Up the A1 we went for a cheeky little card on the opening day of a two-day fixture where the going was on the quick side of good, forcing a couple of defections.
I liked the shape of the card and it turned out to be one of those days where everything fell into place. Well almost.
The opener was a poor handicap hurdle full of irregular winners, but I liked the chances of the rag Weapon Of Choice, who I've followed closely for the best part of 18 months. He doesn't really get the 2m but this would be the sharpest test he'd ever faced, down on his lowest ever rating of 102.
I've seen him looking better in the paddock mind you, and was almost talked out of a bet by the inner gremlins. But at something like 16 on the machine he was worth at least a throwaway bet against a bunch that I couldn't back on any given day, save Civil Unrest who happened to throw in a shocker. I only wish I'd filled the tank on the Sayer horse, who will never get a sweeter opportunity.
Ryalex had made the market for Hexham runner-up John Williams, who looked the bet in the novice chase, but the Russell horse was pulled out meaning there was nothing to prevent the favourite going off at prohibitive odds. Thankyou Very Much gave vain chase but I'd be wary of backing her over fences as she's so small. Ballinvegga may be of interest one day but didn't look in great order beforehand and ran poorly.
Stipulate had made it's name on the flat Down Under, but had run poorly for B Ellison of late and was sent hurdling at the age of seven. The trainer wasn't in evidence which may have been a tip in itself, but the beast lacked scope and seemed to be carrying plenty of condition. With stamina doubts thrown in he was opposed with the best looking horse in the race which was Kelso winner Spectator.
However, we picked wrong as the other one carrying a penalty, The Character, made all to win in gritty style, holding the late thrust of Golden Town. The Moffatt runner, easy in the market and looking pretty ropey beforehand, was out for a 'quiet one' but horror of horrors the front three were going knowhere fast and Hughes had to finally go for the stick on the run-in, only going down half a length. Oh dear.
The 2.40 was a ghastly affair, the like of which is usually saved for Sedgefield in mid January. You simply couldn't back Asuncion, Shine A Diamond or Dark And Dangerous on account of them being too small.
Endeavour never looks great but he was the most solid option, while the Vaughan raider Lake Chapala looked a very difficult animal beforehand, proving likewise in the race, and is not one to trust which is an understatement. Gin Cobbler was the best stamp of horse on show and he really ought to be better than he is...the ground was in his favour but could probably do with professional handling for once.
A look through my old notes told me that Shantou Tiger was not one to trust in the next, despite showing plenty of resolution last time out. At evens he had to be taken on, but not with chase winner Mad Money, who had big questions to answer after stopping dead at Hexham last time and just isn't that good.
With the rest mere rags the one to be with had to be Rev Up Ruby, hailing from the unsung yet in-form G Bewley kennel. She had returned from a year off with an eye-catching spin at Hexham and on the same mark as when winning before the enforced break simply had to go well. The fact she looked in great fettle sealed the deal and sure enough she landed the spoils with a bit to spare.
As if that wasn't enough, I thought Proud Gamble looked a cracking bet in the finale with Formidableopponent taking out a chunk of the market in his bid for a six timer. I had a doubt about his stamina more than anything else, while the Dobbin animal, who looked in good heart in the prelims, has shown several times what a gritty horse he is.
Sure enough he toughed it out again under C Nichol - who continues to catch the eye - although the luck may have been with us as the jolly got a bit messed about in the straight and could be considered a tad unlucky. The rest were very hard to fancy, with the cash for Arboretum hard to fathom. And so it goes...