Genuine good to soft ground greeted runners on a competitive looking card, where a weak conditional jockeys race opened proceedings.
Not many could be fancied on paddock inspection where Minella Suite towered over his 12 rivals. The Dobbin horse looked well handicapped on a mark of 100 and although he is a stayer in the making, he was sure to be involved at fair odds.
However, solid support came for the S Leech trained Cafe Au Lait and when the market speaks in favour of one of hers it's worth taking note. The horse won well after letting supporters down in the past and those who kept the faith got their reward.
Xhale from the in-form C Bailey yard looks a fair sort at this level and can improve again on his placed effort, while Hugh's Secret looked a real handful beforehand but showed his first piece of form here and this small horse has strengthened up of late.
A mares novices chase was easily narrowed down to a pair of the seven starters, unfortunately they were at the head of the market but there's nothing we could do about that.
Money Maid had been well backed despite concerns over the return to shorter and better ground, but her chase form was superior to the rest if you could forgive her flop in bad ground last time.
Top And Drop is from a good staying family and she looks a similar type of horse. She looked a bit novicey on this chase debut though, making a couple of lunges early on, and she did the same thing two out eventually unshipping the rider.
She may well have won and I'd be happy to give her another chance especially on deeper ground. Chasma ran her usual honest race but is simply moderate, while Shy again showed something to work on.
Jerrysback was a warm order to beat two main market rivals and the Hobbs-trained novice looked the part beforehand. The athletic sort clearly has an engine and was not given a hard ride by Geraghty to land the spoils.
Eaton Hill again ran well but I'm not a huge fan of this rather small individual, although Plus One may be a better horse to follow as he's quite a big chase type who looked likely to come on for the run - as such he's run a belter on debut under rules.
Strike West and Suggestion are types for handicaps and both offered encouragement for the future in their own way.
Plaisir D'Amour looked really well ahead of a truly vexing handicap chase just three weeks on from a major flop on her debut in heavy ground for Venetia, so market weakness came as a surprise.
It looked a race that wouldn't take much winning with infrequent winner Lightening Rod and the Pogson horse Unzing dominating the betting.
One of the baffling sides of this game is when horses that really ought to be much shorter in the betting than they are, go and do what you think they're capable of doing, but you can't back them because someone 'must know' and market adjust accordingly.
This thing went from 6 > 13 > 10 on the machine which was hardly encouraging. Somebody must have known she was alright! If she'd have gone 6 > 9/2 I'd have happily jumped on board.
It was really hard to back anything else, so I didn't. Unzing had gone backwards and checked out tamely again back in trip, and the rest are simply out of form, with Lightening Rod looking very dodgy off the bridle.
I'll confess I didn't put much work into the 17-runner handicap hurdle and thus missed the gamble on the Candlish trained Aengus, who had shown very little since joining the yard but clearly had plenty in hand after tumbling in the weights.
The shrewd stable is adept at playing the system, as it were, and this strong looking animal is clearly better than 107.
Milan Express stood little chance in second, shaping very much like further would suit, while the rest were strung out with Derrick D'Anjou also running on well from behind to grab third. Mortens Leam jumped and travelled with fluency but this well-related youngster didn't stay, and should be monitored.
I was of the opinion that Sharney Sike merely had to repeat his form of last month to bag the staying handicap chase, but I was clearly barking up the wrong tree as the early support turned into a gigantic drift that meant I knew my fate before the flag went up. 'They' definitely knew about this one!
Thedrinkymeister looked recalcitrant the last twice but with a visor on went with loads of enthusiasm to return to winning ways, however considering he had things his own way up front he didn't win by far as a couple of potential non-stayers closed him down from the last.
The one to take from the race was Allez Cool, who still looks badly handicapped on his hurdles form with John Wade. He's not that big so a return to timber wouldn't go amiss, although he popped round well enough at the back. He's a dour stayer who needs it deep, and is one to consider from a lower mark.
The bumper was straight forward enough as Point winner Redemption Song ran to a good mark on debut and this really imposing mare looked sure to improve for that experience. She became a backable price so we stepped in, and that was that.
McCain's Birch Vale didn't look very forward, while Cockley Beck was a nice big sort apparently in need of the run. Irish raider Questionation was alright looking, fit enough, but was no match for the winner who could be one to defy a penalty, and wouldn't be out of place at Aintree.