As it was we ambled down to the local track for what was essentially a four-race card, beginning with an opening novice hurdle that looked a good opportunity for Aristo Du Plessis to continue his upward curve.
I can't say I'm a huge fan of the horse but his market strength owed much to the paucity of opposition than anything else, with chief support Stylish Chap looking really lean and leggy beforehand.
Prince Khurram didn't look much on his return and he ran similarly poorly to before his absence, while eventual runner-up Big Indie is a nice strong sort who showed some form last time and backed it up here. Some better jumping may have seen him go close.
I had been very close to going in big on Allbarnone at a price despite doing my dough on him last time - the track and trip sure to suit better this time and with Fehily in the saddle looked ready to step up. But on seeing the horse he looked a funny shape this time, very lean under the saddle and not really taking the eye. He ran an okay sort of race but he just doesn't seem right this term.
They all looked okay to be fair - Big Sound notably fit on his return from a break, Prince of Pirates very well, Hail The brave healthy looking but a bit quirky, while the winner Cowslip is clearly thriving. Friendly Royal has not followed through his early form but he is very much one for fences and three miles next year.
Readers will know I've never been the biggest fan of Vasco D'Ycy but he's been settling much better of late and they've finally realised this stoutly bred sort wants a trip.
All well and good, but still he was left out his ground under a poor ride from Colliver and if they ride it like a three-miler it could win plenty of races. He does makes mistakes and he's not that big, but I'm sure he's well treated. His narrow defeat today sums up the betting year to date frankly.
Big Casino looked really well and Greenlaw was fit from a break although he's not very well made and you can see why he has so many problems. He's not one to follow implicitly. They were clear of the rest, of which Romany Ryme stood out in a negative way and he surely needs much softer ground anyway.
|Vasco D'Ycy: It didn't have to end like this, lads|
Sir Safir looked really well but his form is not the strongest, while Arthurs Secret is not that appealing on looks and continues to run poorly. Stormbay Bomber looked fit enough but the each-way move looked far fetched in a fairly competitive race.
The bumper essentially closed the show and the unraced Shantou Village was all the rage in what looked a pretty weak heat. The beast walked quite poorly but went down in fluid fashion and wasn't lay material.
Down The Line had stayed on well behind Jurby at Newcastle but that wasn't a deep contest while Tara's Rocket is a fair sort but will need soft ground and trip in time - holding him up last off a slow pace was never going to suit.
Wee Holio is a big lengthy horse who was very green, unshiping the jock on the way down, and nothing much else appealed - Return Flight looked best of the Hammond pair and duly chased home the winner, who will find it hard to defy a penalty in this sphere.
Whichever bright spark down at race planning decided to introduce a mares hunter chase ought to be having a written warning arriving in the post - a shocking way to end a pretty meagre card for those having to caught up the reddies.