It helps when you know you have a good thing tucked away later on the card, but more of that in good time. The strong winds had abated and the going looked just on the soft side of good.
Maulesden May did not have the size or scope to serve it up to the odds on jolly Giveaway Glance in the opener and it came as little surprise when she found hurdling beyond her on debut.
Not that the 2/13 FAV had it all her own way, being given a fright by Musselburgh winner Becky The Thatcher, who has the size to do alright in this game and is clearly improving.
I called the staying novice wrong as the leggy chasing type Nobuttaboy seemingly failed to act round these tight turns and won't be of interest now until he goes over fences.
The market called it right with Impulsive Star grinding it out in the end, looking very much the type to continue to improve over time, and his slick jumping style bodes well. Same Circus appeared to step up on previous efforts.
The market suggested Nine Altars would be the one in the handicap chase but I had huge reservations with the trainer out of form and the horse having many questions to answer.
To be fair answer most he did, but this big chase type will surely be better off on softer ground and perhaps over further as he travels so well. His mark is a good one now that he has finished his race off well.
A Little Magic is a tearaway but settled okay in front and is essentially bred to be a stayer. He fenced nimbly and I think he could be alright once learning to settle. He battled back after being outpaced on turning in and had plenty in hand at the line.
Fair Loch went well again but simply seems handicapped out of things, while Roxyfet once again showed enough to suggest his time is not far away granted soft ground.
High Bridge is a great looking horse and he really does look to have a future based on his ready dismissal of Top Tug in the novice hurdle. This was tight enough for the bumper scorer but he asserted in style in the straight.
Sigurd was the clear pick of the remainder and he stayed on well after taking a pull. This won't do his mark much good but he's a nice strong sort capable of winning any time. McCain's Culmination was extremely novicey before scooting home in fourth, while Minella Suite is a big lengthy animal who will look well handicapped once sent over fences.
Whether we would win or lose on the day depended firmly on Straidnahanna, who I had been eyeing for this race all season and thankfully the red-hot Smith team were on the same page. I wrote this after his last run...
Straidnahanna, weak in the market, still didn't look fit and simply had a spin round for the mark. I've one race and one race only in mind for the big grey and hopefully connections are thinking along the same lines - around a month from now I suspect he'll be ready to go.
Two from two at the track, the extra yardage was sure to be in his favour and it just looked the perfect race for him as you need a cruising speed round here and the soft ground plodders simply can't find their stride.
When Cooky ghosted to the front with a couple of circuits to go it was a matter of whether he could avoid the bad mistake he usually throws in, and although he got one wrong down the far side for the final time he never looked like stopping.
The bonny Gonalston Cloud looked a bit quiet beforehand less than a fortnight after winning at Market Rasen and I believe he could yet improve again granted a longer break and even further to travel.
Itstimeforapint has strengthened up physically and I attribute this to his new found consistency - he could be up to winning from his higher mark when the ground turns really soft. Federici had the form to go well and he did just that, I suspect he's just too high in the handicap.
There was money for Ballyculla but he has a poor record in big-field handicaps and there's a plausable reason for this - he lacks scope and size and his jumping is not up to the rigours of such a test, especially on this sort of ground.
Alto Des Mottes shaped very much as though softer ground will suit, while Raktiman wouldn't stay this far in a horsebox.
Gamble landed it was tempting to shut up shop but recent winner Reilly's Minor was backed into very a short odds in the next for no apparent reason, having stamina to prove not withstanding the fact that he looked dull in his coat and a rather unfurnished individual.
I strongly felt The Doorman would go one better than last time, when he belatedly showed the ability he had in Ireland, and he looked to come to win the race at the last before buckling on the run-in.
He may not have fully stayed against a couple that definitely do, but a weak finish such as this always raises suspicion.
The finale was double-tricky...Italian Riviera is a lairy sort that was uneasy in the betting. Young K Slack has done a fine job with this big rangy animal who should jump a fence one day, and he looked better here than when sweating up and pulling hard last time.
Bank Bonus didn't exactly look resolute in second and he too has questions to answer, while Rhymers Stone ran well again suggesting his time may yet come granted softer terrain. Popelys Gull ran on again late and this unfurnished youngster looks just the type his trainer does well with in a little race at Fakenham in the coming weeks.