A bright sunny day for a trip to Cumbria with the ground essentially good to soft - good jumping ground and they got some decent fields as a result.
There wasn't a great deal to see in a modest opening handicap hurdle for conditionals, so it was on to a very competitive novices handicap chase which should throw up a few winners.
Chief among them is Du Soleil, a robust chasing type who looked pretty straight for this and was very well backed to make a winning debut.
Ridden with restraint, he made successive errors at a crucial part of the race and you can't afford to be too far back at this venue, whatever the conditions.
Having easily made up the ground those ahead of him got away again and he only picked up third place on the line. With a more forward ride he looks one to be with next time, possibly going left handed.
Some Reign just missed out on a place and like many other Dobbin horses to run so far he went as though in need of it, making many minor mistakes in the process. He looks sure to do better, particularly as they step him up in trip.
Luckofthedraw was among the fittest although isn't the sort to take the eye, being rather narrow, but he showed he had an engine over hurdles last season and he warmed to the task and got on top of Mister Kit after the last.
This was a huge return from the second who is now rising 11, and he should make up for lost time on this evidence.
The money for Cave Top was surprising, he looked the least fit and these conditions did not look to be his optimum, but I like this horse and he can win races especially with some weight of his back.
Bulkov stayed on late and will improve for the run, as will the big Blottos, a slow learner over timber and seemingly will prove the same in this sphere.
Fin And Game stripped fit and looked well but the market spoke out against him and he too made mistakes, and does lack a little size...as such it's a bit surprising they haven't gone down the handicap hurdle route for now.
To prove what a deep race this was, outsiders Tayzar and The Phanton shaped with promise, both being good chasing sorts at the right end of the handicap.
Their proximity to the leaders two out can be read two ways but I prefer to look favourably on the race, Tayzar in particular was shaping as though leaving his previous form behind, the way he finished his races last season suggesting some sort of problem.
Two divisions of the novice hurdle came next and both were taken by N Twiston-Davies runners, both of whom have big futures in the game.
Good Boy Bobby once again ran very keen during the race despite looking laid back beforehand, but saw it out nicely to defeat one fit from the Flat in Weather Front, the pair coming nicely clear.
The time was a good deal quicker than the second division and it's hard not to think highly of the winner, particularly with improvement to come in the jumping department.
Return Ticket was disappointing but he looked burly beforehand and was ridden as though it was needed, while Hitman Fred has loads of size about him and he needs plenty of time and softer ground.
The Some Dance Kid ran okay to be third and he'll find at least one of these as the season progresses, and he should keep improving physically.
Al Dancer has real presence and is every inch a chaser, but he looked pretty fit for Div II and his finished really strongly after 'climbing' several of the obstacles, losing valuable ground in the process.
Having outbattled another fine prospect in Windsor Avenue this robust horse has all the attributes to go a long way and it wouldn't surprise me if he ranked very highly in the Naunton pecking order.
The runner-up didn't do a great deal wrong and will improve for the experience, while First Account ran okay considering he was pretty weak and unfurnished.
Lough Legend stepped up on his bumper form and pleased connections in behind, although being a bit on the weak side he has plenty about him for a four-year-old.
The staying handicap chase is always competitive and with the market giving off all sorts of signals it made for plenty of value.
Tintern Theatre is a stocky little thing and was warm in the market with liabilities on Twister's horses piling up. He looks sort to improve for racing but has a patchy profile.
Sky Pirate was popular but he is still a bit weak for a big horse, he's only young and perhaps needs more time, he finished a bit weakly again but I wouldn't hold it against him and he's proven very consistent.
The big drifter was Looksnowtlikebrian despite the fact that he wouldn't be lacking for fitness and had the champion up. There wasn't a shekel to be seen for him and he jumped sketchily at times; he does lack a bit of size but they came to the right place and despite getting the last all wrong powered home to cause a bit of a shock.
Cooking Fat isn't easy to win with as he doesn't find as much as you'd like, but he was primed for a big run and travelled all over them. He has a bit of class and should win again as he goes well on much softer ground.
Shanroe Santos is a nice big horse who looked fairly straight, and wasn't beaten far, but yet again the money for a Smith horse was baffling as Blakemount has never gone well off a break and as usual looked rotund. He wants a really stiff test as well and whoever is backing these Smith horses is getting duff info.
There was quite a large gamble on Leskinfere, one of my horses to follow, in the handicap hurdle but I didn't consider these condition to be optimum and he was off the bridle from the off.
Those who backed him from 12s into 3/1 soon knew their fate but this run won't be lost on the youngster, who like most from the Greenall yard have been running with plenty of condition. He needs a stiff test, it's that simple.
The 0-115 chase over 2m wasn't much of a contest and Ryalex found himself a warm order on sufferance; he hadn't shown me enough to suggest a wager at odds of 2/1 and less. He's not much to look at and has looked wayward his whole career.
Halcyon Days drew a blank last season but apparently wasn't right for much of it. He's not very big, but he looked pretty straight beforehand. He took an almighty wander in the betting but like the earlier T Vaughan-trained winner, he didn't know that and it didn't stop him. And they say drifters never win.
The mares bumper was one of the best of its type, certainly in these parts, with a handful of southern raiders chancing their arm, however honours went to the North and Point winner Mega Yeats, a big rangy mare that did it the hard way from the front.
She did a similar thing when winning between the flags and she looks very straight forward, and I'd expect they'd want to send her over obstacles sooner rather than later.
Redbridge Gold found market support and was another to be prominent throughout, she looked as though the race would do her good physically and she appears to have stamina on her side.
Cedar Valley was a warm order but was by no means the biggest, and along with the compact but fit Kalifornia proved once again how hard it is to defy a penalty in such contests.
The two previous winners stayed on nicely when the race was over, but arguably the most eye-catching run came from Regarding Ruth, backed at big prices and looking pretty fit beforehand.
She was hampered when Liz's Dream planted at the start, losing 10 lengths, and although easily made up it was far from ideal. She produced a really nice move from the bottom of the hill though to look dangerous two furlongs out, before the effort took its toll. She must not be missed next time.