There didn't look to be much meat on the bone of rather a thin card at The Bridge but it turned into an afternoon full of intrigue on ground that was only just on the soft side of good.
Danceintothelight came home alone in the opening amateur riders' race under a well-judged ride from young Miss McCain, who seems to get on best with the free-running grey. The handicapper won't be impressed but it was clear from some way out that nothing was going to get onvolved.
Cape Hideaway lost touch going out on the second circuit under weak assistance before staying on just at the one pace to finish in the money. However, even he was passed by Chasma under what looked an ill-judged ride by W Easterby.
The mare look fit and in pretty good order, but punters never stood a chance. With softer terrain Chasma can make amends before long, although very little else is of interest as both Kisumu and Donna's Pride ran races that sat perfectly with their disappointing profiles.
The juvenile looked uncompetitive as Nietzsche had useful form going in, and to my eye was fair value at 1.5 on the machine. He was given a bit of a scare by newcomer Project Handbook, who was quite a nice sort in the prelims albeit not straightforward. He looks a likely improver.
The beginners' chase was fabulous affair with Vintage Clouds taking on One Track Mind at the head of the market. Neither was tempting at the odds despite the former looking pretty solid despite failing to win on his previous six outings.
One Track Mind had plenty to prove after his dismal first outing over fences, but that aside he didn't take the eye in the paddock, appearing disinterested and lacking a bit of condition.
He seemed to jump with more composure here, but looked sulky and only ran on at one pace. I'd be interested to take a look at him in the spring when I suspect he could be a different proposition.
Smith ran two and the second string Delusionofgrandeur looked a completely different animal to the one I saw first time out at Haydock less than a month ago. Here he was really tight, and this usually laid back sort just had a bit more about him than usual.
Landing a gamble here last term, the winner was well supported again and he duly made all, jumping much better than at Kelso last time.
Vintage Clouds was one-paced again but he wants truly deep ground to be seen at his best, while once again I did not like the head carriage or the finishing effort of Work In Progress, while Gully's Edge simply jumped round and he too wants it much deeper than this.
I was very keen to get a look at Master Of Irony ahead of a weak novices hurdle as this debutant really took my eye on the level back in the spring of 2015. He's very robust and has loads of scope for hurdling, costing 46k out of the Beckett yard.
He certainly looks to have his quirks as he did on the flat, but he has a touch of class and the somewhat questionable decision to start him over the intermediate trip was proven to be correct as he stayed on really well to mow down Skelton's Ckalco Des Loges.
The latter has a rather immature look about it but he's a national hunt bred 4yro and he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this early stage of his career.
This was half decent form so Good Tradition deserves credit for going with them under a penalty. Further back, Greensworldsolution and Knocknamona need to be kept onside when they go handicapping.
The staying handicap wasn't competitive and yet again Brian Boranha looked the part, particularly as he was giving weight to inferiors. Very few took the eye, although Snapping Turtle looked in good order and had dropped significantly down the weights. He was held up off quite a fast pace and that seemed to suit him, although he was well down when Brian Boranha kicked on in the straight.
The winner again didn't find much off the bridle and he remains one to have reservations about, while third placed Bankhall was up there all the way but he's very one-paced and slow. Hexham or Carlisle may suit better.
Punters these days don't lose out so much as they used to when the clerk of the scales objects to the winner's weight, and when the winner was thrown out after Hughes weighed in 2lb light most firms both on and off course paid out twice. Only Betfair punters lost out on the disqualification - and you know it's your day when your 12/1 poke gets handed the race.
Six went to post for a 2m handicap chase and Discoverie was initially put in a very warm order despite a career high mark to overcome. The in-form chaser was the clear form pick against a veritable rogues gallery that included seven-time runner-up Money For Nothing, now in the hands of T Davidson.
The booking H Skelton was eye-catching and when the beast rocked up ripped to pieces it was clear they meant business, with quite a heavy gamble ensuing in the ring.
But by and large horses run to a pattern and once again Money For Nothing found zilch for pressure after jumping upsides at the last, his attitude costing backers plenty.
Fair play to Discoverie, who has done his trainer proud over the last couple of years, and he appears to have grown up considerably, battling hard for the second time this season. Another rise will make life harder, but another weak race could be found.
Witness ran a similar race to before, the cheekpieces not having much effect, yet again looking for all the world as though he wants an extra half mile.
The bumper had a competitive look, although Boagrius from the Greatrex yard looked the part when the rug came off, really fit and nice mover. He set a pretty strong tempo from the outset and barely gave an inch, so we take this form on merit.
Blue Bullet is a strong sort who went with the winner for much of the way and should be able to find an opening, but the third and fourth home are on the weak side, particularly Temple Man, who was surprisingly unfurnished and requires a lot more time. Harry Hussar again looked like a horse with ability and the run won't be lost on him.