Geraghty landed the feature race of the day aboard Shutthefrontdoor, who was making his first appearance since landing the Irish National in the spring.
The assumption was that the seven-year-old would be merely getting the new campaign under way as the big cash came for Mickie, who was punted all day on her chase debut after what looked an inspired piece of placing by the Daly yard.
She was certainly fit for her return BUT it was apparent beforehand that she does not have the scope one might expect and the impression was that she may struggle to run up to her hurdles form owing to her lack of size.
And with Shutthefrontdoor looking surprisingly chipper it wasn't necessarily an open-and-shut case. Jonjo's horse is an active, athletic sort and still pretty unexposed...and as it turns out he could be very useful indeed.
Time may prove me wrong but Mickie did not appreciate the jumping test and it was surprising she went even shorter in running despite losing ground at most of the fences - it takes a very decent or well-handicapped animal to win after making such mistakes, and the effort eventually told.
The other three couldn't really be fancied with Vintage Star continuing the Smith yard's run of not having a first-time-out winner this autumn, despite his own great record when fresh. He looked fine, but will definitely tighten up for it and it could prove to be a solid return.
|Mickie: Lacks scope for fences|
The action began with a tricky handicap chase that I got wrong in the end, happy enough to have procured some 11/4 about Rowdy Rocher, who I considered to have run well in a better race over further last time.
I thought this would be ideal but he didn't really pick up and although the ground may have been too soft he really hasn't built on his comeback win at Perth.
I wanted to be against Little Glenshee, who will come on a ton for this, and the consistent grey ran another solid race to go down fighting behind the well-backed winner Bennys Well. The latter is such a laid-back sort who has improved dramatically this year - this being the shortest distance he has won over. His outing nine days ago obviously put him right for this.
Moyode Wood simply looks a moderate animal while Billy Cuckoo is a huge, tall animal who thinks it's all a bit of a laugh. His time will come again no doubt as his strike rate isn't bad despite all his quirks.
We were playing catch-up after the next as I had arrived with a mind to back J Ewart's Assirem, who has picked up a 122 rating over fences in France and could have been chucked in here. I thought this front-runner would whizz round this sharper inner course without too many problems despite concerns that he would just need the outing. He may not have been race fit after all, although he was well-beaten a long way out.
I couldn't have McCain's Astrum at any price, let alone the 9/4 freely available. The grey has very little about it, and all it's useful Flat form was on good ground. It was rather surprising they threw it in the deep end here, while the cheekpieces were also a concern. It should have been a very straightforward lay, pure and simple.
The winner Divine Port was well supported and is the second winner to come out of a pretty good bumper here last month. He's a laid-back type who I felt might need further than the minimum even on this stiff track, and he'll need a test elsewhere.
The horse he beat in a driving finish, Scorpions Sting, looked absolutely outstanding. Ewart's second string was by all accounts being brought along with handicaps in mind yet surprisingly here he was in prime condition and ready to roll. This improved effort could have been foreseen and now connections will have to embark on that handicap career from a higher perch than was originally planned.
The novices chase was a fascinating event taken by the serial winner Stopped Out, who jumped supremely well to make all under James Reveley. He's not overbig but was ready for this reappearance, and made it 8/30 over obstacles.
I got against the favourite Ifandbutwhynot who had not won after an absence before and had only ever run once beyond two miles. If the first two races told us anything it was you needed a strong stayer and a fit horse to win today, and while he didn't look especially unfit I stuck to the stats and was rewarded.
I had a few running for me; Back To Bracka unsurprisingly looked the fittest of the bunch and once again shaped as though he's best over the minimum trip, while Sir Mangan was fit and would certainly stay although that's all he does and in fairness was up against it on hurdles ratings.
Golden Sparkle, the eventual third, should be kept on the right side as he's a good looking animal but will be tighter for it, although hopefully the handicapper will leave him alone. An eye should also be kept on Premier Grand Cru who was returning after a huge absence but jumped like an old hand and will surely be winning if they can keep him right. He's a robust sort who looked well although would clearly come on for this.
The handicap hurdle had cut up into a non-event with last Sunday's scorer Spanish Fleet backing that up with a smooth victory under penalty. He's a such a lovely laid-back horse and if you watch him jump he makes a lovely shape, and could become Wade's next flag-bearer over fences given more time. He should remain competitive from his new mark and another half mile would be fine in the New Year.
|Spanish Fleet: Backed up last week's epic win|
I wasn't prepared to go through the same angst and yet there was no mistake this time as Reveley decided the issue some way from home. It was deeply frustrating as the horse looked no better or worse for that outing, while chief market rival What's Up Woody looked a lot better beforehand than he did in that same race, as he looked to have filled out somewhat. However, the he is now on a very long losing run and this was an other disappointing effort.
At least we got to lay Jonjo's Presence Felt at surprisingly decent odds as the horse as really achieved very little over fences, and once again merely plodded on into second place. He's not making any progress at all and remains one to oppose, while Ultra Du Chatelet is another very disappointing horse who was not at the races once again.
Geraghty completed the double when booting Bronco Billy to victory in an interesting bumper. What a lovely horse this was, with plenty of size and good bone, he looks a proper horse for the future. With a run behind him he was a good bet against the other two market principals.
I was surprised to see McCain's Court Dismissed running over course and distance again just 17 days on from a gruelling defeat to one of Venetia's. As mentioned in that blog he's not a lot of strength behind the saddle yet, while I wasn't quite so excited about that form as some other judges, and in the race I thought he was asked to make up a lot of ground by Maguire.
The other well-backed horse was the expensive Corner Creek, but to me he looks unfurnished and will definitely tighten up for this debut. As such, connections will surely be delighted with this effort against more experienced rivals and the pair that came clear may well turn out to be more than just alright.