It turned out to be a fiddly little card with just one race over obstacles attracting eight or more runners.
The opener was a stayers novice hurdle featuring the Greatrex runner Missed Approach, who was put in a very short price after winning at Ffos Las. He's a lengthy, well made sort but he disappointed here behind the very likeable Three Musketeers.
Making his debut under rules, the Skelton-trained four-year-old had been bought for 57,000 euros and he looked the part, a chasing type but forward enough to do himself justice.
The market spoke in his favour and this was a fine piece of placing by Skelton, who could have opted for an easier route starting over shorter trips. He's a nice sort.
Eventual runner-up Red Danaher like all Smith horses has thrived physically in the past two weeks and he looked better than at Sedgefield, although he's no oil painting and frankly his form has already exceeded what you would judge him by on looks.
Once again he stayed on really well and is crying out for 3m, while his hurdling became a lot more fluent as the race went on. He's now qualified for handicaps although his mark won't be so favourable after this and a novice race his his for the taking.
Gold Opera is a big baby and needs a lot more time, while Mr Snoozy is not the greatest of movers and this flat horse possibly didn't see it out.
The novices handicap chase was a right bag of tricks and you could have made a good case for five of the seven.
I wanted to be on the very likeable Smith horse Comeback Colin but so did everyone else and I was happy to unwind my position in running under a very aggressive ride from Costello. He's a big, backward horse who has been asked to so a lot over the past month...he needs another summer on his back before really hitting his straps.
|It would have been a sin to lay M Easterby's improver|
Like Minded surprised me by taking second but still doesn't appeal as one to follow as he turns 11, while Redpender could not repeat his Ayr form here. Ueueteotl is a horse with a future but the market vibes were ghastly and he ran badly. He barely lifted a leg and just may be a genuine good ground horse. Expect his trainer to aim at a race at Musselburgh next, maybe back over timber.
I'll be honest with you it's very rare I back 14/1 winners but Quel Elite did the business in the staying hurdle - but these are qualified remarks. I'd seen him look in very good order at Aintree last time where he was caught up in a shemozzle that saw him lose his pitch quite badly.
It was a run that went straight into the notebook and this looked a really winnable race. However, while he looked well again I was put off by him getting very warm beforehand, which is not always a very bad sign, but it gave me reservations. It was another position I was happy to unwind at the halfway point and it took plenty of gloss off the win.
Favourite Guiding George looked to have stolen it off the bend and the Skelton runner remains on an upward curve. He was very fit at Donny last time over fences and being a medium-sized animal the switch back to timber was never going to be a bother.
Ballythomas and Sheilas Lady needed their comebacks while the rest looked in pretty good order, the rather leggy Feast Of Fire coming home well and he'll be better still in the spring on decent ground.
I was confident of finding the winner of the 2m handicap chase but I was way behind the market and had to go with Le Bacardy against Stagecoach Pearl who went off a thin-enough 7/4 chance to notch a first win for more than three years.
|Quite fancied Quel Elite but kind of bottled it|
I was dead against Lightening Rod in the next and his price drifted to a very backable 11/4 at the off. Not that I was at all interested - he seemed to have more than his fair share of weight - but he looked great and is clearly in the form of his life. He out-sprinted the likeable Fisher (who looked a shade flat beforehand) and Raven's Tower (nice sort, looked really well) and it wouldn't surprise me if this trio didn't continue to run well.
Kumbeshwar looked fine but seems to have completely gone, Vivacissimo is a tall chase type who should be up to winning one of these but may have needed this run a tad more than I thought, while Ubaltique didn't look great and is clearly a moody individual.
I really wanted to get against Many Stars in the four-runner stayers handicap for novices but ballsed things up by rowing in with Jimmy Shan, who was a lot calmer in a hood than when ditched his rider before a proposed outing at Donny a week ago.
In fact, that was the race in which Many Stars had finished third and I felt this was coming more than soon enough. He's also a rather sketchy jumper but I bottled a big lay at around even money. I wasn't particularly taken by the winner Dream Flyer for no particular reason, he's a fair sort if a little leggy.
However the tongue-tie was in place for the first time (a fact I had overlooked pre-race) and a run behind Saints And Sinners now doesn't look as bad as it did at first. This was very gettable, and regrettable (although more frantic unwinding mid-race limited the damage.)
The fourth runner should not go unmentioned - Brokethegate clearly has some ability and looked in pretty decent form for this despite fluffing his lines a week ago. He'll find far easier assignments than this and he doesn't appear to be the crock I thought he might be.
The closing bumper for babies contained a right smorgasbord and remarkably the one I heard was fancied went by the name of Crockett and duly went in at 33/1. Noel Wilson's horse was one of the handier types here but my crystal ball was not within reach by this point.
The favourite Avenue Of Honour was a typically attractive if leggy horse of J Ferguson, while others to note were in no particular order; One More Go, Tara's Rocket, Give Him A Glance and Colour Of The Wind.
In need of the run were Bruce Almighty, Zandino and Farm Sale, while More Play is the biggest three-year-old you will ever see.