Off to Lincolnshire for what has become the annual curtain raiser, boosted by the decision to take a hitherto unused back route to the track which by-passed the notorious town centre.
The opener was a really weak novice hurdle for mares, the market rightly dominated by Skelton's winning chaser King's Reste and the King newcomer Sula Island.
It's a well-established cliche that the master of Barbury Castle does well with such ex-Flat types and the four-year-old quickly looked to have taken a step up on her modest form on the level, scooting away from her market rival after the last.
Skelton's animal looks more of an unfurnished chase type who was a bit dry in her coat, and probably wants a bit further than this sharp test.
Foxtrot Juliet did not look ready for this test though, looking light framed and increasingly on edge, she made no appeal and ran a dismal race...perhaps she was in season. Rococo Style is big and rangy, but she was on her toes too.
One to note for handicaps is Drumochter, a decent stamp of a horse that won on the level for C Hills, and picked up for a song by the shrewd Englands. I liked what I saw in the run and she can reward patience further down the line, guaranteed a mark under 100.
The juvenile is the best of it's type for the early campaigners and it drew a good looking match in the penalised Cracker Factory and newcomer Jack Regan, a 85+ horse on the level.
Although nicely bred, the former showed little in the early days for King but he's a decent looker and was on terrific terms with himself as he defended a three-race streak over timber. It wasn't easy to make the call, although the market support for the Williams animal was significant, as was the 8lb he received in weight.
Both come out of it with credit, particularly as Cracker Factory was by far the more novicey despite having all the experience on his side. Breakfast was a clear third and this typically modest looking McCain runner is the type to defy his penalty at the likes of Bangor and Carlisle.
I was reaching for the proverbial bargepole ahead of a 0-110 handicap chase, the only one of any real interest was the hitherto disappointing and unexposed One Forty Seven, who was fit off a break and ready to roll.
He was backed into favouritism but thankfully found one too good in the well-handicapped West Wizard, but Twister's horse is the one to take forward as the track was probably tight enough and the trip on the short side. This as a step in the right direction and he needs to back it up now.
Race four was the biggie, the Class 3 handicap chase didn't look as competitive as the numbers and betting suggested. The market spoke against Candy Burg and Special Prep, the latter facing a big task in just his second chase and he'll have other days with his sights lowered.
Money came for Buster Thomas but he's a disappointing horse and looked on the burly side; he carries his head a little high and was a bit on edge. He has plenty to prove for me.
Not A Role Model is a decent looking chaser in the making but for the second race in succession he was encumbered with brainless front-running tactics. Continually chased along to force the gallop, he'll be more than capable of defying his current mark when energies are used more suitably.
Cusheen Bridge is more of a spoiler than anything else and he looked as well as I've seen him, but again tailed himself off before rallying to take third. There's a race in him probably with a jockey change, but he's not a backable proposition.
Jovial Joey looked incredibly hard fit and there may not be too much left in him in the short term. He's run another sound race for one that doesn't find a great deal under pressure, and the writing was on the wall for some time as Exitas loomed upsides three out.
The 10yro was down 8lb from a career high last autumn after he had picked up a C1 affair at Ascot. Overlooked in the market for much of the day, he saw some late support and backers were justly rewarded. He's a strong chase type and another credit to his under-estimated handler.
I was surprised to see strong market support for Theclockisticking in the big handicap hurdle, who started out in the bumper on this card 12 months ago. Now rated 137, he seems high in the weights but he still looks a bit of a shell and I hoped he would have strengthened up a bit.
What's more I have him down as a stayer so the drop to 2m was surprising, and it's to his credit that he was able to come from a mile back to take second place. This could be a bit of a muddling season but he has the ability pick up a race back over further.
Caius Marcius had been tried over fences but he's a robust hurdler lacking physical scope, and he took another big leap forwards as he pounced on a strong pace to put it to bed at the top of the straight.
Not many got into it and on lively ground it's a sharp old track.
There was nothing worth mentioning from the 100 handicap hurdle, and the bumper was knowhere near the standard of last year's race won by Simply The Betts.
Risk And Co was fit and forward and belied his long odds, which overlooked his run behind Earlofthecotswolds last term where neither animal enjoyed the Fakenham terrain.
Twister's horse is a decent looker, quite tall with substance, and along with most from the yard was forward enough. The Fakenham form looked quite solid and is even better now. Get An Oscar was penalised for landing a weak Hexham affair and the Point winner lacked gears round here.
Home bred Prophets Prayer is a backward type with plenty of size and he showed more than enough, as did the likeable Fubar, who nearly came down on the home turn and can go one better. The rest looked pretty backward.