The opener was a tricky one for conditional jockeys and really only The Boogeyman was worthy of a positive mention beforehand as he looked fit and healthy following a lay-off. The money came for him too and he was right there at the last when he ducked out - it's hard to know if he'd have won.
The winner Macgillicuddy also attracted support in the morning and although a poor mover clearly has some ability as he relished the step up in trip. This was moderate fare though with the top two in the market Abbeygrey and Ballyreesode never involved.
|Delighted connections lead in Air Chief|
Kathlatino was heavily supported but she's never delivered at the business end so I was pretty confident in the race that Air Chief would go past on the run-in, sparking a rare double for jockey J Kington. It's always great to see connections cheering on a rare winner and they were jumping for joy nearby as the nine-year-old passed the stick in front.
A seven-runner staying handicap came next and Benefit In Kind looked a worthy if a little short priced favourite. At cramped odds I was looking to take him on but having missed Romany Ryme's wedding at Carlisle I wasn't about to go to the funeral and once again he didn't really appeal on looks.
With Baltic Pathfinder and Acrai Rua well worth opposing it left the perennial bridesmaid Foot The Bill and M Hammond's Auldthunder. It's hard to part with the hard-earned where any of the latter's horses are concerned but I was very tempted here as Auldthunder has really come on since I saw him at Hexham a couple of runs back and he's built to do well over fences.
With Benefit In Kind and Romany Ryme crashing out it was Auldthunder's to lose at the last where J Colliver was unable to keep the partnership intact despite what looked only a minor error. Thankfully I'd sat the race out and saved myself a lot of grief, but congratulations must go to connections of Foot The Bill who was gaining a deserved win after a number of near-misses.
I sat the next out as well with Scoppio Del Carro looking a very worthy favourite beforehand, very fit and a handy type who should have been suited to the track. However, he was never travelling with gusto and looked beaten when unshipping Costello at the final flight.
Frederic is a big, leggy three-year-old who will need time to come into his own but he went with plenty of enthusiasm on his debut here and despite market weakness dotted up for the McCain/Maguire combo.
|W Kennedy looks bemused as they haven't called Gioia the winner|
B Hughes didn't look that busy on the fourth Ardmay and this is another ex-flat horse who needs to be watched over the coming weeks, as is Danehill Flyer, a likeable half-brother to Joe Jo Star (a horse I had an interest in) who wasn't wound up for this debut and is one for handicaps further down the line.
The second division of the maiden hurdle was of more interest as I was very keen to oppose the disappointing Tradewinds. Apart from the Ewart stable being bang out of form, this horse had let his supporters down three times and there were three useful types in opposition here in Mantou, Gioia Di Vita and Weapon Of Choice.
Mantou looks a big, laid-back staying type and I marginally preferred Dr Newland's Gioia Di Vita, who had a good sighter at Leicester last time and he was very fit for this. Weapon Of Choice was another speedier type on the flat and he showed his hand over timber at Carlisle last time. With J Reveley in the plate I thought he'd be off for his life.
It was the wrong call. JR wasn't busy in the slightest as Gioia Di Vita and Mantou went on with the huge Endless Credit (M Hammond) and it looked like the former would just get home after getting away from the last the quickest.
However, B Hughes conjured a late lunge from Mantou and with the near-side always favoured at the Bridge they got up deny my second bet by the narrowest of margins. The way the winner was blowing afterwards it's fair to say he's capable of better and this form may be ok as it stands.
Weapon Of Choice is now eligible for handicaps and the assessor will presumably take his second run as a guide where he got an RPR of 107. He'll be worth a very close look.
Two chases closed the card but both were tricky and we didn't manage to find the winner of either. Oorayvic was a great bet here earlier in the month but the drop in trip was quite a negative despite the fact that he is clearly progressing as a chaser.
Cody Wyoming is a bigger sort but I'm always looking to oppose a short-priced Charlie Mann trained poke and I opted to give the hitherto unreliable Vasco D'Ycy a chance, with the race likely to be set up for him to pounce late.
However, he was never really jumping for B Harding and he confirmed earlier views that he's one to oppose as Oorayvic was handed a solo out in front and was never likely to be pegged back. It was a strange ride from G Sheehan on the second who never went for his horse until the bird had flown after the last. You wonder if it was one the jocks sorted out for themselves.
The finale is usually my bread and butter 2m3f handicap chase but it had a messy look about it and with no pace to the race it ended messy with rag Brunello fighting back to do the maiden Moonlight Maggie close home.
Pistol Basc was the pick, turned out very fit and well once more by Ms Menzies, but he needs things to fall right off a quick pace and he was found out here. If the handicapper relents this ageing rogue can add to his tally before the season is out.