Heaven only knows how they get good ground on Town Moor even during a wet spell, but there you go. It looked to be riding genuinely good and the fields had stood up accordingly.
There was a rush of early money for old Night In Milan in the opening stayers hurdle with the blinkers on for the first time over timber. I've long believed he simply is a better horse over fences but his mark fully reflects that and with great form at the course he was probably a worthy jolly in what looked a weak race.
I was more keen on Echo Springs at a price first time in a handicap and this good looking horse, who went for £100k after landing a bumper, should be up to winning off his mark. But he's a bit keen and could prosper from a hold-up ride over shorter, as he may not have got home here after a prominent sit.
Billy Biscuit was on his toes, looking fit and well after a long absence, he's a bit lean and leggy and probably wants a fence. I keep telling myself 'don't back those coming back off an injury' and sure enough the well-supported Billy ran no sort of race.
I was confident Lowcarr Motion was the one to be with in a dismal looking 0-100. With M Hammond in form and this horse looking much fitter than he was last time, he was a cracking bet. Time may tell there was something amiss as after travelling like a dream he found nothing in the straight. For one that has finished notably strongly on occasions, this wasn't right. He's worth one more pop.
Voix D'Eau was all the rage in the handicap chase for the cute H Fry yard and this light-framed ex-French horse looked the part. He was low at a few of his fences and may not take much more racing at this stage of his career, and I might want to take him on if he runs on soft ground this winter. Other than that he's one to keep on side longer term.
Backers of runner-up Off The Ground can feel rather aggrieved for running into one. With the pair well clear, his chance may now haw have slipped by. Waltz Darling stayed on well for third as JR nursed him round to good effect. This multiple hurdle winner, who has plenty of size for the winter game, remains on an attractive mark and can surely land one of these after this confidence booster.
Kings Bandit ought to be ready to go in next time. A very sturdy individual, he still wasn't fit for this and hunted round at the back for fourth prize. He won his hurdles from the front and given soft ground and a stamina test he'll be worth a very close look.
The 2m novice hurdle was an interesting affair with Innocent Touch looking vulnerable under a penalty. Holly Bush Henry from the in-form G McPherson kennel had arguably achieved more first time up yet was almost double the price at one time. In a lively betting heat, they came for Holly Bush and Mr Kit Cat, a strong laid-back horse, while they were dead against Pipey's Iniciar and with good reason - this lean, buzzy, sweaty individual made little appeal.
It was a queer affair as total rag Deadly Approach poached a long lead yet remained in front going to the last. The rest were well beaten off bar the well-backed winner who really caught the eye in the prelims with his well-being. The form must be treated with caution but the winner is undoubtedly alright.
I really fell for Go Long before the second division of this novice hurdle even though the odds-on Charbel looked the part and was a worthy short-priced jolly.
Go Long is a lovely big strong horse but looked pretty forward first time up and was clear second best on looks, ahead of Emperor Commodos who has always carried an awful lot of condition. The latter set a good pace but jumped markedly right, which undoubtedly put the favourite off his game.
However, it's interesting to hear that jockey Moloney thought it rode like a decent race and the way Go Long went away on the run-in suggests he'll be a half-decent tool. It's a shame I only backed him in the 'betting without' market.
Boston De La Roche was quite short in the betting didn't much appeal, being quite small and not a great mover at the walk.
I had already decided to row in with Maloney again in the handicap chase after watching a re-run of Wild Bill's first outing over fences, when he seemed to take a soft fall in terrible conditions after jumping with aplomb..
I'd seen him at Haydock in March after which I wrote; "The absence of A Vos Gardes meant Three Faces West faced a fairly simple task in the fixed brush race although the Williams runner Wild Bill is a very likeable animal and they came for it strongly in the market. The way the pair scuttled clear suggests they will be alright with the latter certainly one to keep an eye on."
From a mark of 116 this good looking 90k purchase looked nicely in at the weights and I liked the shape of the race with the heavily backed Silver Eagle worth taking on after a lengthy absence, while Present Flight didn't look anywhere near as good in his coat as he had at Hexham earlier in the campaign.
