No weather problems at the local venue where the ground was on the soft side of good - really I can't remember a season where we've gone this far with only a couple of periods of rainfall during the winter.
The opener saw a first chance to glimpse Mount Mews, who has looked impressive on all three starts and is a nice stamp of a horse for the future.
He was a very short price though considering some quite decent opposition, while there was also a question mark over the yard, which has just gone a bit quiet.
It turned into a daft race, there being no pace at all, and that wouldn't have suited the jolly who has done his winning coming off a good lead. He still should have got it done, but got nabbed close home by Eaton Hill.
I've never been taken by the winner and again he looked quite light framed and very much an anxious type. I'd be careful to over-rate this form because of the pace of the race, which didn't suit the third or fourth either.
I suspect the fourth, Creep Desbois, may have won if he hadn't pitched badly on landing having jumped the third last well. He's a nice athletic type and is capable of much better than this.
Melrose Boy is another to mark up, he has the shape of a soft ground horse, very sturdy in composition. I liked Hollins Hill, who has shown nothing so far but this is a big 3m chaser in the making that has been very backward mentally. He is a long term project.
The four runner novices chase was interesting as each probably wanted softer ground. Actinpieces has become a standing dish (what does that actually mean (!?!) round here and was a bit of value against a nice big horse in Rock Gone, who looks sure to benefit from a step up in trip.
The grey mare might have picked up a third course win had she avoided a mistake at the last on the far side that earned her a few sharp reminders.
Chic Name once again led them a merry dance but he definitely has a stamina issue and a drop in trip should suit this very handy sort. Actinpieces is a bonny mare and she rallied superbly but you always felt D Jacob had things in hand on the winner, who as I say could be one to follow given a stamina test.
I quite liked the shape of the 2m handicap hurdle despite thinking the Skelton horse Dragon De La Tour would be a warm order. How wrong could you be - the beast going off double figures on the machine which told its own story. However he looked a nice horse, and better can be expected from this mark.
I was dead against the actual favourite which was the McCain trained Middlebrow, who lacks for physical scope and doesn't move that well. Massively overbet in to 7/4, it had to be El Massivo under D Cook after dropping back to his last winning mark which came here nine months ago.
Cook is riding out of his skin at the moment and he gave his partner the full treatment on the run-in, getting home ahead of the reluctant Rocky Two, who had looked really well but simply does not want to go past.
Middlebrow, under new tactics, didn't deliver off the bridle and he remains one to be wary of for now.
I thought Just Cameron was the one to beat in the feature race, not just on the back of his latest effort here in the Castleford but on the general basis of form. I put him in at 13/8 and watching him drift right out on the off.
With the sparse opposition all seeming to require softer ground, and Grey Gold and Sew On Target now 12, it looked the perfect opportunity for M Hammond's stable star.
There never seemed to be any doubt thanks to a very sensible ride from H Brooke, getting the tempo just right before turning the screw in the straight. He was probably all out at the line but we'll take the 11/4 all day thank you very much.
The following handicap hurdle was tight and the performance of the favourite would surely give us an idea of the health of the Jefferson yard, as the beast looked in terrific fettle after a nine week hiatus.
The horse probably wants a fence now and he arguably went too freely, but he was below par without a shadow of a doubt and the stable is probably one to avoid in the short term.
I considered Bruce Almighty to be a the biggest danger as he looked in rude health but I don't think the jockey made enough use of this strong stayer, who is crying out for fences.
I would never have found the outsider of the lot, One For Harry, while Capitoul looked really well but the assessor has done him no favours and he took a belter of a fall.
The 2m3f handicap chase was a real messy affair with Special Wells heading the market. I followed Sue Smith's good looking horse over a cliff last season but he consistently failed to deliver.
After six runs at Uttoxeter, including a lucky win last time, he looked vulnerable on better ground and was worth taking on with a few, none of whom landed a blow on the Cook-inspired animal.
Huff And Puff is quite tall for a flat bred and was fit after a long absence, and may have won but for an error up the straight. Eastview Boy didn't run much of a race but I suspect he doesn't stay and he hasn't produced his form away from Newcastle yet.
Bonnet's Vino lacked the size of most but she's brave and ran a decent race, but the effort of jumping these bigger fences seemed to take it out of her. McCain's chasers are 1/67 since the end of August yet the moody and regressive Court Dismissed was backed into 7/1 from 20s. Figure that one out.
The junior bumper for fillies saw some decent southern yards represented but it was Mountain Path who gave M Hammond a double and jockey J Colliver his first winner back from an enforced absence at her Majesty's pleasure.
I well remember the filly's half sister Sherry taking this race two years ago and this juvenile is a similarly nice type, albeit on the light framed side.
She must have some ability as there were some forward looking flat types here including the well-backed Perfect Moment, who was fit but a little bit on edge, and Cockney Wren.
However I felt Shearling might just defy her 10lb penalties and this strong filly went so close to making it an impressive hat-trick. Mercian Princess was well-backed but looked quite backward, while Avealittlepatience was one of the smallest on show and faded away up the straight.