The ground was reported as heavy but the time of the opener suggested nearer good to soft, soft in places and the way they finished throughout the day seemed to suggest it was knowhere near heavy.
The return to form of the Candlish yard was noted here last Sunday when all her horses ran well at Carlisle and Sleepy Haven once again highlighted the health of the stable when taking the opener under Jason Maguire.
Frustratingly he came into the ring very late and I was only able to take a brief look, he's a handy type with lots of improvement to come as he approaches only his fifth birthday.
Goohar attracted support just seven days on from a good run at Cheltenham but that seemed to take its toll here and he never looked to be travelling well. He's a real heavy ground rat on looks and possibly not the most straight forward.
|Bitofapuzzle is a grand stamp of a horse|
Just Cameroon has been switched to the Hammond yard by his owners, a retrograde step in anyone's book, and he looked lighter here than when he made an unfortunate return for the Kirby stable a couple of months back.
It surely won't be long before Circus Star goes over fences as he's a nice strong sort, in contrast to Fairy Alisha who looks very moderate.
I must confess the main reason for the trip over was to see Back To Bracka again and he looked magnificent prior to the competitive 2m handicap chase. The Russell yard remains in the doldrums but they had a winner in the opener at Newcastle and I was happy to play up some Wetherby gains despite the predictable drift.
The race hadn't unfolded when he collided in mid-air with Supreme Asset (looked fit) at the last down the back, giving C Nichol little chance of staying in the saddle. It was a cruel blow, but one we had to take on the chin. It'll be very interesting if he lines up in the Castleford on the 27th, for which he is now eligible.
I saved on the useful looking Greywell Boy but I was disappointed with his effort after a blunder three out effectively cooked his goose. Otherwise he had every chance here behind the winner Whispering Harry, who looked really well but is a little on the small side for fences. I'd worry about him at some of the bigger tracks.
Grate Fella was also of interest in the novices chase but the drop to two miles wasn't in his favour and he had no chance with the heavily support winner Boondooma, who is big, rugged chaser. I'd backed the winner to beat Melodic Rendezvous at Bangor so a performance like this came as no surprise. He'll hold his own at Cheltenham in March I'm sure.
The second, Ifandbutwhynot, really doesn't have the scope to jump fences out of soft ground and although he has won on the surface he'll be better served by spring ground. Vivaccio is quite small and his mark may flatter him after two wins at Ludlow.
Visually Grate Fella was disappointing but he probably ran up to his Catterick form here and can get back to winning ways returned to 2m 4f.
The mares' race held little interest financially - Bitofapuzzle is a fabulous looking an animal who can only improve with time but she came up against a really solid yardstick in The Pirate's Queen here and was out-done in a thrilling finish.
Balmusette was well behind the winner at Donny and had little chance here - in fact she looked rather backward and immature compared to these.
The Tommy Whittle was a conundrum and although I kept coming back to Broadway Buffalo the cash stayed in my pocket. You could have made a case for most of the eight and assessing them beforehand didn't help much - the two I weren't keen on were eventual runner-up Toby Lerone (medium build, lacks scope) and Firebird Flyer (rarely do E Williams' take the eye - On Tour a notable exception).
|Safran De Cotte looked great but seems to have completely gone|
Fill The Power looked quite lean on his fourth start in eight weeks and I'd like to see him given a break before bidding to win a Wetherby chase for the second successive season in February.
Kilcooley turned the 2m 4f handicap into a procession but nothing got into it and it was a shame to see Run Ructions Run fighting it out for minors again after being held up last. Abracadabra Sivola is a big unfurnished four-year-old with obvious potential who can win something decent over fences in years to come, while Muckle Roe looked really fit and well but looked a shade out of his depth. Taj Badalandabad is an active sort who will benefit from another summer behind him.
The stayers handicap to end the card saw Closing Ceremony well-backed to follow up his gutsy win here last time in a better race. He was able to dictate a leisurely pace here but jumps well and can continue to pay his way. He has looked wayward in the past but was very settled here.
The mare Millicent Silver looks like she'll be a decent sort over staying distances but she's on the weak side at present and found this a bit tough, as did Red Danaher, who wasn't suited by the steady pace but doesn't look to have been given a workable mark anyhow.