Not much of a punting card but the 'long term' notebook was very much to the fore as is often the case at the Newark venue, where the going seemed to deteriorate throughout the afternoon after starting on officially 'good, good to soft in places' It was slo-mo by the end of proceedings.
The opening stayers handicap chase was a ghastly affair taken by Fly Home Harry, which felt like a bit of a miss. I've got know the beast over the past three years and after plunging down the weights went for a mighty plunge on him on chase debut last October.
He looked a right dodgepot that day so it was galling to see him get up from an uncompromising position at Rasen next time, from a mark a pound lower than he was off today.
He'd done little in the interim but was produced looking fit by the Swinbank team, however my trust issues are deep seated and he wasn't really considered as a betting proposition despite the nearly 3m trip expected to suit.
They went a fair old clip thanks to D Cook on Cross To Boston and that played into P Moloney's hands as the winner came from well back to beat the race-fit Annamult in a tight finish.
There were only negatives to take from the race - Brave Helios is not a well made horse and I suspect will continue to struggle over fences, while chief market rival High Counsel (on the small side) has had a few chances now, travelling cosily here before finding very little.
Houndscourt doesn't look the force of old, as things looked in place for a revival, while Cross To Boston doesn't find much at the business end and old Foot The Bill was lamentable.
The novice chase brought together some real nice types but Churchtown Champ made mincemeat of them despite a couple of notable errors. The one he beat, Pearl Swan, looked very fit after a lengthy absence, so the result must be taken at face value.
Templehills came down over on the far side after going left several times and although he's a lovely chase type he clearly needs some time. Ballyhenry looks ok but had an awkward way about him and I'm surprised he held up so strongly in the market considering his documented wind problem and propensity for very soft ground. The Jonjo yard remains cold and Beggars Cross showed very little once again.
I marked Aliandy down as a fair sort likely to improve in time when finishing third to the useful looking Hitman Hearns at Catterick on New Year's Day. I was hoping for a very different animal 11 months on but he still looked a bit backward to me.
The market drift from 4s to 6 made me more comfortable to sit the race out but this 'confirmation bias' syndrome once again made a fool of me. He's very keen going and he was held up out the bag in quite exaggerated fashion. My suspicion is that he's a good deal better than what he's shown here, and he can't go up much for beating one of the rags.
There was a novice hurdle with some interesting sorts lining up yet it was impossible to oppose the form horse Ballymalin, who had performed with credit at HQ last time.
The race was for the minor honours and the silver medal went to Nobuttaboy, who didn't show a great deal in northern points and was picked up on the cheap. However, now with B Pauling the five year old looked a proper horse beforehand and the big drift on the machine looked overdone.
It came as no surprise to see the big horse chase home the jolly, although the proximity to the winner now leaves connections in a quandary.
I wasn't a fan of Powerful Symbol after he was turned over at Carlisle last term and once again he looked moody off the bridle. Physically I'm not that impressed with him and he's one to oppose in all but the weakest company.
Russian Service took fourth and may be better in time as he has some substance, but the mare Goodnight Charlie looked an ignorant brute and Between The Waters is backward looking physically and could do with some time to grow.
Cajun Fiddle didn't have much to beat in a weak mares race but she's a nice sort who should keep improving, while the K Bailey inmate My Cousin Rachel is built for fences and can pick up a race in due course. I wasn't taken by the Sherwood horse Versifier, but even I was shocked at how poorly she ran. It's worth remembering that many connections would have been hoping for much better ground than these were racing on.
Jaunty Thor was very hard to oppose against a bad bunch in the handicap hurdle, but he gave backers anxious moments before staying on well enough to defy the penalty. It amazes me that we all worry about nicking prices in the morning, complaining about not getting on and having accounts closed, when in the 40 seconds it took me to walk from the ring to the stands the odds on this one went from 13/8 to 15/8 (I wasn't on) and you could have filled the tank if you fancied it.
My Renaissance showed up well for a long way and should be able to pick up a small race for connections I like - it was surprising there was no support for it here as it looks a well made animal.
The closing bumper was very interesting and they looked a fair bunch, even though the closing stages were played out in slow motion, probably because they went an honest pace for once.
I didn't quite know what to make of the winner Agamemmon - but I certainly didn't think he would beat this lot. Pauling's Linenhall took the eye and looks certain to improve from this run, while Cresswell Legend is a good strong animal who can certainly pick up a bumper before going over timber.
Searching For Gold was well found in the market and he looked uncomplicated in the prelims...however he was anything-but in the run and ought to learn a good deal. Diamond Fort was found out in this better race while Midnight Jitterbug and Midnight Chill looked types to do well in time, but this seemed to happen too quick.
The principals had a hard race but I'm sure it will throw up plenty of winners.