One of the more competitive meetings for the track and quite a few points of interest for future purposes. The going was more or less good.
The first division of a split handicap hurdle held little appeal from a betting point of view, the Sue Smith-trained Mathayus being well-backed to back up his last run here despite not pleasing greatly in the paddock. It's probably fair to say this son of Scorpion has his fair share of temperament.
Windy Writer is a good size but was probably in the need of the run, although he faded away very tamely indeed. The Skelton's Daring Knight didn't look much and his odds doubled late on, while the cash for Mileva Roller on her first start for Lisa Harrison was surprising as she looks pretty moderate.
Division II was even weaker if that's possible and again there was surprising support for one low down called Gentleman James, but I didn't think it was fit after a break and he faded out of things. The big move however came for Betancourt, who entered the paddock late in the piece and looked in particularly good order, especially for one of Ewart's. Lightly raced, you'd think he might be able to win again as Greensworldsolution seemed to run his race in second. I thought Rock N'Stones looked a fair type but he disappointed and may have needed it.
An intriguing novice hurdle saw the market finally find a favourite in Or De Vassy, who had been placed on all five starts and didn't look much beforehand. The paddock pick was Nicely Indeed, and by some margin, and this Kim Bailey import was as fit as a butcher's dog on his debut for P Kirby.
I don't see him improving on this and his finishing effort was a little disturbing, hanging and not going through with it either when in front or after being headed. He may need a hold-up ride but it's not the first time he's disappointed with his finishing effort and I'd be wary of him bearing in mind he spent a good while on the injury list.
Or De Vassy did nothing wrong under a perfectly timed challenge, while It's Your Move ran well in third for more of a soft ground, staying type. Katy Royal, a 200/1 shot, looked weak beforehand so her staying on fourth leaves me perplexed as to the worth of the form.
There followed a hugely meritorious victory for Skelton's Cobra De Mai, who was badly hampered by the fall of favourite Western Miller, to a lesser extent by the fall of the well-backed Bordeaux Bill, and then forced to switch on the run to last before delivering a late thrust to beat a solid hurdler in Jacks Last Hope.
Despite the steadier of a double penalty, the form of the winner entitled him to be second favourite so it was alarming and deeply off-putting to see him drift to 9s at the off, especially as somehow he didn't appear (at least before these eyes) in the paddock beforehand. I rate this effort highly, and while the runner-up hasn't run anywhere close to his hurdles rating, I'd be very surprised if the winner isn't hiked up from his current mark.
To be fair to the third horse, Eyes Of A Tiger, he too carried the double penalty and appeared to run his race despite a few errors, and he can win again soon. Bordeaux Bill really caught the eye beforehand so it was disappointing to see him take such a novicey fall at halfway. He'd jumped great before that and he's worth another chance.
There was a suspicion of 'palpable error' about the way Frederic had been priced up at 5/1 and bigger overnight for the handicap hurdle yet even I didn't expect the avalanche of support that sent him off a 7/4 jolly.
A big tall unit, the ex-Hammond inmate had improved a chunk under the guidance of K Dalgleish on the flat this summer but his wins had come at big galloping tracks and this stayer was not certain to be suited by a speed test. One could argue why Hughes sat motionless all the way to the second last on a horse he knew would stay and stay, but these things are futile and instead we must tip our hat to the tour de force that is Our Kylie, who improved yet again to win for a remarkable ninth time. The pair came 12 lengths clear and for connections of the runner-up it was one that got away.
The handicap chase brought together a host of horses that know how to lose, thus it was surprising that recent winner Dica was allowed to drift in the market bearing in mind his stella Indian summer. Whether the veteran would have won had Captain Mowbray stood up at the last is a moot point; the Menzies chestnut took his ledger to 0/19 with this spill and is untrustworthy.
That said he was fit for this reappearance which may be interesting in terms of his trainer, whose horses were slow to come to hand 12 months ago. Brown Trix came in for plenty of support on his first for the England outfit, but this was 'fake news' as this robust animal did not look wound up here and I suspect wants a far stiffer test than this. Aregra looked well but showed next to nothing.
The bumper was a very good one for the track with several Southern-based yards represented, and Newmarket trainer John Berry plundered the loot with his Delatite, who was a zippy Flat-type up against some nice NH bred horses. He fairly marmalised some nice sorts and must have done some improving over the summer.
Micky Hammond has done well with his bumper horses in recent seasons and Just Bobby is a good sort, if a little on the weak side, while Mutawaasel hadn't shown an awful lot for Sue Smith two seasons ago but this Flat bred rocked up looking very fit and ran a race of promise. Knight In Dubai and Djarkevi backed out of things rather disappointingly but it could just be that this was a decent race of its type, with a few more 'forward' types than is often the case.