Quite a nicely balanced card with plenty of southern yards represented as they come in search of decent jumping ground, which looked like it was genuine good to soft.
The opener was an interesting novice hurdle as it featured a rather narrow, angular animal in Middlebrow which was a warm order after showing up well at Kelso last time out.
I wasn't that impressed by the horse that day, so was easily taken on with Prime Venture from the E Williams yard, whose bumper form suggested he would be hard to beat if translating that to timber.
The money for it came late, probably after paddock viewers saw it looking very well indeed, quite a compact, strong individual. He jumped very well in the main, and ran away from front runner Ca Le Ferra from the last. He's one to keep an eye on.
They came clear of the others, Free Stone Hill looking more a chase prospect while Bollin Ace once again proved himself a tricky customer, who surely wants a trip.
I was convinced last month's run by Ascot De Bruyere earmarked him as a likely winner of race two, but the Ewart animal proved me very wrong with a lamentable effort that marks him down as one to be wary of.
J Greenall appeared to want to lead them but couldn't get to the front and let the others do the hard yards, yet the French bred never picked up until the race was over.
Three Southern yards had some nice horses on show with B Pauling running Paddy's Field, a strong sort I saw at Market Rasen last term. He looked like the run would do him good but despite market support I was of the feeling he already wants more of a test.
Drumlee Lad scored on his first start for J Farrelly last term and he was ridden very confidently by the beleaguered B Powell to land the spoils again here. He looked very fit for this curtain raiser, but couldn't have done it more easily.
Bishops Court was the only one to go with him but his finishing effort has been laboured throughout his hurdles career and he wasn't finding anything again before cartwheeling at the last. He's not one to take forward, and neither is Wolf Sword who has no excuses left in the locker.
It was a real treat to see a horse like Le Breuil at lowly Sedgefield and he dismissed his opponents disdainfully in the novices hurdle, hurdling like a natural. He's a lovely sort, and was pretty fit for this. The late drift was startling but drew me in and this was a gift. The rest were moderate - The Bay Oak a staying chase type.
The second and final chase of the day was a proper betting heat as I couldn't have the over-bet Blakemount on my mind and half the field could easily be ruled out.
With Sue Smith hitting form it was clearly assumed Blakemount would be ready to go, but I had massive reservations about the trip at this track, while most of the yard's horses do need a run to put them straight.
Apterix looked a runner following a pleasing sighter behind the mighty Double W's at Wetherby, even though the horse doesn't look a natural chaser.
But he's always done things his own way and still wins more than his share, victory here making him 7/26 under all codes. His mark will suffer because of this though and he may struggle at the bigger tracks.
Blakemount ran a race full of promise and under more suitable conditions could make a mockery of his current rating. He'll definitely improve for this outing.
I placed a lot of faith in Raktiman, the only other I could give a chance to, but after failing to get to the front may have sulked as his jockey accepted a mid-div role. There's another race in him, this just wasn't his day.
I had no intention of playing the mares handicap hurdle but the short priced Fool To Cry looked one to take on, physically making little appeal and clearly she's just a summer jumper.
With The Last Bar also looking backward, the one that stood out was Ten Trees, who looked well and has thickened out quite notably after being very weak early in her career.
She looked so different that I half thought today wasn't the day, but she was very tight in the betting and was worth a dart with Beyondtemptation sure to make it a test at the trip. Things worked out well, with the favourite showing very little.
The last race saw Theatrebar return to action for D Skelton after a two-year absence and it was difficult to crab his appearance beforehand.
Easily the pick though were Karisma King from the aforementioned Smith kennel and J Candlish's Brydon Boy, both looking very fit and well for their introductions.
They ran very nicely but were powerless to prevent the well-handicapped Theatrebar sweeping past at the last, sending jolly backers and guessers alike home happy.