The first day of the Betfair Chase meeting drew some small fields but there was plenty of interest nevertheless - the chases were restored to the outside track and the going was changed to soft after the opening contest.
That race was won in smashing style by Cyrien Star, just three weeks on from his successful return at Wetherby. The penny seemed to drop that day and, just seven pounds higher, was ready to go in again and ridden positively by Jake Greenall duly followed up. Market rivals Scots Gaelic and Our Joey didn't please particularly in the paddock, the latter getting warm. The other to take out of the race is Revocation, a tall chasing type who did not appear to respect the small obstacles. It may take a year before we see him in better light over the bigger ones - make no mistake there will be races to be won with him.
I liked Shangani in the four-runner novice chase but in hindsight he was rather too robust for this reappearance and will surely be better with the run under his belt, and back over further. Fago bled last time but won well from the front from Simply Ned, who is still unfurnished and will be better with another year behind him.
The Listed hurdle saw five nice types clash and they will all win races, the gritty Zamdy Man proving too strong for the fluent moving and classy-looking Oscar Hoof who was making his debut over timber. The three-mile novice chase with just four to post was a conundrum but I did think that Nicholls' Black Thunder was the pick beforehand, a fluid mover who covers plenty of ground. Both Many Clouds and Shotgun Paddy are lovely, chasing types though and will continue to be of interest, while Up And Go did not have their size and now has something to prove after fading tamely.
The fixed brush hurdle was unsurprisingly noteworthy and a popular win round these parts for Spirit of Shankly, who looked quite plain but clearly in good nick. He cut down Urban Hymn on the run-in but the latter is a gorgeous, well made sort who was firm in the betting and did little wrong, boxing on well on his hurdles bow. Classic Move was on his toes and free in the race, but stayed on well suggesting that when he calms down a little he'll be winning his share. Nicholls' grey Varom looked strong and required two handlers but was surprisingly punted into 11/4 and was beaten two out. It wouldn't surprise me if Fergal O'Brien's Up The Ante, the winner of a point, has a breathing problem. He wore and crossed noseband and a ring bit and was free before bombing out completely.
The bumper was notable for the introduction of Wuff, who cost £120,000 after winning a point. A real chasing type, he was worth a punt and went from the front, and, despite running green, beat them all off bar the much speedier-looking Desoto County of D McCain, who out-ran him below the distance. Favourite Battle Born didn't move especially well beforehand and was thus overlooked while Nimbus Gale looked immature and duly deposited Aspell on the way to post. It was a decent event though.