A beautiful day in the north with the ground drying up - it wasn't as deep as it has been but we're still riding very slow. It was a pretty poor card with a couple of desperate mares races, but there were some punting angles if you looked hard enough.
The opener was a dreadful affair, the market went in search of one and found the usless Zayfire Aramis, a terrible mover and a big lump of a horse. He doesn't appear to have much of a future already aged seven, while the other popular one by default was Copt Hill.
This dodgepot has been asking for an aggressive ride all season and yet the time they choose to adopt such tactics is when they go up against perennial tearaway Beyondtemptation! It wasn't the only time questionable tactics played their part on the day and I'll be returning to that point shortly.
Beyondtemptation loves these big galloping tracks - at places like Sedgefield he often runs well but he can't get away from the field. Here he got plenty of rope and they were too poor to reel her in. With a massive dose of hindsight she was a big price having often raced in better company. The third, Flobury, looked fit from a break but there was little to glean all told.
A ghastly four-runner mares chase followed but we had a great opportunity as the jolly Goldray looked utterly dreadful. Sweaty, agitated and physically unappealing being a bit big and long, she didn't look in any way up for it. It was one of those races where you couldn't back anything but at least the Irish mare Suzys Music had run in points so you knew she would jump round.
As it goes Lily Little Legs popped away nicely on her chase debut but let's not get carried away by her effort here - she had nothing left at the end after setting easy fractions.
Born Survivor had a nice spin round in the novice hurdle and he looks bigger in the flesh than he does on TV, I suspect he'll make a nice chaser once filling out a bit. The Smiths will hope Just Georgie won't be hit by the handicapper despite the best efforts of D Cook to get beat by as far as possible without looking like he wasn't trying. That's an art form.
Big Jim was all the rage in the handicap chase and there's little doubt he's better value than he showed here. I was worried about tactics and sure enough those who lumped on at shortish odds (not me thankfully) were badly let down.
It shows a clear lack of research, professionalism call it what you will to give the horse such a ride. Sure, Big Jim is a strong stayer at 2m but there's one sure fire way of getting a horse beat and that's by going too fast, too soon. With an obvious pacemaker/short runner in Quick Decission in the race it should have been a no-brainer to use him as a bunny and step on the gas at the top of the stretch.
But because Big Jim made all last time out over the minimum they simply tried to do the same again. The result was that they cut each other's throat leaving the race open for a closer - enter Retrieve The Stick. (Even the usually reticent RP reporter commented on these poor tactics). Big Jim's jockey compounded matters by dropping his reins on the run-in and getting his whip stuck.
It also meant Big Jim didn't jump as well as at Warwick, going that bit quicker here, and he made a serious mistake over on the far side. I don't think the right horse won here, but let's give credit to the winner, who stuck her head out this time. She will go up in the weights now - as she should have done last time perhaps - and will be one to take on.
Of the others Rupert Bear ran in snatches again and was flattered to be so close at the end, while Young Palm confirmed once and for all that he is a complete dodgepot, finding zilch here.
The handicap hurdle was an out and out two-runner affair and I had to side with Palm Grey, who looked over-priced back in class 4 company. Zephyros Bleu looked harshly treated for finishing second behind one that has been beaten twice since and although you couldn't compare the two in the paddock I had to stick by the Smith horse.
Sure enough he got a cracking ride from D Cook while the hot favourite looked anything but straight forward and looks one to be against, especially as he'll likely take another hike for this.
A mares bumper closed affairs and the heavily backed Listen To The Man was unopposable. Oscar's Prospect was next in the betting but she looked very green and quirky beforehand, and not very strong physically. Wildehearted Woman looked quite nice and clearly had a problem on her debut, as this run was much better with a tongue tie on.