I'm not much of a clock-watcher, at least not since I left gainful employment, but the slow times on offer here correlate to the moving of the rails, and not the state of the ground.
An extra furlong was added to the opening race but it was clear that the strong wind was drying the ground out by the hour, and the way they were finishing all day suggested this was was good ground that was riding quicker.
D Skelton's Cabaret Queen has the build of a good ground specialist being quite long in the back, and she had filled out nicely since I saw her at Southwell in the spring. That looked like a decent bumper and I was surprised she was usurped as favourite to win this opening mares hurdle.
Lucca Lady had been as big as 5/1 in the morning on the back of a Stratford bumper win but they were getting their toe in that day and her physique was more indicative of a softer-ground horse. She didn't have the pace to cope with Cabaret Queen in any case, and the pair may be above average.
Ebonys Encore wasn't given a hard time and she will be better later on, while Lostnfound didn't look straight and could be one for a handicap as she looks a willing galloper, albeit going the other way round.
The first division of a maiden hurdle was a dire contest and Skelton again held the key player in Not That Fuisse, an immature looking horse whose bumper win marked her out as a solid favourite.
However, she was pulled up at halfway presumably with an injury, although she was ridden back to the stables. It left the door open to the few with any form in the race, not that they had appealed beforehand.
Zen Master was leggy and very weak behind, I didn't like him at all and don't expect him to be going forward from this, while Raised On Grazeon looked a bit burly after a lengthy break and that could be attributed to her weak finish...however neither of them were finishing with any zeal and her temperament remains her biggest problem. Bit Of A Quirke relished the return to better ground but again, the handicapper must give him a chance.
The second division saw a nicer type in Demon D'Aunou, who was given plenty of time to find his feet before powering clear of another average field. He cost130k and has plenty of size, so could be alright.
Quest For Life ran as well as could be expected on his return, and he'll improve for it, while there was a fair gap to the staying on Royal Mandate and Wotabreeze (quite small, workmanlike).
The first handicap of the day wasn't the most enticing with the betting revolving around Shrubland and the well-handicapped Paddys Runner.
Neither appealed much at the odds and it was a farcical contest as they dawdled for a circuit. That probably didn't suit Bowie, who looked well and likes to come off a fast pace. His mark will drop again and he shouldn't be discounted just yet.
A staying handicap hurdle came up next and it looked a really good opportunity for the strong looking Blue Comet, who looked in great order for a weak five-runner affair.
It's Your Move was second in but he's a real soft ground slugger and he couldn't get to grips with this sharp test round here - he may need time but he'll be alright in different conditions.
Hey Bill is only a compact sort but it was disappointing to see him go wrong on the far side, leaving only Waltz Darling to chase home the favourite, who won as he liked.
A cracking novice chase came up next and I made a poor call in wanting to take on the short-priced Capitaine, who is a big, tall, leery sort of horse whose attitude under pressure is questionable.
This was not the day to go against him though as, for a third outing in succession, nothing could get this keen going animal off the bridle. He was very impressive but I still don't want to get carried away by this as it's probably that the very fast conditions played into his hands and against the others, who all probably want another half mile and softer ground.
Bordeaux Bill was again supported as if he shows plenty at home, but his fall at Sedgefield is hard to get away from and he became very novicey again today. Western Miller probably ran his race and he's more exposed than most, while Lithic looked pretty fit but just couldn't get involved and he wants at least 2m4f.
Atomix ran a tidy little race and this highly rated horse still has room to strengthen, and chasing is his game.
A weak 0-120 handicap chase followed and I couldn't see beyond the top three on the card, whose form had a stronger look to it than the rest.
I had Ready Token and Sporting Boy clear favourites and they both looked well - it seemed a case of which would settle into the better rhythm on the front end, as I couldn't see anything coming from behind on this terrain.
Having plumped for the former it was the latter who fairly bounded off the ground to win by a value of around 15 lengths, with Mister Don running his usual race in second when it was all over. Kelvingrove had the form to win but he's not very big and hasn't taken to fences - maybe some blinkers will help as he is low on confidence.
The junior bumper was interesting, as there was a strong word for M Channon's Rippling Waters despite the fact she looked quite light framed, albeit clearly nicely bred.
There was money also for Wishmaker, although I felt he would come on for the run, and the clear paddock pick was Normal Norman, a good strong sort who looked in really good heart.
His opening effort was surely going to put him thereabouts and with the benefit of experience over most of his rivals he had to be the bet. P Brennan rode him with confidence - almost too much - and he got badly boxed turning for home, and I strongly suspect he's a good bit better than this.
Skelton's Lady Maleficent was absolutely tiny while Grand Sancy was just a baby really and will do better once he's strengthened up. Forewarning looked really backward physically but he wouldn't be the first horse trained by Mrs Corbett to outrun his appearance.