After Seeyouatmidnight sauntered round to win the first a devilishly tricky handicap hurdle came next although the more I looked at the race the easier it was to whittle it down - not that i was tempted to back one.
Zaidiyn always takes the eye and he is likely to make a mercurial chaser over the coming seasons. We all love a quirky-but-talented horse and Ellison's charge is just that, proving well ahead of his mark as he finally delivered on the promise of so many efforts.
Things have to fall his way and as you reflect on the race you have to come to the conclusion there weren't many ahead of their mark, with Vendor, Heath Hunter, Minstrels Gallery and So Satisfied all nailed by the handicapper at present.
The runner-up Bob's Lady Tamure rather devalues the form but nonetheless this was all about the winner and he's the type to benefit confidence-wise from this. He's in the County Hurdle and you never know, but I wouldn't get too carried away by this just yet.
Draytonian disappointed but he is merely marking time before he goes over fences, and it will be a while before So Satisfied troubles the judge again as this rather small, unfurnished horse has been very harshly assessed.
The Eider was next up and I think you can complicate some of these big handicap chases by going too deep. I kept it simple by backing Ballyculla and Rocking Blues. Even that was complicating matters as I had written this on Rocking Blues' last effort at Kelso...
I was positioned about half a furlong out that day and it was incredible to see the horse power up the run-in after 3m on heavy ground. Clearly thriving and on a feather weight, the only real concern should have been whether his teenaged pilot could navigate a clear path. If he was with a bigger northern yard I suspect he would have been closer to 5/1.
Looking back at the race I'm sure his improvement has come from the fact he has learned to settle. He was very headstrong prior to an injury absence, making countless errors and not getting home on occasions.
He looks a much happier horse now and he is jumping for fun. He'll have to go up another stone for this win but you won't see a horse gallop home stronger at Kelso all year.
Nothing looked like landing a blow. There was a big paddock negative for Russe Blanc, who was very lean and sweating quite badly. He obviously left the race behind at Warwick and it was telling that the trainer had said he needs time between his races. It looks as though six weeks wasn't enough.
Mysteree ran a blinder in fourth for a trainer (L Russell) who is now 3/76 since the turn of the year. Maybe something will come to light but I can't remember a horse that has been especially well fancied of late and for that matter I can't think of a horse from the yard I'm waiting to back.
A decent stayers novice hurdle followed but it was a no bet race as the jolly Bun Doran was too short to back, yet I couldn't bring myself to bet against it after such a thrilling victory at Haydock.
Tom George's horse hits the ground very hard, so may simply want it hock deep, but there was a question mark over stamina as it went with much zest the last day. However I don't think either of those reasons were behind the way he stopped in the straight and you fear it may have a dreaded wind issue.
Tomngerry was a worthy winner as he outstayed April Dusk on the run to the line. The Ellison youngster looked very backward compared to some stronger horses and frankly his improvement has been astonishing in a short space of time. He must have run to 135 at least here and he'll improve at least a stone over the summer with even normal progression. An exciting prospect.
Delusionofgrandeur has had a tough campaign and he wasn't right here, getting warm beforehand and running flat. This was his sixth race of the campaign but no doubt they will find another race for him if the ground remains soft.
The mares race was hard to call but the Dobbins' point winner Amys Choice looked by far the most attractive - however question marks remained over her ability to handle the minimum trip and why she had been off the track for so long, having spent last year at McCain's.
The money came for it but she never looked like winning, jumping and travelling awkwardly. That didn't stop the money coming for her and she was still trading at under 2/1 as they reached the far bend - even though I was stood there in real time it felt like I was on a 10-second delay. Did THEY know something I didn't?
Predictably the mare faded right out of contention as Presenting Rose gave trainer N Alexander yet another winner. I didn't have a problem with her physically although I didn't like the second Knocklayde Sno Cat, being very small, although on this evidence they ought to be able to find a weaker race than this for her.
The handicap chase had me licking my lips in anticipation of the return of Blakemount, who had been steadily supported for almost 24 hours ahead of his return from a three month absence, during which some form of wind operation had been performed.
Imagine my surprise when I clapped eyes on the beast, who loped around the paddock looking totally disinterested in proceedings. Not only that, his coat was all wrong and he was carrying plenty of condition. I can't remember seeing the horse before but this was not something that was about to bounce out and make all over a trip that looked short enough.
Yet the money kept pouring on, 6s into 5/2 at the off. This couldn't have been stable money so perhaps it was just one of those momentum punts that the whole betting nation latched onto. It even continued into the race to less than 3 on Betfair despite the normally animated D Cook sitting off the pace on a horse laden with stamina.
If you hadn't seen the market you would have thought the horse was just having a spin round for confidence purposes, not the subject of one of the biggest punts on a busy Saturday afternoon. But don't think for one minute I was stood there laying it - THEY know more than us, remember!
Anyway, with the jolly readily opposable, we had to find the alternatives. Indian Temple is a horse I have followed although I backed it the time before last, not last time when it bolted up. I thought he was ahead of his mark and they had clearly waited for some better ground.
Also into the portfolio went Central Flame. I have to back this horse every time it runs because he's just lovely and still about a stone ahead of the handicapper, however his regular pilot negates that advantage and more.
I understand the trainer remaining loyal to his daughter, but this ain't tiddlywinks. The best part of 10k buys quite a few sheep I'd imagine and with any jockey of mild competence would have bagged the pot on Central Flame. It was painful viewing, as even on jumping the last all was forgiven as the hero of the hour appeared to be sweeping her way to victory.
However, the strongly supported Five In A Row was chipping away all the way up the straight and is very strong at the trip. Any other opponent and we would still have collected. So near etc.
This was another Ellison special and another horse who could be on his way to the Festival. He's in the novice handicap but I wish he was in the Kim Muir as he'd be perfect for that, he's totally unexposed at 3m. I wrote about him after winning first time up at Hexham over timber;
Five In A Row...a lovely chasing type who I saw a couple of times last term and took a liking to.He was running off just a 5lb higher perch yesterday than for that October hurdles win. He can only go up another 5lb for this, and he looks very well handicapped for one who can only get better the further he goes.
Like his stablemate in the opener he looked like the race would bring him on a good deal, which was off-putting, but it is the genius of the trainer that gets his horses to perform when they are not cherry ripe. Given a real stamina test for the first time in his career Five In A Row saw it out best. There's more to come.
There were whispers around before the bumper that the Greatrex horse Boudry wasn't walking right, but he looked a quality sort to me. However, there was definitely something that made him opposable, especially bearing in mind he'd already been a beaten favourite twice.
However, he was up against a trio of penalised horses in Shambougg, McGregor's Cottage and Applaus. I thought the former was by far the most likely to take advantage of any weakness in the favourite, but the Hobbs beast ran a shocker. Boudry looked good in winning but I'd want to oppose it next time.