Doktor Glaz is an interesting cheval but they don't seem to know what to do with him, running this big strapping horse over all manner of trips and ground. He's not necessarily bred to get 3m, certainly at the age of five, and I was happy to pass him over.
I kid you not the main danger looked to be 20/1 shot Ueueteotl with the maestro JR in the plate for the first time. This nice grey was in last season's five to follow but didn't really deliver with the yard under a cloud for much of the campaign. His jumping has been an issue but with Reveley in the saddle and completely overlooked in the market off a good mark, he was worth some sort of interest.
Sure enough JR gave him a peach but Maloney had much more horse under him in the straight and the race played out perfectly for once. It doesn't often fall into place and when it does all you want to say is 'should have had more on'.
The bumper was tough to call, Chase End Charlie and Grow Nasa Grow nice big types for fences later on, while The Missus has done really well over the summer and although she's still small is likely to improve for timber and a trip. Lynda's Boy and Walk Waterford were from big stables but both lean and leggy and predictably weak in the market, running accordingly.
Saturday was colder and wetter and hence the ground somewhat slower as the day went on. The card had far less appeal than the previous afternoon with a dreadful staying chase to open proceedings.
Sgt Bull Berry was a very solid option back on better terrain but this sound jumping horse went in snatches and will surely benefit from some headgear. When he returns in the spring I might be interested, but he was put in his place here by the minute Xenophon, who did look really well beforehand. His record moves to 1/26 but this was weak in the extreme.
It was hard to split the four at the front of the market in the 2m 3f novice with Cloudy Dream and Waiting Patiently resuming Hexham rivalry. This test was likely to suit the former better this time but once more the Reveley youngster showed plenty as the pair sprinted clear off a slowish pace. Stage One was a nice compact sort, albeit a little backward, and he'll surely benefit from a stronger pace, while the jolly Ascotdeux Nellerie is a bit light-framed and didn't show a great deal.
The aforementioned trainer H Fry can get his horses very fit first time, notably those that won at Wetherby a few weeks back. However, two came here looking as if they could tighten up and Zulu Oscar was opposable on those grounds despite being very firm in the market.
Double W's is yet to get off the mark and looks very one-paced over the minimum trip, but they haven't been able to move up in distance as he looks to take a keen hold. He's very likeable, a proper chaser, and we haven't seen anywhere near the best of him. I'dliketheoption looked fine to me but was so weak in the market you couldn't have got involved, while Adrakhan looks the part but remains out of form.
The handicap chase was a teaser but I couldn't find an angle here, with Coologue a really likeable, active horse but backed into half the odds he was in the morning. Special Catch was punted and looked really fit and well, while there was little wrong with market drifter Jack Steel. Fry's Billy Merriott was the subject of a morning gamble but drifted late, possibly because he too looked rather burly. Rising 10, he's very lightly raced and may still have issues.
The winner Wings Attract was overlooked, even though he initially made a small impression. After a few laps of the paddock I filed him under 'also-rans'.
I was dead against Red Devils Boys in the next as he looked a devilishly difficult ride over fences, and that was with McCoy on board. But after wandering about he put his head down on the run-in and won like a well-handicapped horse. He was fit enough and may just prefer the small obstacles.
Hannah's Princess looked fit enough, while the ever-disappointing Harvey's Hope looked in far better health than at any time last term. Boruma ran another eye-catching race in third despite once again not being right in his coat. When the trainer returns to some sort of form we can back this with confidence, probably over a bit further.
Briery Queen had some super bumper form but was overlooked in the market against Hendo's Robins Reef, even though the former had beaten the latter in a good race at Sandown last term. Punters latched on eventually and they were rewarded when James Banks made virtually all on the bonny mare. She jumped brilliantly first time up and is not one to oppose lightly. It wasn't a strong race with Skelton's The Last Bar looking quite backward, while Ethelwyn was in great health but all at sea on the rain-softened ground.
The bumper was tricky but Skelton's Kafella looked by far the strongest of the bunch and there was a sense that he might be very decent. He was very well supported but hung all the way up the straight in the style of a green horse. He just didn't have basic speed of Jam Session, a really well made horse who was very forward for his debut, while the runner-up Captain Sam is a typical Jefferson big, backward animal but looked very immature before the race and it proved his undoing in it.