Let's face it, for the money Haydock put up they didn't deserve the shite that we had to endure this afternoon, where for us railway shunters it was a case of siding with the favourites or finding one to beat them.
Not the most enticing of prospects, you'll no doubt agree, made even less so by the pissing rain, which turned the track pretty testing by the halfway stage.
Still, we're made of stern stuff and the anticipation was palpable by the time we reached the penultimate event where our grey hero was to take on another P Nicholls hotpot in Vago Collonges.
Now, when Maximizer blitzed a field of cardboard cutouts at Carlisle a month ago, I wasn't the first one looking to keep a tight rein on expectations, as the performance had brought a lump to the trousers of many an innocent bystander. You'd have thought it was 'Dessie' incarnate.
And yet this very fetching animal seems to have it all; lengthy, strong, athletic - you name it. So it was great to see that he had strengthened up a good deal in the interim and with the ground riding very similar to what it did at Carlisle, there was every chance he could follow up.
|The great white hope (not one of my best, I'll admit)|
After much deliberation it was time to grow a pair and move in for some of the 9/4, which quickly went to evens after they'd gone a hundred yards.
Let's not get carried away - like a heavyweight boxer racking up a string of knockout wins, until he gets chinned we won't know what he's really made of. But on this dank Friday afternoon at least he made our (northern) hearts sing.
Rewind the tape and it looked like we would struggle to get anything out of the card if we didn't solve the 14-runner opener. Some nice horses here with only two real negatives - Night In Milan still looked in need of the run (why so strong in the market?) while the long-absent Moon Indigo looked in no shape to do himself justice. What a marvellous race he ran in the circumstances and we can only hope Mr Wade will give him enough time to get over these exertions.
Storm Of Swords was of interest in the morning but was quite disappointing in the flesh, very fit but rather angular and still having some filling out to do. He's proven disappointing thus far but there are less competitive races than this for him.
Milan Bound looked a nice horse but is another who has yet to deliver and his finishing effort left something to be desired, unlike the winner Closing Ceremony, who obviously has his quirks but has plenty of raw talent. There was no evidence of a boil-over that scuppered him last time.
Quel Elite remains of interest after his race was over following an early shemozzle. He looked in great nick and it would come as no surprise to see him finally add to his tally in the near term. Master Malt was the other eye-catcher and he looks a decent sort who should prove way better than his current mark.
The nearer the second race approached the more I wanted to take on the good thing Turban. Again the prelims proved significant as the jolly didn't really take the eye, a quirky looking sort who didn't look race 'tight'. Beaten several times at short odds he had to be taken on and on looks at least it was no contest - Third Intention looked the bollox.
It was just a question of whether you gave the Tizzard chestnut another chance after so many near misses. Mwaleshi to be fair looked on great terms with himself although you'd never back him on looks, so I opted for a split stake bet. The Nicholls grey may not amount to much but I'm of the opinion he needs a trip already. At the end of the day we should probably have just got stuck into the jolly, who never looked like landing a blow.
The next was a decent looking contest and it centred around The Brock Again, a big, raw chasing type who is yet to fill his large frame. Nice horse, but was today the day? I had a feeling he might empty out but I didn't feel the need to play, especially watching the in-running action it looked like another stitch up a la Chieftain's Choice.
Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but the game was up three out for those who went in at short odds. The rest all looked nippier types although eventual winner Thorpe was the least appealing (leggy, pottery) and I wouldn't have found him in a million years. Stephanie Frances may have some form in the book but she's a petite thing and got lost in the mud.
We dodged a bullet in the next as Virak looked a potential non-stayer and I wanted to take it on with Monkey Kingdom, expecting a market move. The latter didn't really make much of an impression however pre-race while Golden Hoof is a big, leggy sort who perhaps wouldn't relish the test.
It left Grand Vision who had the stamina in the bank but to me it appeared that he would improve for the run. Of course we'll never know what he had in the tank but Tizzard backers will no doubt wonder what might have been after the grey crashed out four from home. Nevertheless he looks back on track and this chasing type can make amends.
After Maximiser's win we were in fair spirits despite the rain pelting down by now and we hung around to see the three bumper horses spin round the paddock. Again it was the Nicholls horse Abidjan who came out the worst of the trio, looking backward and ungainly at the walk. I didn't think the sloppy ground would be suitable for the youngster and it was little surprise that Midnight Shot was favoured in the market with some good form in the book.
Dean's Walk looked the strongest of the trio and should have a decent future over obstacles - it's surprising he has been kept on the flat this long.
Briefly touching on Saturday's big race, I've had to step in to take some double figure odds about Harry Topper. I realise he's plenty to find but with question marks about the principles and everything in his favour, I'll be disappointed if he's not in the shake-up, providing he can keep the mistakes to a minimum. I'm looking forward to seeing some class horses and it's a meaty card. Until then....