The Lancashire Chase at Haydock Park was first run in 2005 under the name of it's sponsor Betfair and has been won 6 times by the champion trainer Paul Nicholls,
the first being Kauto Star back in 2006, but he has won two out of the last three runnings with the dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti.
The 9yo french bred gelded son of Dom Alco hailed from the yard of Guillaume Macaire before joining Paul Nicholls for the 2010/11 season, where he made an impressive debut, winning a novice at Bangor on Dee by 29 lengths.
Since then he has progressed through the ranks winning the Betfair Chase twice and the Christmas centrepiece the King George at Kempton for the past two seasons.
This season he made his reappearance over hurdles at his beloved Kempton Park finishing second in a Pertemps qualifier. Carrying top weight over a trip short of his best it was a good effort to finish second to Brother Tedd and afterwards Paul Nicholls told the Racing Post "He's done the job we wanted. He had a really good blow and he'll come on a lot from this. Noel said he galloped all the way to the line, just what we had wanted."
That should have put him spot on for his first major target of the season for which he is a short priced favourite.
Being a Grade 1 chase however there is no shortage of dangers that reoppose. The resurgent Cue Card is top of that list having taken the Grade 3 Charlie Hall chase at Wetherby on his first start this year. He has long been a horse of massive potential and when his trainer Colin Tizzard has him right he is right out of the top drawer, as he showed when winning the Betfair Chase in 2013 where he had Silviniaco Conti back in third.
This season he has a new pilot in Paddy Brennan and the partnership seemed well suited to each other at Wetherby. There has always seemed to be a nagging doubt as to whether he really gets the trip on really soft ground even though he has won this race under such conditions, but he can jump for fun and Haydocks fences and tight turns should suit down to the ground.
David Pipe is doubly represented this season with the Cheltenham festival scorers Ballynagour and Dynaste who has been placed in the race for the past two seasons.
Ballynagour has always been a horse who caught the eye, having turned up at Warwick and demolishing his rivals he then went quiet before producing a brilliant performance at the festival when putting 23 rivals firmly in their place in a competitive handicap. These performances however were over a shorter trip and he is yet to win over the 3 miles in the UK.
Dynaste is a tough little character and his head carriage always seems to be of a horse that is trying his best. Over hurdles he was put up as a pretender to the crown of the great Big Bucks, but it has been over fences he has excelled, winning The Feltham as a novice and The Ryanair at the festival. This race seems to be his nemesis and try as he may it seems this time he may find one or two too good at the business end once again.
The remainder of the line up is completed by a trio of class horses. Menorah is a gorgeous horse who usually saves his best performances for faster ground and was seemingly outstayed by Silviniaco Conti last year. Holywell is a appears to be a spring specialist and only has one 1-4fav win at Kelso to his name in the past 18 months.
O'Faolains Boy was the winner of the RSA Chase beating the extremely classy and reliable Smad Place as novice, before finishing fifth behind Holywell at Aintree. Problems appeared to come light after that and it appeared connections didn't want to rush him back with trainer Rebecca Curtis being quoted in the Racing Post as saying "the liklehood is he is going to miss the season as he is too good a horse to risk".
Having subsequently missed last season he is now reported by the Racing Post more likely to run at Ascot on Saturday with trainer Rebecca Curtis telling them "He definitley runs on Saturday, probably at Ascot".
If he were to turn up here he would be interesting but it seems he is heading south to the Berkshire track.
Silviniaco Conti however is the choice to take the first Grade One chase of the season.