After a dry week the ground was genuinely good but with a strong blustery wind things looked quite tough up the long straight.
I do love Donny as the result is usually a fair one and there can be few excuses, other than the occasional shemozzle as they turn out of the far bend.
The Skeltons unveiled a lovely big grey horse in Charming Zen for the opening novice hurdle and this expensive French import looked the part, moving fluently and covering plenty of ground at the walk.
He probably doesn't do anything too quickly and certainly took his time to get on top of the fellow penalised Apasionado, but the result looked inevitable some way out and the winner could be a fair tool.
Silent Encore is quite a nicely made horse of good staying stock, and is gradually coming to hand after this his third hurdles outing. He'd be capable of landing a handicap somewhere this spring over further.
Soldier In Action was useful on the Flat last summer and was highly tried at Musselburgh on a switch to hurdles last time. That track wouldn't have suited though and he had plenty of use made of him this time.
The outcome wasn't in doubt really after Nico poached a clear early lead, and the horse looks a relentless galloper. He doesn't move great but seems to relish the ground.
The keen-going Timoteo wasn't likely to threaten, while the penalised Diable De Sivola was right up against it giving weight away, and he may not be straight forward either. Apache Song is quite a strong filly and made a good impression.
There was deep disappointment when the heavily backed Skipthecuddles was scratched from the staying handicap hurdle. It left a wide open heat although The Tailgater attracted support again despite looking quirky under pressure and having stamina doubts, both of which again came to the fore.
The winner, Rocky's Treasure looked a nice type from the bang in-form K Bailey and despite having a high head carriage he looks a real stayer of substance, and did this quite well.
Some Kinda Lama was ridden with restraint this time and that backfired as he wasn't best placed when the tempo quickened, so he will rate better than this when the emphasis is on stamina. I didn't think the consistent Muthabir quite saw it out.
I didn't take any angle in the veterans race other than opposing Blue Kascade, who nevertheless went as though in good form, however he's not going to be competitive off a mark of 120 and was totally out of his depth in this C2 event.
Saint Are looked fitter than when he won last year and almost repeated the feat.
The hunters chase wasn't competitive. Paint The Clouds looked pretty fit and enthusiastic in the prelims, while Ardea looked the part and could still be improving. This was certainly much better than his latest effort at Wetherby, where I suspect he laboured on terrible ground. He looks a dour stayer.
The bumper was a strong one with Claimantakinforgan looking the one to beat despite having to shoulder a penalty. In any normal race I think he could have given the weight away but in Black Op he came up against an expensive purchase that could be very useful.
Black Op has been given plenty of time, and you can understand why as he's a fairly big unit. He was straight enough, but will certainly improve a bundle for this and can only improve physically over the next couple of years.
The form of Monty's Award's bumper win last year has stacked up but he didn't look great ahead of this return, getting warm and probably needing the run. M Pitman's Sea Sovereign is small and close coupled and makes little appeal going forward, but Tayzar should come on for this and he's got some filling out to do, and may land a weaker race in the north this spring.