The clear early favourite is Easy As That, who is in the right hands, but hasn't beaten a rival since February last year, having finished second of two after jumping poorly on his chasing debut (which was also his return from a long absence) at Ffos Las last month.
The potential value created elsewhere very much brings in Thomas Macdonagh, who was offered at some puzzlingly big prices in the early market.
This nine-year-old finished a close second of twelve in this race last year, when the ground was also testing, and with Gavin Sheehan again in the saddle he races off a similar mark.
14:00 (Haydock) Thomas Macdonagh
That alone makes him of serious interest, and the fact that he was well-beaten over hurdles on his seasonal return at this venue late last month should be of little concern because exactly the same applied prior to last year's renewal, when he was heavily-beaten on his first two outings of the season.
He has run over these obstacles three times altogether and it is a surprise he hasn't won at least once or twice because he has beaten 19 of the 23 rivals he has faced.
His first run over these big fences came in March last year when he finished second of seven, then came this race's 2021 renewal (runner-up again), while a month later his latest visit saw him finish third, but less than two lengths behind the winner on soft ground when carrying four pounds more than today.
He was only beaten for a bit of finishing speed but he still finished two lengths clear of the short-priced favourite, and only one of the 23 rivals he has faced over these fences has beaten him by more than one-and-a-half lengths.
Now 4lbs below the mark off which he last ran here, Thomas Macdonagh has plenty going for him and the fact that the Jamie Snowden/Gavin Sheehan team had an easy Class 3 handicap chase winner at Chepstow on Tuesday bodes well for this race.
- Next best: Storm Control
Of the others, Luckofthedraw could easily out-run his big early prices under this set of conditions.
If we ignore his final chase of last season, which felt like one run too many after a very busy campaign, his previous five handicaps over fences produced figures of 11222, all of them coming over trips of between 19.5 and 21 furlongs.
Similar form on Friday would make him very interesting, despite his chasing wins all coming on right-handed tracks (although he did win over hurdles at Ffos Las, a similarly-configured circuit to this).