Gloomy conditions and ground on the softer side after the recent snow, a tricky little juvenile hurdle opened proceedings headed by short priced favourite Lisheen Castle.
N Henderson's inmate defied market weakness to land a weak looking contest on his debut with the promise of more to come, but this looked tougher and so it proved.
Quite modest looking for one coming from the Seven Barrows academy, he was seen under the cosh a long way from home and although staying on this was thoroughly disappointing and a rating based on the Wetherby win may look harsh.
A couple caught the eye beforehand, one being eventual winner Praeceps, a stout stayer on the level with enough size to make a go of things in this sphere, his Newbury effort was a sound one and he was a well-found second favourite in the end.
The other one to note physically was Ace Ventura, a nice big laid back youngster who was sent off at huge odds considering his Flat ability and he came home in third behind the much smaller Honorable.
Bachelor was disappointing after showing decent form in Ireland the last two times but he was very small and light framed and was well below his previous form, not one to be enthusiastic about going forward with pre-race chat about the Fred Winter pie in the sky.
An awful mares handicap chase featured next, two looking useless and the others having question marks about them, largely mentally.
Parlour Maid had never put two runs together before but claimed back-to-back wins by showing greater tenacity than favourite Quantum Of Solace, who chose the easy way out and looks one to avoid.
Mrs Vonn traipsed around the prelims like one that lacks any kind of toe and she will need time and a trip.
A cracking looking novice hurdle was the highlight of the afternoon but the promised fireworks failed to materialise with well-backed outsider Boldmere allowed to set the simplest of fractions with the entire field over-racing in behind.
Although the winner showed more than enough to suggest he could be competitive at Warwick last time, there was a distinct lack of initiative from opposing jockeys to force a stronger pace and it developed into a sprint, with the front runner best placed to strike.
The most surprising tactics came from the Murphy/Johnson combination responsible for Garrettstown, a gritty all-the-way winner here last time but held up today with Johnson continually taking a pull as his partner cruised forward mid-race.
Senior Citizen was again left outpaced in similar circumstances to last time, while hot favourite Clarendon Street was never in a good position considering his undoubted stamina, and this good looking pair, along with Garrettstown, should prove a good deal better than this.
Muratello was another to over-race but he looked to have fewer excuses than most, having every chance in the straight but not picking up as well as the others and I'd have reservations about him, as for the second time he looked weak and backward.
Sixth home was Bally Conor and he carried his freshness through to the race, pulling harder than most and unable to pick up when the spring began, but he's another very nice chase type for the future.
The following handicap hurdle had the toxic whiff of a 'jockeys' race' (with the full support of the starter) with well-handicapped Crystal Lad (14>7) leading out the heavily supported Earlofthecotswolds (11/2>9/4) with Transpennine Star (8>11/2) and hat-trick seeking Minella Fiveo just behind, the rest happy to give them upwards of 10 lengths from the get-go.
This sort of thing is part and parcel of the game and you just have to accept it, no 'wrong-doing' it's just the way it is. Just press click and step away from the machine.
Earlofthecotswolds had previously shaped with much promise despite some desperately novicey jumping, but he is starting to get his act together and with plenty of daylight to aid his cause he looked more the finished article as he put it to bed in the straight in the manner of a well-handicapped horse.
Crystal Lad may prefer further and/or softer and this was more like it from him, while Transpennine Star looked fit and well and appears to have bumped into a couple better at the weights.
With all that said, those that showed promise in behind can be marked up...the workmanlike Seemingly So once again shaping as though more of a test would suit, while Twotwothree and Megalodon both types worthy of closer inspection when better positioned.
A winning time four seconds slower than the earlier novice probably said more about the slow run nature of that race than anything else - that bunch surely better than this 117-rated winner.
Not much to get excited about thereafter, a 0-110 handicap chase with money for several including Conas Taoi, not the horse of old after a two year lay-off but looking well, Dartford Warbler re-united with D Cook in search of back-to-back wins. The Smith horses are flying and this veteran is no exception, winging the last three fences to win as he liked.
Johnny Yuma came in for support but he's right old unit that probably needs plenty of time...he hasn't shown nearly enough yet over fences to warrant support. Square Viviani is interesting, as he showed his first real piece of form since coming from France and while errors persist he's on a dangerous mark and a shorter trip could see him going two better than today's third.
Thomas Todd looks a nutcase and didn't show this time, neither did Newberry New for whom everything needs to fall right and he's just not in much form.
The sturdy looking Corinto proved his previous form down in trip all wrong and he came home much the strongest under the 'champ' over a near-3m trip in the finale, but it was modest stuff with the other unexposed sorts like Treasure Dillon and Wadell plus Oscar Ceremony not making much appeal on looks.