It was good to be back at the Northumberland track after a sabbatical although with the wind piercing the clear blue sky a feel of autumn was about the place.
Declarations were made on good ground but rain on Thursday meant they ran on good to soft, and although the official call had soft places they were getting home well enough.
However the rain meant quite a few were scratched which robbed the day of some interest, although there was still some meat on the bone.
After by-passing the opening seller we came to a maiden hurdle where the market foretold the story with Spirit Of Kayf heavily punted on his debut over timber.
His form made him hugely interesting but just how forward would he would be? Paddock inspection confirmed the market's view that he was very fit indeed and he wasn't one to take on with the vastly improved T Dowson taking off 7lb.
Master Of Finance came there with what looked a winning run at the last but was essentially outstayed by a fitter horse who was stronger at the trip. But this was a decent effort and he will clearly get the trip well at an easier venue. He looked pretty forward but should come on for it.
Min Alemarat is one to note for the future. With plenty of bone and scope, he was formerly decent before going the wrong way on the level. He could just be coming back to himself and will be interesting in handicaps later on.
There was a mystifying move for Shotofwine, who had little chance on the book, and unsurprisingly couldn't go with them when the quickened up.
The novices handicap over 2m4f was whittled down to four runners and it looked a decent opportunity for paper favourite Tickenwolf to enhance his course record on chase debut.
He has the size for fences and looked plenty forward enough, and looked the most likely winner. However, the market preferred Nefyn Bay, and it looked like the money was right as McCain's horse led everywhere bar the line.
That said, it always looked as though Tickenwolf had the momentum to go past, but he took an age to hit full stride and despite his pedigree you'd think he'd relish and some extra yardage.
More mystifying money came in for Bertalus (6/1 into 3s) but the yard rarely gets them ready first time and this robust type looked very much to need the outing beforehand. A soft ground stayer, this was not his day.
Lowanbehold was a bit disappointing again and this moderate looker has seemingly peaked at the age of nine.
Double W's went off favourite for a 2m4f handicap hurdle but regular punters should have figured out by now that the Jefferson horses have been needing their first run of the season and this fellow was no exception.
I marked him down as 80-85% fit beforehand, lacking definition behind the saddle and needing to tighten up round the belly. He's a keen going sort and it was predictable to see him empty out having taken the hill.
P Brennan gave Australasia a no-nonsense ride and such tactics paid off for a second time in two weeks as the big unit landed a bit of a punt.
With Mountainside running no sort of race (possibly in need of better ground) and few of the rags getting into it, the form may not be much. But Celtic Monarch in third sets the mark and Australasia proved his opening perch a fair one. You couldn't be sure he'll go on from this though away from Hexham.
The handicap chase, again over 2m4f, was wide open and the more you looked at it the harder it got.
The going clearly wasn't that bad as connections of Formidableopponent have been saying he needed proper good ground, and yet he completed a hat-trick here, cruelly denying Whats Up Woody just as he had Dun Faw Good a fortnight ago.
The latter named was backed into 7/2 but this was madness as this was a harder contest than the last day and with C Walton back on board regression was guaranteed.
Ever So Much is never one to take the eye but his effort suggested he liked neither ground nor track, while Blue Kascade threw in one of his poor efforts just when the stats suggested first time out was the time to catch him. Several of us gave him one more chance but patience has now run out.
There didn't seem any reason why Mad Money couldn't win a staying hurdle off the same mark as when winning over fences recently, but he backed away sharply up the hill in a finale I had little interest in with the top weight rated just 94.