A competitive card for the time of year with a handful of southern raiders to add a bit of spice to the mix. Good ground prevailed but the showers got into the ground and it definitely looked softer after race three, particularly on the hurdles track.
The opener held little interest, a conditional jockeys hurdle race for which the top one Little Bruce looked big as a bull, he'll take a while to come right as they work his mark down.
Brian Boranha was the only one of interest from a future point of view, although he was beaten miles and he didn't really look straight forward off the bridle. He's a fair looker, and will want further in time.
Dual course winner Mister Kit was the one to beat in the next but there was a concern that he wouldn't be fit for this return and paddock inspection suggested this strong chase type would come on a ton for the outing.
Fair play to W Kennedy on Derintoher Yank who served it up to the jolly from flagfall, with fitness eventually telling after the last. The winner is not really one to have on side as we head into the winter, while the jolly's rating is way too high, but the third Min Alemarat took the eye again and his mark shouldn't be badly effected by this.
All eyes were on Double W's in the novice handicap chase as he represented the first runner of my horses to follow list. He's got some filling out to do generally and I thought he would come on again for this run, but nevertheless he was the one the beat.
They didn't let well-backed favourite Wells De Lune get too far ahead and with that one going left at the fences everything fell into place.
As expected the Jefferson inmate jumped like an old hand on his chase bow and this delightful horse has been a model of consistency throughout his career. Having had a couple of scouting missions already at Cheltenham, this horse has to have the Festival as his target. The Grand Annual should suit and I think he's that good.
The ex-Irish The Herds Garden looked to step up considerably on what he had achieved before, and the pair pulled well clear. It'll be nice to see if he can boost this form in the coming weeks. They were clear of the favourite, who was very keen in the prelims and isn't one to follow until he calms down.
Wade Harper has never appealed physically and like his sibling Cole Harden is on the small side. He was very tubby here and will need further, while Castletown came with a reputation but as expected looked quite weak and backward.
It was Ballyarthur vs Ryedale Racer in the next novice hurdle and former dwarfed the latter beforehand. Twister's horse is huge, almost too big, and will just be an out and out galloper. He looked straight, as straight as a horse that size can look.
He certainly looked fitter than his market rival, who can tighten up significantly from this. He could do with another 12 months actually so he's quite interesting from a long-term point of view.
I always felt he'd be better on top of the ground and this was a decent effort, albeit hard to quantify exactly. I was surprised how he was able to rally after being headed but there you go - time will tell what he has achieved in deservedly getting off the mark over timber.
The next was a little cracker of a novice handicap with a few 'sexy' horses taking on the progressive Amilliontimes, who I had lined up for a bet at Hexham a fortnight ago only for the ground to lead to him being scratched.
This good ground horse still looked well handicapped to me, but up in grade he was facing his stiffest test yet. And with the previous four races being dominated by horses running prominently, I told myself he wouldn't able to make ground on some decent animals.
My bad, as they say over there. Major Ivan looked a terrific as he bid for a Jefferson treble and he was bound to be in the mix having been dropped a whopping 8lb for his pipe-opener at Sedgefield two weeks ago. Nothing to do with the Straker family having friends in high places. No, silly me.
Major Ivan probably should have won but for a mistake two out, but I just wonder if the winner would have worried him out of it anyway. 1/14 is a poor return for a horse with such latent ability and for me the jury remains out with regards to his resolution.
Masterplan looked straight but was overbet and the way he stopped to nothing early in his career weighed on my mind. He did the same here and now has a question mark over him. Oscar Blue looked fairly straight but he probably wants further and softer, and ran as though needing the run, while Kilronan Castle was very disappointing for the second time in four starts.
Three Faces West was unsurprisingly all the rage ahead of the staying chase and was straight enough, but there's not loads of him front to back and I had a query over his jumping. However, I wasn't expecting such a recalcitrant display and it left the race wide open.
I couldn't have Bob Tucker at any price. He's a traveller and little more, and there's not much of him. He got to the bottom of the hill and said 'no thank you very much'.
Carrigdhoun got the job done and this admirable horse looked surprisingly forward on this return. His market drift was counter intuitive as I couldn't have the rest bar Ardkilly Witness, who I gave a real chance to off a decent mark. He too showed nothing, and has it all to prove now, while Askamore Darsi once again suggested an extreme test would be right up his street. Haydock, 3m4f, heavy ground. Bosh.
The finale was one to forget. Benenden did me a big favour at Musselburgh last term and had to win this if the ground hadn't turned too soft. But he's quit too easily more than once and the bottom line is he hasn't got the guts for it.
Bourne and Baysbrown were the only two fit and in-form horses and they fought it out, the former's Lazarus-like turnaround seemingly complete.