Today it was payback time with the veteran local handler picking up a double, while jockey James Reveley also bagged two winners on a day when everything seemed to fall into place for this column.
The opener looked a bit of a non-event with odds-on Balbriggan an obvious winner, although the second-in Red Danaher did not make much appeal for the forecast on his rugged looks, or on the back of his debut effort at Carlisle last week. He ran on a bit late on but is not one to be excited about.
The runner-up Northside Prince is a bit of a leggy sort whose finishing effort left something to be desired while McCain's big drifter Court Of Law actually looked okay in the context of this race and can win something similar.
The novice hurdle had the look of a no-bet race as well although the late drift of the hot favourite Spiculas lured me in. He reportedly sweated up before his Kelso win but he looked grand here and just got a tad warm late on, but I thought he was the proverbial good thing with McCain's Salto Chisco in need of the run after a year's absence. In fairness, the runner-up ran a fine race and should be able to build on this.
The third home Fly Home Harry was gambled-on, possibly by the each-way thieves, but never landed a blow and found this too sharp after two runs at Carlisle. The Smiths' Smooth Stepper made a bit of late progress too and is a nice big sort for the future.
I also had a big opinion in the next as Distime was a class above these if still in the same form as when chasing home the seemingly omnipresent Baileys Concerto. The pair had come clear at Aintree and although the former looked great that day, I viewed it a positive move that he was out again just 16 days later having spent so much time on the sidelines.
He looked absolutely fine and to be honest the late drift didn't surprise me as I thought he was the type of horse the traders would want to get. But I didn't see too many bogeys lurking within... Greensalt is quite leggy and looked in need of it, while Another Mattie has spent too long over timber for my liking.
Houndscourt looked very well - the paddock pick in fact - so it was little surprise to see him run so well on his first outing for Jo Foster, although with all respect the stable move from from Jamie Snowden cannot be viewed as hugely positive.
Roseville Cottage looked well but got a bit warm and my earlier impression that he may be better on a sound surface still stands, while one I didn't like at all was Blake Dean, who is on the small side for a Smith horse and has plenty of filling out to do. I'm sure he'll be back where he belongs over timber after a crashing fall two out.
In fairness I rather overlooked the ex-Twister horse Master Rajeem who looked fit and well so there was a slight concern when he ranged upsides Distime on the turn, but Reveley had plenty under him and it was plain sailing on the homeward run.
A special word here has to be made for Reveley, who is riding with fantastic confidence at the moment and rarely gets the fractions wrong. He's worth an extra few pounds and deserves greater recognition.
|Darna: Good winner but looked sure to improve again|
All eyes were seemingly on M Jefferson's Hi George after his victory over Holywell this time last year, and he looked in good health although the run would certainly have brought him on. It's a shame he exited early as I think he may struggle this season as he starts on a high enough mark with only one race over the bigger obstacles behind him. Time will tell.
The eventual winner Darna was also of interest and his price had halved in the morning. He was on great terms with himself beforehand, big and healthy but with room for improvement, which bodes well as he did this with the minimum of fuss. The old issues with his wind do linger in the mind, though.
I wanted to be against Alderbrook Lad who has been dominating lesser fields from the front and I was sure he wouldn't be able to sit on an easy lead this time, while I'm still not sure he'll make into a better chaser than hurdler as he's not over-big. He also got warm late on, which he hasn't done before, as he usually looks in great nick.
Bless the Wings looked ok while Tahiti Pearl did not take kindly to being held up and now has questions to answer after two poor runs. He took a strong hold in the paddock and looked lean and well, but I've a slight feeling he may be having second thoughts about the game. They went to the well many times last season and he gave in spades.
With the good thing of the day still to come we had to grapple with a 2m4f handicap hurdle that saw Acordingtoscript bid for a hat-trick off a new rating. It didn't look a deep race by any means with more than a few old rogues in there, and the money came for Wade's Jukebox Melody late on.
Seemingly regressive, the eight-year-old showed signs of ability on his return when getting in a right lather beforehand, however he couldn't back that up last time out. With the hood fitted here, and the handicapper relenting, it looked like it might be his day. He got very warm again in the prelims but was bouncing and it was a bandwagon I was happy to jump aboard.
The way he won you can tell he's got his quirks and it helped that Silver Shuffle and Amir Pasha were the only ones in striking distance up the straight, but he did it well enough for me. Of the others Rock Relief sweated up and his trainer seems to have gone off the boil, while Light The City badly needed this comeback.
|Jukebox Melody: Application of the hood made a difference|
That said, Prince Blackthorn did look a player as the horse - unlike others from the W Amos yard making their seasonal debuts of late - was in super nick and on good terms with himself. And he we had a bit of a squeeky-bum time of it up the straight as Brian Harding played a waiting game, only for good old Runswick to pull out more when having company for the first time in the race.
The last was a non-event with recent Towcester winner Agent Fedora sent off a 2/9 favourite. It seemed a bit over the top to me, as 2m round here is a very different proposition to 2m 5f there, but it was too far fetched to see something beating it.
As it happens Ellistrin Belle, who looked fit enough, had too much toe for it. To be honest the grey Exclusive Dancer looked in fabulous form while the jolly was just okay, although still carrying plenty of condition. I suppose it just shows that when you're hot, you've just got to play it up.