Shrewd connections from the in-form B Ellison yard had no-doubt been working the price down from an early 7-2 about the Market Rasen seller winner and he was sent off a red-hot 6/4 jolly in the face of a remarkable drift from Bloomfields' Questioning, who had gone down to a 100/1 shot on his NH debut.
The Hawke had a size advantage over his rivals in the paddock and looked in great heart is you would expect - of the others Silver Shuffle was also well-backed but this Irish import is 1/47 under rules and is by no means a looker, being on the smallish side and rather bullish.
D McCain's Apollo Eleven was the only other given a chance but he looked as though his first run from a 262-day lay-off would do him the world of good. He went without the advertised first-time tongue strap incidentally.
Danny Cook was able to dictate on the favourite and he won as he liked. It's a great surprise that his previous connections hadn't tried him over fences and surely he will have the larger obstacles as an option going forward.
|Hawke-eyed punters were on good terms with themselves in the opener|
Not an awful lot to glean from the second event other than the short favourite Hawdyerwheesht was very fit, if not overly so, and was disappointing, while huge outsider Roll Of Thunder has a lot more about him physically than a rating of 77 might suggest. Let's hope the handicapper isn't too harsh in a race difficult to assess, as he can win a small handicap in the near future.
The 2m handicap chase saw Danbys Legend sent off a short-priced favourite against a hit-and-miss bunch. M Jefferson's seven-year-old looks sure to progress over fences if looks are anything to go by - that is if his heavy fall early in the race hasn't had an adverse effect. That's two falls since switching to the larger obstacles now though and connections will surely put him back over timber in the short term.
It was hard to put up much against it beforehand - Muwalla is a nice big sort on good terms with himself and back to a winning mark can go close again soon, while the winner Toledo Gold is a wiry, leggy sort who unsurprisingly likes things his own way in front as he did here. The play though was to lay Sue Smith's Baccalaureate just a couple of days from an outing at Cartmel. It was hard to see why he was as short as 4/1 in only his fourth race over fences, where he lacks the scope to match up to his hurdles rating. This may have come too soon but he's one to oppose over fences. Finally the mare Hopeand did not take the eye at all and ran accordingly poorly four weeks on from victory at Worcester.
The next was a competitive handicap hurdle in which Vuvuzela looked to have solid credentials. Mounted on the course and taken down very early, he's clearly not straight forward but raced with zest and may well gain compensation for an unfortunate exit two out here when challenging. He also has the size for fences.
It was a difficult puzzle to solve with the first three all given positives in the prelims...eventual winner Right To Rule looking on good terms without having the profile to encourage a punt, while it's surprising Renegotiate hasn't performed to a higher standard - although at five he has time on his side and this was a better effort.
An Capall Mor simply has the look of a very moderate horse while the lay angle here was Playhara, who ran up a four-timer earlier this year. M Todhunter has had some time to work his reverse-magic on the mare, bought out of N Henderson's yard midway through the winning spree, and again it was a surprise to see her trading around the 5/1 mark. She's quite plain and ran up a bit light to these eyes, and ran no sort of race, although there was little assistance from the inexperienced Ryan Day it has to be said.
|P Haslam's Ever So Much is not one for the mortgage money next time|
The novice handicap chase saw B Haslam's Irish import Ever So Much go off a warm order, and with little in opposition it was a matter of whether McCoy could get it round in one piece. He looked really up for this but a rather a close-coupled sort, it wasn't surprising to read he was not convincing on his chase debut in Ireland and he was extremely novicey here, McCoy seen at his best having to sit tight a number of times, and it was only due to the fact that he had so much in hand of the assessor that he won so well in the end. I wouldn't be sure he can follow up as progress is not assured considering his physique.
Anyway, he got a nice tow into it from Unknown Legend, who has settled down since I first saw him run for A King a year ago. He jumped well bar a mistake at the last and there's no reason why he can't win a small one, a comment that also applies to the third Sir Lynx. C Bealby was known to be bullish on the grey's chances but not for the first time to these eyes he didn't appear as fit as he could be. First time cheekpieces needed to help and they did as he went with the first two, only to fade out of it late on. Disappointment was Debt To Society, who had been in great form over timber but doesn't really have the scope for larger obstacles.
The handicap hurdle was another to be run at a dawdle and it didn't suit the in-form Push Me who was one of many outdone in the sprint to the line by Dynamic Drive, a winner here last year. He finished his race off really well but will find things much harder off a higher mark in a stronger race. There wasn't much else to note for the future here.
The bumper may have been an above average affair with some nice looking horses on show from decent yards, honours going to R Fahey's Clonalig House who has plenty of size for the NH game while being still on the leg. J Quinn's Luccombe Down is a nice if weaker type while Divine Port and Blayney Queen also have plenty going for them. P Niven's Tom Barton is a likeable type as well and should continue to progress with experience. It was a messy affair but winners will come from it.