Good to be back at the crease for what looked a rather unappetising card, however there were some highly irregular market moves to keep us on our toes and fortunately we stayed out of trouble, which is all we can hope for prior to The Big Week.
Ground conditions were soft but there was no sign of heavy and it looked soft at the very worst.
Drama in the opener as the Skelton-trained Hurricane Hollow drifted as though victory was out of the question on this drop in selling company, with the Slack-handled Discoverie all the rage.
Quite what officials will make of it is anyone's guess, but it can't be of much surprise to many that the southern raider failed to land a blow prior to pulling up, while 'Disco' sauntered home having been handed a lead at flagfall.
Young Tom again didn't show a great deal and he looks well held by the handicapper, although a spin on top of the ground may see him in better light; he's not that big.
Stablemate Cracking Find has few bigger fans than this columnist but being a stone wrong at the weights, having little form on soft ground, and looking a bit short of peak fitness, ran out a ready winner of the novices chase.
The assessor will have a job rating this, with 10-year-old pointer Solid Strike splitting the ex-Festival pairing, but it has to be assumed the market leaders were well below par.
Verni does not look one to trust, taking a keen tug throughout and meeting several fences wrong, before calling it quits on the run-in. You can't get away with that sort of behaviour against a horse of Cracking Find's honesty.
De Dollar Man had taken a step backwards at Wetherby last time and was beaten on the home turn. He looks a stayer, and it must be said the trainer has been very quiet this winter. I'm sure he's better than this, and may prove as much next term.
A decent looking mares novice followed where the tiny Kaloci headed the market despite shouldering a penalty.
I thought she was well worth taking on with three you could have given a chance to, and they were headed by juvenile Shine Baby Shine who looks a real improver for a set of hurdles.
She has plenty of size and scope for a youngster and her allowance meant she got plenty of weight from the jolly. She drifted late on but was a big price on her previous form here and delivered for in-form handler P Kirby.
Kaloci didn't lose a great deal in defeat, but her diminutive frame will hold her back in handicaps and it'll be interesting if she's tried on the level. Alohamora was disappointing on the face of it, while Quick Wave is a fair type who will surely do better after a summer in the field. I didn't like Stylish Dancer, who could be a wrong'un.
I put the reliable Dica in a short priced favourite for the handicap chase but for some reason not many agreed and he went off an attractive 5/2 chance. It promised to be a duel up front but Uno Valoroso couldn't lie up and his jumping is knowhere near as reliable as the winner's, who must be a delight to own and train.
The mystery of the race was a plunge on Square Viviani, a horse of only medium size and a shuffly gait. I didn't like him, and he made numerous errors, while the Irish raider Leap Dearg looked over-trained/under-fed and he has to prove he retains any ability.
The staying handicap hurdle wasn't much of a race and the Irish plunge horse The Jam Man bolted up - he looked well enough albeit lacking a bit of size. Floramoss seemed to have every chance but she's a bit keen and doesn't stretch out in front, as such she may always struggle in a finish and may not be one to trust.
The hunter chase for novices looked a decent affair if you went on paddock alone, and there were a few to take from it, not least Duhallow Tornado who was making a winning debut under rules.
He was slow at a few fences but staying is clearly his game and once stoked up he seemed to jump better. They went no pace and perhaps he had too much time to think about it. He's got loads of physical potential and can only improve.
The race wasn't run to suit Battle Dust and he stayed on well to suggest he can win hunter chases, while Just Cause was another decent looking animal who got a bit warm, and having tugged his way around suggested a shorter trip would be suitable.
I wanted to be with Indian Opera in the mares bumper after her solid start at Musselburgh, but was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Sea Story, a well made daughter of Black Sam Bellamy who was just about capable of defying a penalty with a claimer aboard.
The pair came well clear and did nothing but enhance their reputations, the second faultless in defeat again and she can surely bag one of these. Lancaster Rose looked unfurnished but stayed on into third and should do better in time.