A typical mid-winter card at Haydock in very heavy ground, although as is often the case the main players looked as though they were going through it okay.
Four of the seven were course winners and all were ridden close to the pace. You cannot expect to make up ground here on any going.
As such, Chozen should be given another chance after he was attempted to be settled by Johnson 20 lengths off the speed in the opener. He's a nice strong horse with loads of stamina, but he's currently ruining his chances by refusing to settle.
I've asked before why do you have to try to settle a hard puller right at the back of a big field, rather than say in midfield? But then of course I haven't ridden a thousand winners, so there'll be a good reason I'm sure.
To his credit Chozen stayed on better than most after dropping the bridle, finishing just over 10 lengths behind the winner after literally never being sighted.
He clearly won't be winning anything in the short term unless he grows up, but this came after eight weeks off so with a shorter absence he could be of interest, especially on better ground where they will go much faster through the race.
In time, again with the obvious caveat, he may well turn out to be a very well handicapped horse, especially as he's the sort where 'chasing could be the making of him'.
Enough about him, the winner was one of the nicest in the field and the improving Joke Dancer made the assessor pay for dropping him 4lb after just one handicap outing (how many get that treatment!) when essentially routing the field under D Cook.
I've seen this horse every time he's run this term and he's really grown up having been green and keen from paddock to track. He looked far more professional in the prelims this time and his performance duly followed that through.
Reverant Cust closed the gap to half a length at the line, which flatters him, but it was good to see the grey come home strongly in a race after not seeing it out a few times. Clearly the drop in trip suited, and a more positive ride can now be administered although a jockey change is likely to trigger further improvement.
This form is not brilliant for a Saturday but there are others to note here including Graystown, who should come down the weights again and surely wants further, while Western Morning will be one to look out for, probably after another summer at grass. Brynmawr is a staying chaser on looks.
The Rossington Main brought together a sextet of much quality and was won impressively by First Flow, who looks a proper soft ground horse and could be something of a machine under these conditions.
I do worry that he may not make a chaser - for me he's a bit narrow in front and his jumping of hurdles was very fast a flat, apparently it's taken a long time for the penny to drop.
These things are all relative though, and he was in very good company here. Midnight Shadow came through for second and this lovely strong chase type deserves to get his head in front again, probably when asked to race over further.
Lisdoonvarna Lad came on again from Wetherby and lost little in defeat, he's a chaser for next season and just a little unfurnished at this stage, but clearly a useful prospect.
Waterlord was a disappointment and this sturdy animal has a question to answer after this, while Lostintranslation is a lovely rangy chaser who wasn't going after a mid-race blunder and he's obviously much better than this. McGowan's Pass was out his depth, but he's a nice type who can rebuild in handicaps.
I didn't see The Dutchman as a likely winner of the Peter Marsh, but plenty did and he was backed into 13/2 in a competitive field.
He'd won a four-runner novice chase by a neck last season but hadn't won since, and I always felt his lack of size would hold him back over fences, for all that he's generally an accomplished jumper.
Campaigned over all sorts of trips in the past, he stayed on better than the rest to win really well but I'm not sure if I'm able to change my overall view on him.
Captain Redbeard ran yet another cracker but was out on his feet on the run-in, suggesting this may be further than he wants to go, by contrast Hainan was badly outpaced when it mattered and only got going again late - he looks one for races like the Midlands National.
Ubaltique loves this place and won again, rallying late on after Lake Field had travelled like a horse still ahead of his mark, floundering on the ground after the last. The Bailey horse can win again, while Tornado In Milan ran his race once more without really looking like winning.
Azzuri is being brought along with a spring campaign in mind, and this buzzy sort must have a sharp test to be seen to best effect.
Donna's Diamond made a mockery of the handicapper when ridden right out to land a competitive looking staying handicap after well over a year off. Initially I thought he was ready to do himself justice but when the rug came off I was less sure, and at 20/1 he appeared unfancied.
I did like Bruichladdich as a potential staying chaser, but the way he travelled here suggests he can win again over timber before the season is out, providing he is dropped in trip.