The going looked soft on a pretty bleak winter's day but it probably didn't ride too badly on the chase course, and as is often the case the Bridge is one of the last venues to get really bottomless.
We ought to move briskly past the victory of Danceintothelight in the opener, who appears to have taken on a new lease of life on moving from Hammond to McCain. He was bang out of form in the autumn but this performance saw him laugh in the handicapper's face. I thought the horse was out of control under his inexperienced rider but he just didn't stop galloping.
I actually thought Running Wolf merely had to repeat his last run to land the spoils but he never looked like landing a blow in a most befuddling heat.
Berland of J Ferguson's yard was the next short priced jolly on the block he too bolted up despite looking far from straight forward. A nice looking horse who was on his toes in good order, finished with an awful lot of running in him and I'd be very wary of opposing him in the short term, especially if they can find some decent ground.
Miss Ranger was flattered to get anywhere near the winner but the switch from J Wainwright to B Ellison will undoubtedly do her good and she ought to win races, as should Cosmic Statesman granted a much stiffer test although he is 0/16 on the level.
I didn't mind Hubal beforehand and he belied his odds to threaten briefly, while Hey Bob also looks physically capable of doing something at some stage. His flat rating is truly remarkable.
Easily the highlight of the day was a quality beginners chase headed by P Nicholls raider Warriors Tale, who looked to be priced up at odds on purely on reputation. Initially I was going to let the race ride but I had my doubts and all bar Central Flame looked to have a chance.
In the paddock the eye was constantly drawn to the handsome mare Hester Flemen, whom I first saw a year ago to the day after which I made this remark;
Hester Flemen won the bumper as she liked and is a lovely, big mare. She dwarfed her rivals in the paddock and is really well made - along with Subtle Grey two of the nicest McCain horses I've seen in quite some time.Of course she is now under the care of N Richards and she really filled the eye, not just in her physique but with the way she moved, the ground she covered, and just general well-being. For Nicky to throw her into such a race was a tip in itself (although I hear the vibes weren't great - I don't read the papers) and the 6/1 on offer was too good to resist.
Seldom Inn looked better in his coat than at Southwell, but he showed his quirky side again there and I'm just not sure about this horse's attitude. It may be that he wants better ground but he made several clumsy leaps again here. Perhaps he'll be better come the spring.
Racing Europe, a nice strong horse himself, was dwarfed by the others in the prelims but bounced back to form with a much better effort despite a couple of errors. Soft ground is key to him and hopefully he'll build on this.
Warriors Tale is a nice horse. He was too short in the betting against some likely types but this is obviously not his running. That said, he did look novicey early on and he's not one I'd be that keen on if you're thinking of chasing losses on him.
Things pretty much went downhill on a personal front thereafter. The novices hurdle was a weak affair featuring yet another hotpot in Captain Bocelli, who had shown plenty of promise in bumpers.
Now this is a nice horse who could be anything. He was purely undone by pulling too hard in the race, a trait he didn't betray beforehand as he seemed a very relaxed sort. This is one you should back next time as he didn't do much wrong here - in fact he'd probably be better off in the better race.
Take nothing away from the winner Poulanassy, who had won a weak affair last time in the style of a horse that would improve again. The step up in trip was sure to suit but it was hard to envisage giving the jolly weight and a beating. He was a solid each-way bet to nothing, if you can get them these days, but even his most ardent fans must admit they picked the favourite's pocket here.
I've written about Turtle Cask countless times here in the past but that last run was hard to forgive and even with the step back up in trip likely to suit I had to look elsewhere. The yard's horses don't look right and this one has looked better on numerous occasions. For him to record a PB is deeply upsetting.
That said the form could amount to very little. The second, Blake Dean, is a born loser who was never going to stay 3m. The fact he was still there two out was probably testament to the crawl they went throughout. That pace didn't suit the keen Freddies Portrait, who looked a better specimen than this lot. His finishing effort was very tame for a horse that has a lot of experience in points. He may not be up to much, although it's too early to throw him to the wolves.
The handicap chase over the minimum trip was another brutal race to watch as I easily got it down to two but opted to back the perennially disappointing Morning With Ivan rather than eventual winner Star Presenter, both around the 7/1 mark. This was poor punting.
The latter was noted last time out at Sedge running as though softer conditions may be okay for him despite all his form being on decent ground. However, looking through the form he hadn't look straight forward off the bridle and all things considered I talked myself away from him. I should have just counted on him tanking through the race and taking my chances from there.
I couldn't have Tomorrow's Legend whom punters clearly thought a repeat of his last run would suffice. I was deeply disappointed with his finishing effort that day as I thought he would hose up. The return to the minimum trip was completely against this paceless sort, and he had to be opposed. Equally unbackable was second favourite Bollin Line, who may go and prove me wrong and win one of these bad races, but he looks an ungenuine sort. These races are my bread and butter and it was a balls up.
I'd put it to a few people earlier in the day that the bumper looked a penalty kick for Ferguson's High Bridge after he recorded a very decent rating last time out.
Son of a Guineas winner, he was a nice looking sort and I couldn't figure out why he wasn't 4/7 at least. The Nicholls grey Be Daring looked a very backward type and not especially fit, while Hobbs' Shambougg is a nice looking horse and appeared to be the only danger. Atomix is alright but it's hard to know quite what he achieved staying on into second place, miles behind the impressive winner.