Back across the border we headed in readiness for a six race card, which attracted some decent fields on account of the soft, good to soft in places conditions.
Once again the big hill on the run to the last caught out plenty and at this time of year if you're not fit you aint going to be winning.
Kelka was produced in magnificent fettle by the Jeffersons and the well-backed filly hacked up in the opener in a weak, but interesting field.
I had her down as a very decent mare in the making after winning her debut bumper - she has plenty of size and scope and is bred to stay very well. This was a taking start and she is one to follow.
Quietly was up there all the way and the Sue Smith inmate, very backward last term, showed plenty here after looking pretty straight I must say beforehand. The other Smith horse, Priory Lad, wasn't anywhere near as fit.
Air De Rock was the first horse to figure from the V Williams camp in two months and although well turned out, was quite small and compact. He got very warm late on and may need time, while in behind Brackenmoss Rory (not fit) caught the eye, not for the first time, while Loch Linnhe and Motion To Strike (very warm, buzzy) can also win races.
Ryedale Racer made it 2/2 for Jefferson/Hughes with a simple victory under a penalty, without having to improve on his win at Carlisle. I'm surprised he hasn't grown or filled out, this horse, but he's a bonny sort. He's getting plenty of experience considering he ought to be a lot better in a year's time. Willie Boy is a big strong chaser who needs time, while Chu Chu Percy wasn't at all fit.
I like to put up a handful of horses to follow for a laugh at the start of the season and I gave I Just Know a good write up here last month, as I'm sure regular readers will know.
So imagine my delight when he rocked up looking head and shoulders above some mediocre opposition in the 0-105 handicap chase for novices. I've noted here before that the Smith horses are much straighter this term than is often the case and I Just Know looked tremendous, having strengthened up he really does look the part.
It was just so disappointing there was little in the field to give us much of a price. We had to avail ourselves of some 2/1 but the pleasure was in watching him jump the early fences without breaking stride.
Danny asked him up a couple of times but he was cute in going short, particularly at the last, and he looks an absolute natural. He's a 125 horse and we'll reassess his progress once he gets there - in the meantime keep backing him.
The next two races were of little interest from a punting perspective. A 0-100 2m handicap hurdle was won in good style by maiden Catchthemoonlight, under a polished ride from H Reed, who may be a conditional to follow. They went too fast up front but he got the fractions right. Pretty Miss Mahler was weak in the market but has rather telegraphed that she is ready to win soon, staying on well in second place. She's a half sister to the stables Monbeg River. Quest Magic looked big and should come on for this.
The 2m 4f handicap chase was a shocker. Most of them have lacked a finishing effort in the past, including the eventual winner Mumgos Debut, who benefited from a the step up in trip. This was dire, and he'll struggle in anything but poor company I suggest.
An interesting feature of this NH campaign is that John Wade has packed up training and now has more than 30 horses dotted around several northern yards. Forty Crown is one such animal, who runs in the colours of partner Maria Myco. I've never been a fan of the horse physically, but he turned up in pretty good order on his first start for G Bewley.
The 10-year-old was down in class on a career low mark and with improvement expected he looked a very strong bet to land the closing stayers hurdle.
But he proved disappointing, dropping the bridle after travelling well in the first half of the race. After staying on again after the last, I can only suggest either he blew up or he showed a bit of attitude. Blinkers had been applied last term, and perhaps he's worth one more chance if they reach for some headgear next time.
Roman Numeral didn't look straight and doesn't stay 3m in a horsebox, while Toarmandowithlove is capable of winning a poor contest of this type and may benefit for the outing.