The opener was a desperate affair with few clues garnered from the paddock. J Wade's Spanish Fleet is coming on nicely in a quiet way, and will surely do well over a greater distance of ground. Another third place here should leave him on a mark of 100, which is do-able. He's a very laid back sort and some form of headgear wouldn't go amiss at some stage. Another to mention was Echo Foxtrot, who looked one of the nicer ones but was totally unfancied in the ring. He ran okay, and the handicapper should allow some leniency for this. As he gains experience, he'll be one to look out for.
We got the novice hurdle wrong when the canny John Quinn asked his juvenile Pearl Castle to take on his elders, despite looking as though further improvement would be forthcoming beforehand. The fact that he dotted up bodes well, and talk was of Cheltenham in the aftermath. Unfortunately, I Got Power was being brought along nicely until running into second here at 33/1. As a result his mark will suffer greatly - disappointing for the Reveleys and for punters. Nonetheless we continue to watch his progress with interest. Dubai Prince ran third but was again below Leicester form, but he's a nice strong sort who appeared well in himself. Varom is a big, leggy grey who again saw his run peter out and he may just require more time. Area Fifty One backed out of things but he didn't want for fitness beforehand.
Victor Hewgo was rightly sent off short for the 3m novice chase and he won as he liked in the end, chased home by the very likeable ex-pointer Dreamy George - another whose handicap mark is now shot as a result of this run. An angular, chasing type the winner is already nine and I can see connections tilt at a decent northern handicap this spring, possibly even the Scottish National. The second's future depends on the handicapper now, while of those in behind Perfect Candidate ran on well after making numerous mistakes, despite looking every inch a chaser. After a couple more tries, he'll be ready to go in. Up To Something clearly didn't get home, while Beeves ran a similar race in blinkers as without - in snatches and with mistakes. Danners will also win races and although he faded badly he kept up with the lead for a long way and it could be he'll be suited by a drop in trip. All-in-all, an informative little race.
The 3m handicap chase saw Honest John a tight 2/1 favourite after his good run here last time, and although there seemed little opposition, he was too short for me. They came for Minella Definitely, but he was once again let down by errors and I have to say he didn't particularly take the - eye wasn't in the least bit tempted to join the run on him. I didn't particularly like the look of Badger Foot, a poor mover who may be seen in better light in proper soft/heavy ground. It was left to the in-form The Panama Kid to take the spoils - it's good to see him finally deliver for connections. There was a bit of each-way support for Mr Supreme and he delivered on that without really looking like a winner to come.
A four-runner handicap hurdle could have been sorted out in the paddock - drifter Tornado Bob making no appeal on looks, not appearing particularly pleased to be back on a racecourse after some time off. Atlantic Roller looked well and was probably a worthy favourite, but the eye was drawn to Kaysersberg, a strapping sort who must surely go chasing next term. Winning here off 123, he'll be better over the birch. The Smiths' Irish import Wakanda did really well to plug into second I thought, and at five could have a decent future over some of the big staying races over fences.
I was dying to sort out the 2m 3f novices handicap chase but got it wrong as I didn't believe Oh Right would run two races alike having won at Musselburgh last week. But he's clearly in great heart and ran on really well against a bunch that actually didn't promise a great deal, nor in reality deliver. Well-backed favourite Take The Mick looks capable but made errors at the wrong time here which cost him. There's a race in him though while the disappointments were Sole Survivor and On The Case. The latter was backed off the boards all day despite having no form over timber and although he was really fit sure to improve for fences didn't show a great deal and was pulled up. He got very warm and he may be better than this, while Sole Survivor is a really big grey who was expected to step up on his hurdles achievements, but clearly hasn't gone on for P Webber and after travelling okay slowly went backwards after errors crept in.
The finale was a really interesting novices hurdle and market told us a lot, with the winner being the nice Rainbow Peak for J Ferguson. He was a big price based on his Flat form but didn't show a great deal on his hurdling debut. He looked the horse of old here, passing the good-looking Call Me Vic with ease. The favourite surely needs further already, while the third Uppingham arguably stepped up a little on his run here last time despite the odd error. Once again it's worth saying he'll be winning over fences for M Jefferson next season. I thought they were playing with Save The Bees over this longer trip, and once again he pulled too hard and was never in the race. I'm not sure if the saddle slipped or he just ran appallingly but they'll need to get another run into him to get a mark, I suspect. I'm looking forward to seeing him over 2m on better ground this spring if he's none the worse for this.