The lure of a £1m bonus put up by Jockey Club Racecourses for any horse winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup looks to have failed somewhat with a maximum of seven going to post for the opening contest.
And with the ground currently soft, and a constant deluge expected to hit Haydock in the run-up to the race, further runners could yet drop out.
Heavy ground is likely to see Menorah opt out, according to jockey Richard Johnson, while it would surely see the chances of others dented.
One horse it won’t trouble though is two-time winner of the race, Silviniaco Conti.
Paul Nicholls’ stable star was beaten on reappearance over hurdles at Kempton recently, but there was a lot to like about that run over a trip too short.
His handler has reported that he “has improved enormously for his spin over hurdles” and is spot on for the race on Merseyside.
That loss shouldn’t mean he is taken out of your calculations, with the nine-year-old now tasting defeat on four of his last five seasonal reappearances.
With a run under his belt, expect the real Conti to be on show at Haydock.
It seems to have become a realisation that Cheltenham isn’t the track for the dual-King George winner, with no victories at Prestbury Park in four visits.
Away from that venue, and aside from his seasonal reappearance, his form over three miles or further reads 1111131142.
So with the ground, the trip and the track all in his favour, is there any reason not to take the Even money available on Silviniaco Conti?
While Menorah looks an unlikely runner, Holywell has long been described as a “spring horse” with no win this side of Christmas in eight runs under rules.
Throw in the possibility of heavy ground – conditions that Jonjo O’Neill’s horse has failed to get within nine lengths of the winner on four occasions – and he looks far from the victor here.
Returning 2014 RSA Chase victor O’Faolains Boy has 22lbs to find with the big race favourite, and with a near-600 day absence to overcome, it would be some training performance for him to finish in the reckoning.
The David Pipe pair of Dynaste and Ballynagour were both beaten into second when they last met Silviniaco Conti.
The former has yet to fully convince since stepping out of novice company over three miles, and looks set for the places again.
Only a superb jumping display from Nicholls’ gelding stopped the latter beating him at Aintree, and while he looked laboured in the closing stages in the Charlie Hall Chase he is unexposed over this trip and might run well.
The main danger to the favourite will surely come from Wetherby winner and 2013 victor in this race, Cue Card.
Colin Tizzard’s pride and joy looked back to near his best when staying on stoutly in Yorkshire, and will surely be contesting the biggest prizes about this term.
However the rain, once again, could blunt his chances.
While he has won on soft ground, anything that makes the contest even more of a test of stamina will likely benefit Conti over Cue Card.
He was 12 lengths back in fourth last year, and although his season was fraught with minor niggles and should get closer this time round, it looks as though he could find himself playing second fiddle to the defending champ at Haydock.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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