It was great to be back at Musselburgh this week for the first time in many years, the scene of some memorable days with the likes of Saif Sareea and Jo Joe Star back in the day.
The place still appears to be thriving with some decent facilities to boot - a far cry from Friday's trip to Hexham where you will do well to survive a day's racing on a cup of char.
That said, at 20 sovs at the gate you are paying more for a day's racing than anywhere in the land on a midweek card. So now you know how their prize money is so much better!
Rain threatened throughout the day but never really materialised and the going was only just on the slow side, if that.
After a four-hour schlep the action fairly whizzed by after taking the only sensible option by sitting out the opener, in which short-priced juvenile Dominada was turned over after a host of slow leaps.
The novices chase was interesting but the market sorted them out good and proper - Irish raider My Betty very much on the small side while Super Collider was in need of the run.
You can take it pretty much as read that the Russell/Scudamore axis get most of their horses from the Irish point field and that they all improve for a fence.
A perfect case in point is The Cobbler Swayne, a rather leggy unfurnished horse who showed snippets of form in a quiet first year over timber.
This week he looked a lot stronger generally while still being a little gawky, but I was very impressed with the way he jumped here bar an awkward leap at the last, first time round.
By contrast the second and third home, Court Dismissed and Amilliontimes, seem destined to struggle over larger obstacles as they lack size. The former still has time to fill out but the latter lacks substance and although he was the subject of much support he once again made numerous errors.
I like The Cobbler Swayne although soft ground would be of concern at this stage, and of course the assessor will have his say.
The juvenile hurdle was a straight match and although they just favoured newcomer Innocent Touch in a tight market I was happy to row in with Irish raider Winter Lion, despite conceding a penalty.
The latter is a lovely strong horse who jumped superbly and I have no hesitation in putting him up as a horse to follow over further, with a caveat that he looks to be a good ground performer.
Fair play to the winner though, who was a little more novicey at times but jumped slickly in the main. He also put his head down in the finish which he needed to do. I thought the pair looked half-decent.
I hadn't seen Cobajayisland for a while but had backed him in defeat a couple of times, and felt this could finally be the day he delivered despite concerns over track and ground.
Derek Fox did the right thing in allowing the horse his head early on after he proved very free on his first start back over three miles at Worcester last time. Having made that move it was a bit surprising he didn't win a shade more comfortably in the end against some exposed looking stayers.
However, I'm sure the seven-year-old will prove better on soft ground on a more galloping track where Fox can ride one of his favourite waiting races. There didn't seem to be much left at the end but he's a horse who has looked short of confidence and he can move forward from here.
I had an each-way go on a rather nice individual called St Quintin in the stayers hurdle although got lucky in snatching a place when C Bewley eased up on Solway Prince and lost a couple of spots late on.
St Quintin has the appearance of a half-decent animal although he looks immature physically and mentally at present, jumping really novicey at times and not really put his head down in the straight. I think he's a good ground horse so they will pick their way with him, but I'll be watching his progress closely.
The finale looked wide open according to the betting but I was dead against Court Of Law (dog), Shady Sadie (useless) and Alta Rock (slow, getting old). There was also Solway Bay, who rarely wins, plus the question of Simarthur, who was much fitter than on his return but who had not taken to fences previously.
It left Derryfadda, a horse I backed on debut at Sedgefield, and Benefit In Kind, a big horse who had improved from Hexham. I plumped for the latter, based on course form and a strong jockey, over Derryfadda who had looked weak in the finish on all three starts.
They couldn't get him off the bridle though, and this relative speed test suited perfectly. Whether he'll be up to defying a steep rise in the weights is questionable.
A funny old card with a couple of interesting novice hurdles followed by four impossible-looking handicaps.
Nuts Well should have been a strong selection in the first in the face of strong support for hurdles debutant Cloudy Dream. I had backed the half brother to Runswick Royal last time out despite him looking to need the run and he had tightened up markedly since.
He's a rather fractious sort though and once again was on his toes and sweating. In the race he was novicey in front and although he settled better this time, I'm sure there'll be lots of improvement to come when he grows up. He's only four.
I was surprised at the scale of the punt of Cloudy Dream, with the soft ground a real red flag following two bumper wins on good terrain.
It wasn't the ground that beat him here though, rather that jockey Hughes was caught out his ground spotting the winner half a dozen lengths off a slow pace. The Irishman got two days into the bargain for barging the one-paced staying type Marquis of Carabas out the way on the run in.
It was surprising to see the Reveley youngster Waiting Perfectly looking so forward for such a young horse. It was a big run to chase home the winner and although the slow pace may flatter him connections could have a decent prospect in time.
Jefferson followers were badly burnt again in the next when Ryedale Racer (3s into Evs) was outbattled by rugged chase type Delusionofgrandeur in a tight finish.
Ryedale Racer's bumper form wasn't all that and this quite unfurnished youngster appeared to win here last spring in spite of the heavy ground. As such, this tacky terrain may not have suited either and some better ground could see him take a step forward from this.
The winner is a very plain, strong individual who you could sense would just gallop all day long for you. He had visibly come on from his season's opener as all the Smith horses do.
Presenting Junior went the other way in the market despite looking pretty straight, but he's assentially a good ground horse and this sticky stuff may not have suited. He could just be a better chaser, too.
I was quite taken by S Coltherd's Captain Redbeard, whose finishing position belied what was a decent effort. Moderate in bumpers, this big chase type landed a couple of points in the spring but wasn't fully tuned up for this,
After a move into contention down the back straight, that lack of condition told up the hill as he faded right out of it. Don't be put off by this - he's one to watch.
On a day of remarkable betting patterns the big strong staying hunter Kalastar was punted into 6/4 despite all form coming on good ground. He looked unbelievably slow here and finished well beaten.
Thatildee had not shown a great deal but was a wild card entry having not tackled a staying trip before and was given cheekpieces into the bargain. This was a fair effort in a poor race. Would Kilmainham (now 1/35) have won had he jumped the last? Not sure. His finishing effort has been very poor in the past.
The 2m4f handicap chase was taken by Verko, who I had lost faith in a long time ago, and he picked up the pieces here when everything fell into place. He's essentially a soft ground stayer and he came home in front after the rest cried enough, including perennial dodgepot Trouble In Paris, who looked in great nick beforehand.
Two more short-priced favourites were turned over on a day to forget for the money buyers - Gunner Lindley and Bruce Almighty edged out in close finishes. In the two miler, chase prospect Dutch Canyon is simply crying out for an extra mile, while the unfurnished Landmeafortune will also be of interest when stepped up markedly in trip.
Darsi Dancer was simply not in the same form as when winning at Sedgefield, for whatever reason, while Lilly's Legend is a horse who looks capable of far better than she has achieved thus far. I suspect good ground could be key to her.