The first two races were not really of much interest, the juvenile hurdle falling to the diminutive Cooper on his debut before Lamool hacked up as expected in the novice hurdle.
Cooper's hurdling was slightly hesitant I thought but he had enough stamina at this level to get the job done for favourite backers. Nevertheless this miler on the flat will struggle to find another such poor event and may find it difficult to defy the penalty.
Welsh Bard was definitely interesting in the handicap chase, but I was knocked back by one of the smaller firms in the morning when I tried to take some of the 4/1 and ended up not playing in the race.
The sturdy looking beast had come on from Cartmel according to those who were at the Lake District track last time and being 4lb below his winning hurdle mark today was the day to be on with the blinds back on.
Having decided to wait until checking his well-being the price had gone and I was hoping he would trade higher in-running as he has his quirks. Hutch gave him an all-action ride but players didn't allow this clumsy-thumbed trader much leeway and sadly he went unbacked as he sauntered clear after the second last. Such is life.
|Hutch is grilled by Luke Harvey after Welsh Bard's win|
The rest couldn't be backed for various reasons (Faith Jicaro and Harrys Whim both lacking size/scope) although Groomed looked well and perhaps signalled that the Smith yard might have a winner on the card.
There was a boil over in the handicap hurdle as Mighty Whitey made all at 22/1. Downtown Boy was well-fancied by the stable but he's not the most trustworthy and is screaming out for at least an extra half mile as he stays 2m on the flat. He's not the most fluent hurdler either and is worth a try at 3m.
The time was the quickest of the day but they slowed it up down the back and this didn't suit Push Me, who has a decent turn of foot off a quick pace. The mare looked in good order and although is on a career high mark may be able to win again - remember she's a 75 rated flat horse.
Favourite backers rolling up their winnings were on Baby Jake, who has been fired on both front legs and may not have let himself down fully on this faster ground as he found less than expected under the gun. Perhaps one to be wary of.
Two more hotpots got turned over on the day although it looked for all the world as though The Yank would back up his recent win for D Bridgwater. Scu sensibly allowed the very fit Little Pop to bowl along under STD but it didn't seem to be a breakneck speed.
However, Little Pop surprisingly capitulated quickly at the top of the hill leaving The Yank in a long lead with the other three seemingly floundering.
But the jolly appeared to be running on empty at the last and a tired fall there suggested he may not have won even if he had stood up. The tumble meant the staying-on Oliver's Gold was hampered leaving Heist to take the spoils in unlikely fashion.
I quite liked Heist beforehand and the money for him was not insignificant. He has a bit of size about him and remember this was only his seventh run, his first over fences. He took a while to find his feet and made a number of minor errors. I had him down beforehand as a horse who may be better over further and it looked the case here as he finished with plenty of running.
|Hughes bags a double on the fortunate Heist|
The handicap hurdle was of little interest punting wise as Cartmel winner Carnaross looked a good thing to follow up. He's a horse with plenty of size and scope and while it was disappointing to see him turned over on the run-in, he'll come into his own over fences and the sooner they step him up the better. He'll win again.
Vexillium took the honours but made no appeal on looks, a small tubby thing that got a bit warm. It was a vexing result and pleasing to have sat it out.
We were looking forward to the staying chase as M Hammond's Longueville Flier was of great interest and the whisper was that he was quietly fancied. A lovely big, rangy animal he looked well forward for this return from a 10-week break.
Young O'Toole gave him a patient ride and although he made a couple of errors I wouldn't be concerned about his fencing going forward. He made up a lot of ground with some sweet jumping on the final circuit and he'll make mincemeat of a course like Wetherby this autumn.
It was a little surprising that having got to the front he couldn't press home the advantage - maybe the effort of making up ground and a little greenness played their part. Of course he may also be very one-paced but he's worth another go.
It was a poor race but I wanted to be against the jolly Bayfirth who was another looking to follow up a Cartmel success. However, that was over 2m 5f and I was convinced the horse doesn't fully stay 3m let alone this extended trip. That seemed to play out as he trailed home.
Over And Above is far too high in the weights right now and the rest were pretty poor looking - the winner Alta Rock fit enough to run its race without encouraging any sort of betting interest.
What is of note is that the Smith horses seem well forward. The winter horses haven't come out yet of course but with the all the rain around in the north it will surprising if they are as backward as they were last autumn.