A quickish roundup of the day's events - not a great one for this column although if you follow the markets rigidly you probably came out on top. Pre-meeting rain made the ground very testing.
The cash came for Paddy's Field (7s into 3s) and he's a strong, deep-girthed sort who appears to have plenty of scope. At that price I wasn't interested but I could say that about them all.
Abbreviate set the mark and was also strong in the market but he's gone the wrong way since Southwell and you'd have to mark that run down a chunk on the basis of his two subsequent efforts.
Travertine doesn't appear to have taken to the winter game at all, a comment that also applies to Two Jabs, who virtually refused to jump the first three and tailed himself off.
That's not to take anything from the front three. Frightened Rabbit is little more than a pony and shrewd connections will be shaking their heads after this obviously sound first effort, while the third Sakhee's City is enormous and always looked sure to sure to progress with time.
However, while he travelled great I'd have to put a question mark against his resolution at the finish. He's worth another look of course, but I'm a bit wary just now.
Herons Heir was a very short price with questions to answer in a weak looking handicap hurdle and although he's clearly a nice horse, I didn't particularly like the way he's put together and didn't go great to post either.
So much for all that. He cruised through the race which was quite predictable but I was thinking/hoping he'd fall in a hole after blundering at the last. To his credit he boxed on to win but punters were possibly fortunate he was up against serial loser Ourmanmassini.
The novice chase was fascinating and hard to call. The winner Aso wouldn't have the physical presence of many in the chase division but this slower gallop helped in the jumping department and I was quite impressed, and he saw out the trip well.
Ballyalton chased him home and it was a decent showing over a trip that looks on the sharp side and on ground that would have been too soft. I'd strongly fancy him to reverse the form on better ground.
What a lovely big horse he is and wouldn't look out of place at Cheltenham. While I'm more wary then ever of horses returning from a long break, he may just be one to keep an eye on if they go for one of the staying handicaps at the Festival.
Kalane was disappointing again, and she never really jumped with much fluency. The burden of proof now lies with her, while fellow mare Buche De Noel looked a nervy sort and will benefit from a summer at grass.
I previewed the handicap chase here and had a strong view that Kassis would go close and that Silver Eagle would not. One right, one wrong, but it was a costly exercise. There's probably nothing worse in this game than ploughing into one at what you think are good odds and then watch helplessly as it drifts to double the price.
There was never any hope of getting out and it wasn't pleasant to watch the inevitable. I don't know if I have over-rated the form of Kassis or whether darker forces were at work. The mare looked a little light behind the saddle in truth, but she was full of beans. However, plenty seemed to know she would fade in the straight as she never traded short.
You can take nothing away from the winner Sunny Ledgend, who was a big price based on his recent form but lacked the profile of a back-to-back winner.
I don't know who supported Silver Eagle but to me the horse had no form on soft, no form over fences and a lengthy lay-off behind him. He'd also been a beaten favourite on fve of his last six starts. He wasn't for me, and at 6/4 in the place market at least his dismal effort softened the blow.
The card trailed off a little after all those shenanigans. Away For Slates drew me in but this was very different ground to the conditions on which he excelled last time out and although he went through the slop on his penultimate start he looked all at sea today.
The winner Salmanazar is extremely strong and just ploughed through it, while another of the younger brigade Crosspark also struggled in what was a real war of attrition thanks to the strong tempo set by chase-type Great Link.
In the finale, Tanarpino looked a grade above her much smaller rivals and it was just a question of whether he was over his recent Catterick win. He too struggled on the surface but eventually got the job done.