The foulest of weather greeted the first day of Wetherby's season with the rain gradually turning the officially 'good' ground softer as the day progressed.
The feature was the Bobby Renton, a handicap chase over 2m 4f, and it's a race that should throw up a few to follow. The eventual winner, Grandads Horse, a decent, tall type from the bang in form C Longsdon yard, was down in grade and sneaked into it on 135. In the end he did just enough to beat N Twiston-Davies' Tara Rose, who blundered her chance away at the last when challenging. The runner-up, a poor mover at the walk and a drifter in the market, went throughout as though she would go close but this daughter of Kayf Tara will undoubtedly benefit from further over time. The third, No Planning, is a proper chasing type from the Sue Smith yard and although well-backed in the e/w market, will come on for the outing. Another Kayf Tara, I'll be surprised if this progressive 6yro doesn't have a productive campaign. Golden Call had been off for ages and went very freely from the front, only submitting going to the last. Following a break, T George ought to be able to find an opportunity for him.
The co-feature was a competitive 2m handicap hurdle that saw Stormy Weather see off Knight In Purple - who looked well and on toes in the preliminaries - in a head-bobber, The winner was just about down to a handy mark with N Moscrop taking seven off, but it was a difficult race to sort out. The warm favourite, Blackwater King, looked best but went far too freely in the early part of the race, while multi-winner Coverholder was backed but looked as though he would come on for it. Easily the most eye-catching run came from A Swinbank's Big Water, who is a staying chaser in looks but travelled best for a long way and loomed up like the winner two out. As one would expect he was just outpaced by a few speedier types in the closing stages, and, as he'll surely come on for it too, should not be missed in the coming weeks over further and/or on a more testing track.
The meeting opened with a win for Mixed Message, who belied her name by landing a small touch for the shrewd B Ellison. The well-backed favourite missed out several flights but had enough toe to see off two more experienced types in a weak juvenile, but with more experience should progress. The 2m hcap chase was notable mainly for AP McCoy getting it wrong on Temple Lord, finding himself in front far too soon on his reluctant partner, who folded after a hesitant leap at the last. It may have been an eye-catching effort but he's one to avoid for me.
The 2m 4f novice hurdle was won in easy fashion by Three Kingdoms, who still looks quirky but was the fittest of an average bunch. Wild Card is a sparely made sort and the market told us that he would find it hard to go in under a penalty, and he got tired after trying to make all. It remains to be seen if the winner can go on from this, where he had the headgear left off. The only other to show promise was the runner-up Kilbree Chief, a nice chasing type of L Russell's who could have been backed ew beforehand on account of looking fit enough to do himself justice.
The staying chase for novices was arguably the most interesting of the day until the withdrawal of C Longsdon's Long Wave, presumably on account of the ground. Dark Glacier has clearly had problems and now with P Bowen was sent off favourite in what had become a weak affair. However, he didn't particularly take the eye beforehand and once again went as though amiss from an early stage. Clearly he is one to avoid. Susquehanna River looked fit enough to go in on his chase debut following a summer break and so it proved, Sam T-D dictating terms on his father's horse who in fairness barely put a foot wrong before finding enough on the run-in to hold on. Starting from a mark of 109, this is one to keep on the right side of with his sound fencing a plus, although bear in mind this was not a very good race.