A spell of dry weather in the north meant the ground was officially on the fast side of good although there was a strong headwind in the straight. That didn't stop those racing prominently winning all afternoon, with nothing able to come from off the pace.
Emma Lavelle sent two up the A1 and they got stuck into them both in the market - the double duly being landed. The 2m 3f handicap chase looked competive but Off The Ground, back in trip, and N Henderson's Woodbank both looked ahead of their marks and so it proved in the race. The former was smashed into 13/8 and the money was always safe, Aspell travelling well in behind before cruising to the front three out and winning as he liked. A nice compact sort who looked ready to do the business, he'll be whacked at least 10lb for this but I'm sure Team Lavelle have a few pounds up their sleeve. Woodbank chased him home and fenced better than ever here, although being quite sparely made he didn't particularly take the eye. The one to take away is Bellenos, a good-topped French exile who is better than he showed here. Keen, he made a lot of ground mid-race before emptying in the straight, and he obviously needed it after a year off even though he looked straight enough. He could take more time to acclimatise - but I'll be keeping an eye on him possibly over shorter and on softer ground.
The second leg of the Lavelle double saw Fix It Right appear on the scene three out before plugging on dourly for the win. He seemed a lot bigger behind the saddle than in front and that could explain why he hasn't handled soft ground thus far. Only five, he could yet be alright given more time. Any Given Moment was the paddock pick and chased him all the way up the straight, while Cleve Cottage dropped out for a second race in succession as if something is amiss.
The classy Mijhaar was a drifter in the novice hurdle on his debut in this sphere but hacked up having gone from the front. He wore a hood and was blanketed beforehand so it was hard to be bullish about him but J Ferguson's rarely need the race, although he didn't beat much. Runner-up Lemony Bay is well-related but will need time to come into himself, while P Webber's Devon Drum looked good in the paddock and travelled ok but didn't find anything at all when let down, being eased late on.
The 3m handicap chase took little winning on the departure of Highbury High, who attempting a quick double after making mistakes when landing the spoils at Wincanton. He was low over a few here and paid the price when belting the second down the side, and he who backs him to make amends would do so with nerves of steel. Clondaw Flicka is a tall, leggy sort who was bound to improve markedly on anything he'd achieved over timber. Still a baby and guessing at a few, including the last, he showed strong staying qualities to out-battle Tickatack and Lukey Luke, who are high enough in the weights or not that genuine - or both.
The 2m3f hurdle saw Portway Flyer, Wintered Well and Reyes Magos make their handicap debuts against a load of exposed sorts, they dominated the betting and race...but there was only one winner in Portway Flyer, who took up it four out and frankly shat up. The handicapper will take a dim view and while a compact, nimble sort he may not be ready to win off a stone higher. Wintered Well was on his toes and had two handlers but is a fair sort and should continue to give a good account, while it was disappointing that Reyes Magos could not stay on past him and you wouldn't be sure he will improve as much, rising eight as he is.