The official going description at the previous two meetings had been misleading but after overnight rain this was heavy ground and it looked hard work for most.
The opening novice hurdle over 20f wasn't the greatest in the world and they struggled to find a favourite, eventually landing on Niceandeasy, who looked well prepared for this seasonal debut despite looking lean and light framed.
He won his bumper on heavy ground and he didn't mind this one bit, reeling in the runaway leader Saint Freule to win as he liked.
The latter went down very early and was kept away from the rest at the start. Taking a very keen hold, he probably did well to keep going as long as he did. He's got ability, and will grow into his frame in time, but is clearly a handful at present.
There was a move for the compact Jeu De Mots, but I thought he travelled too well in the first part of the contest and it could be that a drop back in trip may suit at this time. He cost 32k so bigger things can be expected.
Only Orvieto looked fairly straight after a long absence but didn't show much at all, while Allmyown was a late drifter and backed out of things a long way from home. He's a nice staying chaser for the future though.
It was hard to find anything for the first handicap chase of the day with the Pauling/De Boinville axis responsible for favourite Alpine Secret, who hadn't shown a great deal over timber.
The fact they sent him up here could mean that he's not very good, and although he looked fit and a proper chasing type, I didn't think he jumped that well and he stopped pretty quickly up the hill.
He was taken for the lead by Western Jo and while he had stopped pretty quickly over hurdles last time out, he had the class to gallop them stupid without coming off the bridle.
He'll be walloped for this and I'd be inclined to oppose him in better company as he isn't very reliable under pressure.
Haul Us In, like Alpine Secret, hadn't shown much over hurdles and was quickly sent over fences by the Russell yard. She looked well, but ran an astounding race as she was soon tailed off and looking none too keen.
What she achieved in staying on into second is debatable, as very few managed to get round. Perseid ran his race again in third despite not really enjoying the going, while Red Danaher gave place layers kittens prior to fading late on.
The 10-year-old has never taken the eye and is moderate, and looked to be heavy enough round the girth. The handicapper has given him a chance though, and he may pick one of these up although he had started to look moody when last seen.
Log On was another to make his chase debut and I quite liked him at big odds, you could say a typical looking Scorpion with loads of scope, and I thought he was pretty straight.
But like many others from the Dobbin yard on the day, ran very much as though needing it after showing a bit of promise with a mid-race move. He's one to keep an eye on over fences.
A novice race over the minimum gave useful bumper filly Dame Rose the chance to open her account which she did in the simplest of terms.
She's done her winning on good ground but I find most Network's go through the mud and she didn't seem too inconvenienced by it, while she looked to have strengthened up over the summer.
The runner-up Tetraites Style will be alright, not over-big but a handy animal that looks every inch a Court Cave. He'll improve as his stamina is drawn out, a comment well worth re-iterating for Caventara, who plodded on for third.
Out of the super staying mare L'aventura, this gelding has loads of size and scope and is a proper horse. He'll stay four miles and connections will have been delighted by what they saw here. It wasn't too much of a stretch to think he could hit the frame, as Getaway Bay looked really backward and The Linksman was a big drifter after being snapped up for a pittance by the Englands.
The big race saw eight go to post for a staying handicap where the late money came for Kilcullen Flem, and when it comes from the Kirby kennel it usually has 'shrewd' written down the side.
On his debut for the yard, this strapping horse looked just about fit enough and had clearly done plenty of work. The excellent A Nicol certainly rode like he had a fit horse under him, and one that stayed well too as he pushed the pace that eventually did for Allez Cool.
The winner was tired at the last and was all out in the end, but he had the race won and was value for 20 lengths. More Madness ran badly in snatches again and even turned it in late on when supporters sensed a final chance. He's one to avoid.
Allez Cool hasn't grown or filled out which is disappointing, but he'll improve for this sound effort, but Green Flag looked burly despite being co-favourite and it remains to be seen if he can reclaim his old form.
Smuggler's Stash came in for support and although he looked well enough he carried some condition and he looked much better when winning here last year. Another Dobbin inmate Purcell's Bridge took a walk in the market and clearly wasn't straight.
For a stable that had such a good weekend last week, none of their five runners got round here.
Quite a nice staying handicap hurdle had cut up to eight because of the ground, and it looked wide open but I'll confess to missing an open goal here.
I've documented a few times that Native Optimist would benefit from stronger handling and I remember too well going for tilt at Carlisle when A Nicol was in the plate and he was caught on the line at 16/1.
Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since then and this bonny horse loves it round here where he can be assured to gallop all day. I'm no fan of O'Toole though and with any other pilot on board I'd have had no cause to step back at big odds.
That said, the market had spoken for Bellaney Knight and he is a well-handicapped horse on some old form, and this big scopey sort looked ready to roll.
He'd been kept away from this type of ground in the past though, and once again he jumped poorly and showed precious little, so now has questions to answer.
Classical Milano carried loads of condition, but Gamain looked really well and I thought he'd run better than he did in the end.
Total Assets was a big drifter during the day as she looks very high in the weights and all her best form has come after a run or two.
She looked well, albeit carrying condition, and she's returned better than ever. I thought this was a decent effort and she loves nothing more than a gruelling stamina test.
A third handicap chase saw Minella Suite go off quite a weak jolly, and once again the big chasing type is left with questions to answer and getting outpaced and out-jumped prior to coming down four out.
I was very keen on Oak Vintage, who had dropped to a derisory mark for a yard that was wrong for much of last winter. Much as I like R Chapman he was bold enough on the seven-year-old, who finally looks the finished article.
This feels like one that got away (14>9/2) but I think the runner-up can be seen to even better effect this season granted at least a four-week break for this tough opener.
John Williams looked straight enough and he was well-handicapped on some largely consistent efforts last term, but the ground was a huge concern and as a result was a very weak 9/1 chance on the softest ground he'd faced.
Yet he battled on bravely and his form over further saw him just outstay Oak Vintage and Roman Numeral, who looked dreadful beforehand but arguably ran his best race. He doesn't always find much though and may have bottled it late on.
There was little else you could fancy in the race although Achill Road Boy was not wound up and got going far too late over a trip on the sharp side. He can add to his tally as he looks well handicapped.
The bumper was a decent one and Senor Lombardy looks the part, as he should having cost a six figure sum. Klare Castle was the second nicest looking and it really came as no surprise that they finished in that order.
Money came for Tayzar but he's a big gangly horse I didn't much care for, while Teescomponents Lad will be just better for it and ran really well. Schiehallion Munro, Rocket Man Rodney and Miss Amelia will all win races once they find their level.