The opening juvenile was dominated by previous winner Dispour of D McCain's and Innsbruck, making his debut over timber for J Quinn. The latter was a rag when winning his belated debut on the flat not long ago and so it was surprising that connections moved so quickly to the winter game, the gelding not having a great deal of size about him. In addition to that, he looked as though he was seeing an obstacle for the very first time today and blundered his way round in finishing out the places. The favourite looked best in the paddock but was taken on for the lead by War Lord from some way out - the pair hard at it and essentially having the race between them. That the clearly modest third and fourth closed so strongly on the long run-in bears this out, Dispour essentially proving the better horse under penalty despite a narrow defeat. Nonetheless, this was moderate fare and the big Euros shelled out now look to be long gone.
The next was a 0-100 handicap hurdle and an honourable mention must go to top weight Lysino. C Grant's beast was by no means knocked around in fourth place but on looks may prove to have ability some way in advance of his rating, while he will surely improve for the run.
The staying hurdle was won by J O'Neill's Abnaki, rejuvenated by a return to hurdles and the application of blinkers. He looked very alert in the blinds beforehand which foretold a strong showing in a keen little heat, with the market headed by Night In Milan. He'd gone well fresh before and he looked fully wound up on this return, but found little off an easy lead and on looks he will surely be better suited to a return to chasing. The same could be said of One In A Milan, who has plenty of size about him but stepped at the second and crashed out.
The big race of the day saw talking horse Knight Pass backed in to 2/1 but it's some time since he showed his best form and the whisper beforehand was that he had bled in the past. He showed little inclination to take a cut at these fences and was done for after a circuit, and is very much one to avoid, even back over timber. The winner King Of The Wolds stood out in terms of size and well-being - M Jefferson clearly having him fully tuned up on his chase debut. Jumping beautifully and going with zest, he was always in control and although he was tired and/or idling at the last, he was always holding the strong finishing Deise Dynamo at the line. He will surely continue to give a good account and shouldn't go up a huge amount for this. Of the others, only See What Happens makes any appeal in future - M Todhunter's horse has plenty of chase experience now and once again showed promise, and will come on for the outing.
Carlton Jack had to concede weight all round in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle but he has the size to do it and looked in good order 24 days on from winning at Uttoxeter. He was always going well and looked like winning easily but for jinking left for the stables halfway up the run-in and all out in the end. That quirk is easily forgiven and he can win again. Runner-up Mr Utah looked a decent type beforehand and ran full of promise on his first start for Ms Menzies. The pair pulled away from hat-trick seeking Ballyglashen, who is small and compact and benefited here from the weight-for-age allowance. Mr Bolt was on his toes and was asked to make all, but having gone with zest was a spent force entering the straight. He may still be interesting when held up once more.
Think It's All Over was favourite for the novices handicap chase on account of being well in following a good run six days ago, but it may have come too soon as he flattened out before the last after travelling well and was run out of it by a rag named Cavite Eta. The one I was interested in was N Richards' Talkin Thomas, who was making his debut over the big ones and nibbled at in the market. He ought to leave his hurdles form behind in time given his looks and size and owed defeat here to a blunder down the back straight that lost him a good five lengths. B Harding gave him time to recover but he was unable to pick up, going down by a length in the end. A real chasing type as one would expect, they'll find a race for him I'm sure and an extra half mile wouldn't go amiss.
I was interested in Serenity Now in the bumper but word was that McCain's Classic Move was the bees knees and so it proved, the winner ridden aggressively from the front and driven right out to score. D Cook held the runner-up together until over a furlong out and the response was pleasing as he closed on the highly-thought-of winner. It was by no means the worst bumper around either, with the third Bellorophon and Jefferson's Our Boy Ben others of note before the off.