Top commentator Simon Holt makes Wuff one of his three best bets from Newbury and Haydock on Saturday.
Saturday best bets:
THE likelihood of deep ground at Newbury and Haydock on Saturday will produce testing conditions which should suit my selections WUFF, DAME ROSE and EMPEROR'S CHOICE.
In Newbury's Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase, the Tom George-trained Wuff is taken to improve on a decent course record which has seen him finish second twice from three previous visits while, on the other occasion, he was badly hampered.
All three of the nine-year-old's career wins have come on soft or heavy ground, and he made a satisfactory reappearance at Bangor earlier in the month when chasing home the progressive odds-on favourite Forest Des Aigles.
That effort should have put Adrian Heskin's mount spot on for a return to Newbury, and he is just a pound higher in the ratings than when beating Henllan Harri in soft going at Ffos Las last March. It would not be a surprise if this race has been targeted by connections and the stable is in good form.
Wuff is narrowly preferred to Knockanrawley who won this race back in 2014 and is just 3lb higher.
Second in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last season, Kim Bailey's lightly-raced grey is a solid, consistent stayer and, short-headed in a bunch finish at Ayr in November, he too is bound to have been aimed at a repeat win.
In the Betfred Challow Novices' Hurdle 35 minutes later, DAME ROSE can take advantage of her 7lb mares' weight allowance and follow up an impressive two-mile course victory in a listed event here earlier in the month.
Taking on the boys and stepping up in distance certainly asks more of the front-running four-year-old but she appears to have a tremendous attitude and, already a winner on heavy ground (at Hexham) in the past, she could just run them ragged.
On official ratings, there is nothing between the selection and Kilbricken Storm, and Poetic Rhythm at the weights.
Kilbricken Storm picked up well to win over three miles at Cheltenham last time and, having earlier scored over the minimum distance of two miles at Wincanton, would appear to be trip versatile.
However, that Cheltenham contest looked a weak race for the track, and Poetic Rhythm's third to leading Festival fancy On The Blind Side and Momella (subsequent course winner) is more solid form.
Fergal O'Brien's gelding had previously won on good ground at Chepstow and there is just a small question about him in really testing conditions.
One horse who thrives in the mud is that slogger of sloggers EMPEROR'S CHOICE who may not be quite the force of old but has the course and conditions well in his favour in the Last Fling Handicap Chase at Haydock.
The ten-year-old, winner of the Welsh Grand National in 2014, has been dropped 11lb since winning at Haydock in November, 2015 and shaped encouragingly when third to Hainan on a return visit first time out.
Emperor's Choice has faced some stiff tasks since that last victory running in two Welsh Nationals, a Scottish National, an Eider (fifth to Mysteree last February) and a Midlands Grand National.
A drop in the ratings affords trainer Venetia Williams the opportunity to lower his sights a little and this task could be made to measure.