A mild day for a weak card - the ground was heavy but those who went on it got through it ok.
A weak conditional jockeys handicap opened proceedings and the front four in the betting were the only ones of interest. Splitting them was not so easy, although at least Lean Burn came into it in good form and is a likeable type who keeps on giving - he ran on well to deny Baraboy at Donny last time. That run may have flattered the runner-up and the market preferred the winner, who looked on good terms even though he's not the most eye-catching sort. Of the others, Shan Valley surely had his best chance for a while and although he's a poor mover he went to post with plenty of gusto and was clearly in decent form. Tom Sang was backed for the third time in a row but he looks a weak sort and despite having a tongue tie this time he again ran a lifeless race. As it happened, Shan Valley went like the winner for a long way before curling up on the run-in, allowing Lean Burn to wear her down. An entirely predictable outcome. Lay of the race was Chapelle Du Roi, who made little appeal on looks or form and jumped poorly.
The next was a mares' novices chase - hardly a great betting medium - but I wanted to be against the rather touted Fair Bramble, who remains a maiden and had the cheekpieces on this time. She looks a weak sort, both physically and mentally, and likes to throw in some mistakes. The winner was not easy to find, Legendary Hop clearly a big chasing type who had two incompletions following her victory on debut. She plugged on to beat Mrs Eff, who did not like being in front at all and threw it away late on. The fact that Fair Bramble and Tea Caddy appeared to be staying on well means nothing - they were well beat off before the front pair stopped almost to a walk. Hidden Horizons may well have won had Mrs Eff not jumped across him two out, hapless P Buchanan contriving to fall off. I'd like to be against all four of the principles next time.
Of the others, Lady of Verona was well backed but is not overly big for fences, and she came a cropper early on. However, better ground will be a help.
A stayers hurdle was the most competitive on the card, at least on paper, and I liked Heavenstown who looked very fit and ready to follow up his recent Southwell win. Odds of 8/1 were hugely generous but we didn't account for 33/1 chance Captain Clayton, who stayed on well to win with the pair a mile clear. Forty Crown came next and he's not the most pleasing sort on the eye who should be opposed if tried over fences again. He had every chance here although J Wade's yard is not exactly firing in the winners just now. Markem crawled over the line and surely has a regressive wind issue, while Stickleback was giving another chance by many but who ran no sort of race in cheekpieces. He looked fit and well but has little ability allied to a poor temperament - continue to avoid. Delightfully is a scrawny little thing and will always be opposable, while You Know Yourself and Grey Area were not fit.
The 'feature' was the four runner stayers handicap chase, which the bookies made a tight affair with sps of 2, 5/2, 3 and 7/2. That was a nonsense. For me, the jolly Fill The Power was the one to beat and may have been the subject of a tipping service midway through the morning that saw him cut to 11/8. 2/1 was hardly giving him away as he has won once over fences, but class is everything and my first view of the horse in the flesh told me he was built to carry weight in this ground. The galloping nature of the track suited him and he got in a great rhythm and the big horse jumped them silly down the back - both Camden and Wood Yer making mistakes but still not good enough even if they hadn't. The latter was a big late drifter in the market and there was something uneasy about him in the paddock too, getting slightly het up as if he wasn't liking the tongue-tie. He ran no sort of race, while the final member of the quartet was Harris Hawk, who has a tendency to run in snatches, and while he ran on to take second he did not merit the punt into 7/2. He can win again, but at a lower level.
The weak novices hurdle provided little of interest although Fine Rightly is a nice enough sort and won well - jumping notably fluently unlike on his two previous outings over timber. He could be one to watch. Mistariva was green and got loose in the paddock beforehand, and then kicked every hurdle out the ground.
Massena, looking sprightly for his hat-trick bid, was another to be sent off at odds on but the 8/13 was almost tempting as I couldn't find anything to put up against it. Cloverhill Lad, an honest trier if ever there was one, won a weak affair last time and I simply couldn't have the other three at any time. Despite hitting the first down the far side, the jolly gagged up.