Well, you could never say it's a pleasure to head to the Rolleston venue, even if it is for some NH action, but the sun was high in the sky with barely a breath of wind making for a pleasant outing.
The ground was officially on the soft side of good but with times looking decent, especially with the obstacles to the outer, it was probably good ground and they went a fair old lick in a few of the races.
Worcester winner Bandol didn't hang about in the opener which was curious as he won last time out having sat off a furious gallop. This time he was asked to make it and it's a sure-fire way of getting a horse beat. He was exhausted when crashing out at the last.
The race revolved around H Fry's Innocent Girl, who had shown little for L Russell before finding her form between the flags this spring.
A starting perch of 73 was derisory based on a couple of point wins and she came through to land favourite backers' money with ease despite a mistake down the far side. She's not over-big but appears to have a good leap in her off this sound terrain and ought to be able to land a hat-trick in the coming weeks.
The only other handicap chase on a six race card was over 3m with debutant Robert's Star quite a warm order after a decent seasonal return four weeks ago. His diminutive size tempered enthusiasm somewhat, particularly at the prevailing odds, but jumping doesn't seem to be an issue.
Nico wanted to make it a real test and they went at it along with St Johns Point with fully a circuit to travel. This probably wasn't the wisest move and set the race up for a closer in Ballyrock, who notched another win for the red-hot Vaughan kennel.
Ballyrock, well found in the market, had little recent form but had been useful at one time. He looked well but it took a leap of faith to think he could win this.
That said it was hard to reach a strong conclusion beforehand. Monkhouse looked a difficult ride here last season and although he looked big and well, he once again didn't appear to be relishing the job at hand in first time cheekpieces. He looks one to avoid.
St John's Point has always finished weakly but punters continue to give him one more chance. This 4/1 chance was never likely to win, don't worry about that. I dread to think how low he traded off that home turn.
Kinari looked great beforehand but has probably done enough for one summer, while Iora Glas simply doesn't have the scope for fences and belted a few here. He's a thorough stayer and will pop up again over timber one day.
Going back to Robert's Star, I think there's improvement in him. They've gone very hard in front as he's a strong stayer, but this was tough. He's only six and will rate a good deal higher.
Vaughan had the odds on Debece in the next to continue the winning streak but he's a very big unit with long galloping stride - 2m was always going to be tight but he was so impressive last term there didn't look to be much viable opposition.
Market rival Utility was weak in the betting and he too looks a strong stayer that wants soft ground. He made no impression in this despite looking fit but he was blowing hard a good while afterwards.
Anything with a bit of toe was in with a chance but Hag Stone had been so wayward having switched to timber that a shock was hard to foresee. A nervy, edgy sort, he didn't hurdle with a great deal of fluency here either but is clearly getting the hand of things.
They didn't go fast enough on the favourite and the form is hard to weigh up. The winner's recorded a PB but Debece was well below previous form and I suspect the run was quite badly needed, while he'll want further sooner rather than later.
I discussed Return Flight in my March 23 blog entry, baffled as to why he didn't win that day. Moved to the outstanding D Skelton, he was backed as though defeat was out of the question, and he duly stepped up greatly on form previously shown.
They were strung out behind and the form may not amount to much...however I'm keeping a close eye on this race. Four Mile Beach returned to form while Opechee was one of the paddock picks despite huge odds, a tall leggy individual who looked pretty fit. He may have turned the corner and is one to watch, while Star Trouper is getting the hang of things and is another who cannot be ignored in the coming weeks.
Many of the others weren't fit while Murray Mount is a chaser in the making and ought to rate higher when returned to further.
A fair handicap hurdle came up next and the money for Gaelic Myth was something of a surprise as he had a more exposed look than some and, although in great order, looked as though the run would do him good.
He never took a cut at his obstacles and with an injury absence of a year already on his record, he's going to be difficult to win with.
With the market telling you that The Tailgater needs more time, it looked like Quieto Sol and KK Lexion may fight this out. The latter has not grown an inch since the spring, but had shown plenty of promise and was fit enough, while there's not a great deal of Quieto Sol and this looks his time of year.
Longsdon's animal probably should have won this, but was immature and novicey in the straight, losing ground and momentum at both flights that proved costly. Cheekpieces may do the trick and a longer run-in might help too!
The bumper revealed a smorgasbord of horseflesh and an unsatisfactory outcome with N Bycroft's Bengali Song taking a slowly run affair. It continues to surprise punters why nobody wants to go on in many of these races, where the best horses are often unable to shine.
That Dubai Angel is the best horse in this race is probably indisputable. A lovely big chaser in the making, he looked on great terms with himself after almost a year on the sidelines, albeit carrying some condition. There was nothing wrong with this comeback and the way he stayed on to the line suggests he'll relish 2m4f over timber in time.
New Member looked forward enough but never picked up in the straight, while Ballyhill is a moderate looking horse who also failed to throw down a challenge, however this was less of a surprise considering his regressive form.
Or De Vassy looked backward in third while Pampanini is a plain, unfurnished mare who may not amount to an awful lot.