Sue Smith's big chasing type is taking time to mature and has been brought along slowly by his trainer - by no means ready on his first two starts before getting stuck in the Uttoxeter quag.
Last time out at Haydock he showed much more of what he could be capable of, staying on into third in a much better class of race on ground that was far better than the heavy advertised.
There's no secret of the regard in which his handler holds him and this looked the perfect opportunity to add to his solitary win over course and distance a year ago.
|Today had to be the day for Emral Silk|
We cheered him home and frankly anything less than a 9lb impost will prove lenient, here we are talking about a horse that will rate 135+ this time next year, and it would be of no surprise if he is aimed at the good novice chase here the yard won with Grate Fella before Christmas.
It was an otherwise quiet punting afternoon with the opening fillies juvenile of little interest, particularly as the odds-on favourite Intense Tango looked the part with the O'Neill-trained Saint Lucy a clear second on looks - both have the scope to improve further.
There was a major turn-up in the 2m 3f novice hurdle as Hainan sparked a double for the Smith yard at long odds with Masterplan, Ebony Express and Lady Buttons all proving bitter disappointments.
Only Argent Knight amongst the market leaders ran his race and for a speedy looking horse he was asked an awful lot to make all here - he may prove best coming late off a fast pace on better ground this spring.
Masterplan is a likable sort who appeared to have a problem while Ebony Express is not overbig and never threatened to defy a double penalty and a welter burden. Lady Buttons is a nice big stamp of a horse and led two out but surprisingly flattened out, she's surely better than this, while Im Too Generous didn't get home but is a nice horse and looks capable of making his mark.
I'll be honest I priced up the six-runner 2m handicap chase the night before and put the O'Neill-trained Less Time in at double figure odds. I was very surprised to see this young horse bred to stay 4m as short as 3/1, taking a huge chunk out of the market.
However, it was hard to find an angle as Cody Wyoming was correctly put up as favourite and he looked really well 10 days on from his run here behind the progressive Oorayvic, when he was given a less-than impressive ride.
Sheehan was much more positive here and essentially put it to bed turning into the back straight, poaching a 10 length lead. It was a shame Tough Trade came down three out as he was vying for second under a quiet ride at the time, and it transpired it cost him his life.
Russborough must go into the notebook, a lovely big chaser who was on good terms from himself after an absence, but not fit and the market confirmed that view. He ran a tidy race and could be anything, while Less Time ran as well as could be expected, merely galloping round at his own pace. He jumped well as far as I could see and will prove a very well-handicapped horse upped to three miles.
Another novice hurdle followed and the market once again called the tune in favour of the unraced Buckwheat, much to the chagrin of many a paddock watcher to whom the Bloomfields gelding did not take the eye.
He could be some recruit judging by the manner of his victory although the form must be rated as dubious with the highly touted Konig Dax and strongly-fancied Zaidiyn blowing out spectacularly. They both retreated very quickly on the home turn suggesting something was amiss.
Runner-up Argot did not look out of place here for a juvenile and he should continue to go the right way as he looked a bit immature in the prelims, while Future Security once again showed promise and this nice horse can make his mark in handicaps.
|Reveley got one over on Hughes in the 'National'|
The concern I had with Herdsman was the booking of Hughes, a reactive rather than proactive jockey, if you like, and as it panned out it may have helped if Herdsman had done his usual trick of coming off the bridle midway through the race as it would have jolted the jockey into action.
As it was it was frustrating to see him sit some 10-12 lengths off the pace turning out the back straight for the final time having barely moved a muscle as the well-backed Scotswell made the best of his way home. It's always annoying when they finish full of running and this felt like one that got away.
Take little from the winner though, under a waiting-in-front ride from Reveley who was surprisingly allowed to set his own tempo in a race that looked chock full of early pace. Whats Up Woody caught the eye beforehand as he had run up pretty light on his first two outings for George Bewley, but looked to have strengthened up here.
This was probably a PB from the 10-year-old before failing to quite last out and it would be good to see him get his head in front before the season's out, for all that he may lack a little resolution.
Stuart Crawford once again saddled a very small filly in the shape of Verona Opera in the bumper, but on this occasion there was very little to oppose her with. Phil Kirby's pair may turn out to be alright given time but with the Ewart stable out of form there was nothing left to beat.