Pretty bleak conditions as I made my long, winding journey down to Rasen where the going was soft, although they were coming home pretty well through the gloom.
The opening novice looked at the mercy of Monbeg Oscar, whose debut effort over timber held plenty of promise and with further to travel on softer ground he looked a really good bet to upset the penalised favourite Master Of Irony.
In, fact it was casually remarked that the only thing that would get this thing beat was a shit ride - cue shit ride. It's very hard to understand why you would actively go out of your way to turn a 2m3f into a sprint, when you are riding a horse bred to stay well against a horse with flat speed.
They went so slow that the previously useless Picknick Park was level with the market leaders crossing the final flight, where Master Of Irony predictably used his flat speed to good effect.
Either Moloney was riding to specific instructions, ie; under no circumstances must you make the running at a sensible gallop (but you're allowed to line-up in front and start the race with a two length advantage) or this was total ineptitude from the rider.
Suffice to say that Monbeg Oscar is capable of vastly better form than this, while others to take out of the race are Broughton's Rhythm, a nice rangy animal that has clearly had problems but will enjoy the hustle and bustle of handicaps, where he could look well treated, and I'm Still Waiting, another that will appreciate easier assignments once handicapped.
There wasn't a great deal to glean from the 3m handicap hurdle, in which they went noticably quicker from the gun - in fact this looked a very well run race throughout. Wicked Willy proved his stamina to get up close home, beating the luckless Mwaleshi, who just ran out of gas.
What A Diva was a well-backed favourite in a weak mares hurdle, and won a shade cosily in what looked an easier task than she's had of late. Viking Mistress does not look straight forward but has loads of size and scope and ran all the way to the line. Squeeze Me took a big drift and didn't look fit.
The graduation chase was an absolute cracker with four of the six seeming to have good chances. It was hard to split Kilcrea Vale, Three Muskateers and King's Odyssey on my tissue, so when the money came for the talking horse our hand was forced.
Backed into Evens, Kilcrea Vale had to be the lay against some excellent opposition that had more experience, not that it was easy to locate the winner.
I'd backed Three Muskateers at Newbury on what I thought would be soft ground, but it turned out to be nearer good and he was never jumping or travelling.
Back off a break and with headgear added, he did both much better this time and Skelton's tactics decided matters well before they clattered the third last. He's not that big, but I can see him winning good races at 3m when the mud is flying.
Kilcrea Vale is a very nice horse indeed and this looked very good form from the first two. Henderson's seven-year-old could yet go on to much better things, granted better ground and possibly 3m. He stayed on right to the line after being found out by the winner's mid-race injection, not helped by a couple of sticky leaps.
King's Odyssey took a walk in the market late on, likely the outcome of stories whipping around that the horse had been delayed in his work prior to this. He wasn't given a hard time, and probably shouldn't be judged too harshly.
Hester Flemen looked fit and strong and traded low on the machine with a circuit to go. She jumped and raced with enthusiasm but I don't think fitness was the problem and it's a shame she clearly has issues. We can hopefully look forward to seeing her offspring in the years to come.
The next was a horrid little handicap chase in which I was lured for the first time into backing one from the barn of Pogson & Co by the name of Unzing.
The form of its Boxing Day win here looked good in this context and his form in France suggested the extra yardage would suit. I'm not sure if he hasn't got home in third place or the almost inevitable decline has already started to set in.
Highbury High has been an enigma for much of his career and popped up late on after being scrubbed a mile out, denying backers of Make Me A Fortune a nice little punt. The giant Attimo looked well but threw in another shocker, while Noble Legend has surely now gone.
The finale was very interesting as it featured a couple of well handicapped horses in Movie Legend and Nietzsche. The former had looked the winner jumping the last in a Boxing Day handicap chase before being run out of it, while Nietzsche had a solid bank of juvenile form to his name and crucially had the allowance.
I can't emphasise how generous the allowance is - 10lb at this stage of the season - especially with the right type of horse. Nietzsche had not had his ground over hurdles and was expected to relish the extra yardage.
Despite taking a keen grip, Nietzsche picked up nicely after the last as Movie Legend once again found less than expected on the run-in. The latter may have run into one again, but is possibly one to be wary of, while the winner will be seen in even better light once he learns to settle. Try to get your head around that!