Special Wells has looked a progressive young horse this winter and took a step forward with victory over a subsequent winner at Wetherby on Boxing Day.
Looking at him again in the paddock confirmed that this is not a horse that will be perched on 110 in the ratings for long, and I was happy to have taken the early 5s with this trong gelding now trading less than 3/1.
|Gratuitous picture of Zeroshadesofgrey|
However, as I made my way back to pre-parade he was there being hosed down quite vigorously in some distress. The screens went up for whatever reason, he was soon back on an even keel but clearly something was amiss.
Doktor Glaz once again looked a nice big horse who will be one to follow over fences next term while Ink Master is another nice sort who didn't jump a hurdle here for whatever reason. Goohar suffered a bad over-reach. Isimraar ran his race but is in the handicapper's grip.
The novices chase was a match and what a match it was, McCoy lifting Three Kingdoms to victory over a very game Solar Impulse. This is good form, although Three Kingdoms looked a little on the light side beforehand and had a mighty hard race here. I'd be dubious of him stepping up on this for now.
There was a teasing 2m handicap chase that almost tempted me in but I stayed on the sidelines and was relieved to have done so. We managed to sort them out to the market principles, and I would have backed Runswick Royal but for the appearance of Royal Regatta, who has an air of superiority about him.
I was quite taken and knew he would go close, while Runswick Royal looked fine and just better for his comeback win at Newcastle. You'd have to be disappointed with the ride Hughes gave the runner-up, especially when compared to the single-man's ride Johnson gave the winner. With just half a length in it at the line backers of the runner-up must have been spitting feathers.
Upepito is quite a compact sort who I wasn't that keen on, while Sea Current is a big, rangy raw-boned horse who has the look of a mud-lover. He may have been flattered by his Warwick run but he can make his mark with another summer behind him.
I'd no intention of playing the mares race and didn't even look at the form, but the paddock inspection threw up some possibilities and it turned out well worth investing.
|Intense Tango looked a really nice prospect|
Favourite Analifet was very much on the small side and didn't appear that enthused, so at the prices the duo were worth taking on. Thankfully a couple stood out form the rest with both Pass The Time and Intense Tango looking really well, the latter a touch leggy but with good scope and in great heart.
The latter was getting the age allowance but this was still impressive and a fine bit of placing by the trainer.
Zeroshadesofgrey will always take the paddock plaudits and he once again towered above his rivals ahead of the River Don. He's everything you could wish for in a horse and will be a delight to watch over fences next year.
I had to get involved but was wary that he hasn't found a great deal in the past off the bridle and as up against some real finishers here in Blaklion and Caracci Apache.
Blaklion looked on really good terms with himself and was sure to run his race, while Caracci is a nice horse but much more unfurnished than the other two and thus has a great deal of improving to come.
Thus it was some performance by the Henderson horse to pick up the two leaders from the last on his first attempt at 3m and this throws him right in the mix for Cheltenham.
We came to the Skybet Chase and frankly you were either backing the favourite If In Doubt blind or taking him on at any price. Me, I was in the former camp. Readers may remember me speaking in glowing terms about the horse after Catterick last time out: "He's a real nice sort who will be much better off in a better standard of race...he may yet win a decent prize this term."
Well, having been allotted 139 I thought he had up to a stone in hand when considering his hurdling exploits as an unfurnished young horse - it was simply a matter of McCoy getting him round in one piece.
|If In Doubt was given a peach by McCoy|
I was very impressed but he'll go knowhere with his fencing as it is. I do hope they swerve the festivals in favour of a couple of quieter outings where he can get some much needed practice. With his jumping issues ironed out I can see him taking in the Hennessy en rout to the Gold Cup next term - he could be that good,
Of the others Night In Milan looked a different animal to the one I saw earlier in the season and he looked trained to the minute. He was sure to run his race and that he did, rewarding each-way backers. Baileys Concerto ran yet another PB upped in trip and this super horse really is a great credit to connections.
The bumper saw a right mishmash with Out Of The Mist once again taking the eye as a lovely sort for the future, much preferred on looks to Mardale who lacks somewhat for size. That said it's not easy to defy a penalty in bumpers and credit must go to the winner, who was very lean and fit.
Of the others Tara The Tiger is a very small flat race type while Rubichamps must stand 18 hands and is very backward.