THERE is a 'hall of fame' ring to past winners of the three-mile Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase.
Silver Buck takes precedence with four successive wins to his name from 1979 to 1982. More recently, Kingsmark notched up a hat-trick of victories that ended in 2002.
Worth £60,000, this Grade Two chase is the feature on the card at Haydock Park on Sunday and has attracted top-class entries at the five-day stage.
Always highly regarded by trainer Jonjo O'Neill, Keen Leader, the likely top weight, recorded his best performance of last season over this course and distance in December, when the gelding left his field toiling by 17 lengths. Ground conditions are likely to suit and a repeat of that form would see him go close again.
Trainer Robert Alner will be represented by Spring Grove as Sir Rembrandt goes to Exeter next week. Take The Stand was second on his seasonal debut at Aintree when giving Farmer Jack 10lbs in weight, and he will be one of the market leaders.
Gratton Lodge is a progressive seven-year-old who is unexposed in handicap company. And with a win at Carlisle two weeks ago, he should make his presence felt here despite a step up in class and is tipped to beat his more established rivals.
Racing begins at 1.20pm with the Rectangle Group Novices Hurdle. Beamish Prince scored an effortless course and distance victory on October 21 and will be well backed to repeat that performance again. Investment Affair, trained by Ginger
McCain, finished fourth on his hurdling debut and represents value for a place.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has his string in good form and Baron Windrush looks a good prospect in the Kingsmark Novices Chase. After scoring at Stratford last month, he was unfortunate to unseat his rider last time out. The six-year-old will act on the ground and stay the two-mile six-furlong trip. Bunkum, second at Worcester last time out, will strip fitter here and makes this a competitive race.
The lightly-raced Magic Mistress contests the betdirect.co.uk Mares' Only Handicap Hurdle but may have to settle for a place if Tulipa reproduces her form of last season. With a string of four wins in novice hurdle events, she struggled at Galway back in August in more experienced company but is selected to win this two-mile contest.
Contract Scotland and Caribbean Cove finished third and fourth respectively at Wetherby on October 30. And both are entered for the Glen Chapple Benefit Handicap Chase. It was the first racecourse appearance since April for the Lenny Lungotrained Contract Scotland, who should have come on for that run and is capable of winning this race.
Final declarations are required to make a meaningful selection in the Red Square Vodka Fixed Brush National Hunt Hurdle due off at 4pm to close the card.
Word Gets Around will appreciate these smaller obstacles after lacking fluency on his chasing debut at Carlisle last month. The six-year-old has three hurdling wins to his name and this looks an ideal stepping stone if he is declared to run.
Aintree racecourse announced this week that John Smith's Brewery will sponsor the Grand National for a three-year period from April 2005.