The opening maiden hurdle should throw up plenty of winners, with expensive purchase Saint Charles chief among them. A very taking individual yet still unfurnished, McCoy's mount travelled really well before staying on strongly and he will take higher rank, although the festivals may come too soon.
Work In Progress from the Skelton yard followed him home and he's a strongly built character who required two handlers in the prelims. He showed promise first time up and this was a step in the right direction.
Our Kaempfer looks a buzzy, nervous type and ran up a bit light, but stayed on okay under waiting ride. I didn't expect him to run so well so he may be able to go from here although he needs to settle down.
Disappointment of the race was the Nicholls newcomer Rainy City, who is a lengthy gelding who looked professional enough to know his job. He looked a bit green in the race though and found very little from the third last. Already tongue-tied, he's another from the stable to be a little wary of.
Corner Creek is a nice horse but he looked out of his depth in this grade and will do better with time, while North Country Boy came home in last place but is another of the trainer's horses that looked a fair sort and should come into his own in time.
Josses Hill was the big name on show and he was a very warm order to win the novices chase despite a poor round of jumping on his debut. He wasn't much better here, though, and must have some engine to beat the 145-rated Solar Impulse, who appeared to run his race.
|Josses Hill: Looks the part, but jumping is an issue|
The winner is a very taking horse with size and scope and this was a serious performance - however you would think he'll need two more runs to get the hang of things before Cheltenham.
Cheltenian is now nine and time has rather caught up with him - he was very fit but still hasn't settled down and despite the hood was very free-going. I'm not sure he's one worth following at this stage.
A novices hurdle followed and it was hard to split the first four in the betting with the market going 20s bar them. Some Buckle was well-backed into 6/4 and although he's a nice sort for the future, he's a little immature and weak and it told close home as the more professional Glingerburn nailed him.
Some Buckle jumped really well here and is clearly a great prospect, so all is not lost. Glingerburn was in need of the run when he stunned many by winning here last time, and it was no surprise that he was able to step up on that.
Nicolas Chauvin did not take the eye however and his defeat was easy to foretell, as he became rather warm beforehand. He will be one to oppose when handicapping. Disappointment of the race was Neck Or Nothing, who was held onto by R Johnson before folding tamely in the straight, and he clearly struggles with his wind.
Alphabet Bay is a name to take from this, as he was not put in the race to win and set a fast pace under Costello, riding JP McManus's horse instead of McCoy. However, this is a really nice lengthy horse, a good mover on the backward side. He will win his share.
I broke two New Year's resolutions in one day and it cost me, firstly by being drawn into betting in a mares' race by Pepite Rose, the best of these in her pomp and looking in very good order beforehand. At the price she was worth an interest against an overbet Highland Retreat, about whose finishing effort I was doubtful.
It was disappointing that after travelling so well Pepite Rose was not able to go past the eventual winner, and she clearly remains short of her peak. There no excuses here. Emily Gray stayed on very late to only be denied by a whisker, she's a very consistent mare who was a big price here and she looks a strong, robust sort who will continue to pay her way.
The bet of the day was Lord Brendy, who I had been waiting for despite the booking of P Buchanan, thus breaking a second resolution. The man simply cannot get to the bottom of his horses and the grey had ample opportunity to press up the straight, but for the rider's dithering in behind.
The result was highly predictable and this is DEFINITELY the last time he carries any of my money. It's too costly. The winner Achimota was brave and deserved his win, staying on dourly. He was arguably the nicest of the bunch, which was in fairness a moderate one.
Lord Brendy remains ahead of his 110 rating. He may go up a couple for this but he has never had a decent jockey on board and now that he settles in his races is a prime candidate for a front-running ride, as he will just keep popping away at one pace. The cash is only lent, but the caveats are in place.
Another mares race proved a minefield with the Henderson-trained Earth Amber proving once and for all that this is not the game for her, while Dewala stayed on really well after setting the fractions to deny Balmusette, whom it was good to see return to form on this better ground.
The closing race belonged to Steel Summit, who hacked up yet again and has improved out of all recognition. It was a weak race and few got into it, Whichwaytobougie plugging on for second miles behind the victor in a race that won't see many winners emerge...even the quite likeable Vinegar Hill weakened tamely away.