’s Cheltenham win prior to the Many Clouds came the 2018 Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day when scoring by eight lengths off 159.
That success saw him sent off just 8/1 for the Gold Cup two months later when finishing sixth of 15 to Native River.
He also has proven form on testing ground and is once again partnered by Brooke, who has a strike rate of just under 21 per cent when teaming up with the yard in the last 12 months.
So, taking all this into account, Definitly Red has lots going for him and looks well worth a wager at the 6/1 on offer with Betfred.
In-form Acting Lass feared most
The betting is headed by Acting Lass, who comes into the race right at the top of his game and looks the obvious main danger to Definitly Red.
This Harry Fry trained nine-year-old is very lightly-raced for his age and has won four of his eight starts over fences.
In the last of those at Chepstow in December, he made a bad blunder three from home before staying on strongly to account for Another Venture by half-a-length off a mark of 142.
Acting Lass got put up 5lb for that taking success. He ran a blinder of his revised rating of 147, however, when a three-quarters of a length second of 10 to Regal Encore in a valuable Listed contest over 3m at Ascot on heavy ground.
The son of King’s Theatre raced prominently throughout and looked the likely winner when taking up the running two from home.
He then stayed on gamely when narrowly headed at the last two go down all guns blazing to Anthiny Honyeball’s course specialist.
That brave effort has earned Acting Lass a further 3lb rise in the weights and he now has to race off a career-high rating of 150.
However, he remains open to further progress and is a proven mud-lark who promises to be suited by the step up in trip.
Fry also boasts a healthy overall strike rate of 28 per cent with his runners at the Merseyside venue and has his team in red-hot form at present.
A bold bid to get back to winning ways looks assured, so Acting Lass can be backed at 5/1 with Unibet to do just that.
Vintage Clouds the each-way play in Peter Marsh Handicap Chase
Yorkshire handler Sue Smith has won two of the last four runnings of the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase, courtesy of Cloudy Too (2016) and Wakanda (2018).
Her sole representative this time around is Vintage Clouds, who was last successful over course and distance back in November 2018 when beating Takingrisks by half-a-length off a mark of 143.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned 10-year-old went on to finish a cracking 1 1/4 lengths second of 24 to Beware The Bear in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival off 144.
Vintage Clouds was also far from disgraced on his final start of the campaign when fifth of 23 to Takingrisks in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr off 149.
He is now able to race off 143, the same mark as when last victorious.
As Vintage Clouds comes into the race having posted an improved effort last time out over course and distance when a keeping on but 20-length third to the thriving Lord Du Mesnil off 2lb higher in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase, it was a step back in the right direction.
That was his third start of the season, so – if building on it – Vintage Clouds now looks handicapped to make his presence felt in this.
He also won a novice hurdle at the track earlier in his career, so this venue clearly suits.
The one concern is that the stable has been quiet of late, but apart from that Vintage Clouds ticks plenty of boxes and thus appeals each-way at odds of 8/1 with Betway.