Quite a lot of rain throughout the morning made for pretty deep ground, although I always think that's better than the tacky stuff we had at Newcastle this week. However, although some 'went through it', they were all dog-tired.
Not many views on the opening mares novice, the market leaders looked best as you would expect from the better southern yards. I thought Nico excelled once again on the winner.
A decent handicap chase followed and I took some strong views, wanting to be against the market leaders Katkeau and Friendly Royal. Loyal readers will be aware of my affiliation with the latter, who has been crying out for 3m all season.
I wonder if they'll give it another couple of spins over this inadequate trip to guard his handicap mark for another season. I've no problem with his mark but the slower pace of a staying handicap will help his jumping, which is usually sound.
Katkeau has enough size physically but I just thought he was short enough in the betting on what he's achieved, and Wetherby is not Fakenham or Ludlow. I wasn't that keen on the fully exposed Renard, and Indian Voyage didn't look as good as he often does, so we had some angles.
I was taken by the size of Rathlin, down to a career low mark over fences, and he looked well. I was even more taken by the well-being of Sew On Target. He looked a bit leggy compared to some strong animals but he just seemed in great order and I half suspected the 10 week break had done him good. Another on a decent mark, he was the main bet with a saver on Rathlin.
Having not expected to bet the race, it was a pleasing outcome. It was surprising Rathlin stopped so quickly but he went a bit choke out and it might be worth bringing him back to the minimum trip on this sort of ground. There could be a race in him yet.
What giveth, then taketh away. The novice hurdle looked tricky with the market headed by the most likeable dual bumper winner Tomngerry. I was loath to oppose him but near enough Evens on hurdles debut in this ground; oppose.
It was a costly decision. Bigirononhiship looks one of Dobbin's better buys, and there was a chance he would brush his penalty aside. It proved too much in the end, but time may tell he was right up against it.
Bronco Billy had taken the eye in last year's bumper win but he hasn't really progress physically and he may not be right in that department, form of the stable aside.
The Towton followed and it was too close to call. Some lovely physical specimens as you would expect, none more so than Native River. These boys had hard races but the Tizzard animal appeals as one who prefers better ground. He's better than this, and Cheltenham will be right up his street.
Sir Vinski has let loyal supporters down on a few occasions but he was up for the staying hurdle with blinds on for the first time. He was backed as though defeat was not an option and he duly proved himself a well-handicapped animal. I missed the price and he was one that got away.
I couldn't back Waterclock but he ran on again after looking dead in the water. What a queer old soul he is and I'm going to avoid any future races he is in as I haven't clue what he's capable of. He looks half a dog to me but is just the sort to prove me very wrong.
Not many thoughts on the hunters. Herdsman didn't look in great order and we've definitely seen the best of a half-decent stayer. Big Fella Thanks doesn't look his age though and may yet win something but again his finishing effort was feeble.
The bumper featured some nice sorts, many of whom couldn't act on ground that surely would have seen an inspection prior to the Battle of Towton more than 500 years ago.
Penalised duo Burlington Bert and Spirit Of Kayf looked tough nuts to crack but once again this was proof that you need a goodun to defy a penalty.
I quite liked Ellison's Sam's Adventure on breeding and he looked quite a likable animal. It was surprising therefore that the market was pretty quite for him and he looked a fair tool in hacking up. Let's not get carried away by this form on very deep ground though. Look out in particular for Eastview Boy on a sounder surface.