The opening day of the jumps season in the north but ground on the quick side greeted small but select fields and we still need to see much more rain.
The juvenile hurdle was essentially a three-horse affair according to the market and so it proved, with the Skelton-trained King D'Argent defying favouritism.
He had much more scope than the other newcomer in Seaborough, and looks the type to go on from this, while the King horse ran a funny sort of race, coming off the bridle after being keen early, then running on. He's not very big.
Breakfast folded quite tamely and was beaten by more than just the penalty - no doubt McCain will be able to find another race but it will be a weak one.
Four went in the novice chase headed by the well made Lough Derg Spirit, and unsurprisingly he was heavily backed to beat the two main pair. However, he was disconcertingly novicey on occasions and he'll need to jump better in more competitive races.
El Terremoto was hard fit and he looks to be regressing, formerly a sound looking fencer he's now come down the last twice when under pressure. Cool Mix is a really big, rangy individual and he was given a kind introduction on ground livelier than ideal, and he'll come on a good deal.
One of the best Northern handicappers I Just Know had Kapgarry to beat in a novice hurdle and the market couldn't split them, and after a good battle the younger horse just showed more speed from two out to land the prize.
The Smith chaser looked pretty straight for this pipe-opener and Kapgarry, who ran to a decent bumper mark, has probably had to run to around 125 here, a marked step up on Perth where he looked in need of the experience.
A handful went to post for the Bobby Renton where Ballyandy astonishingly went to post an 11/10 favourite despite showing little aptitude for jumping in a trio of starts in his novice season.
He looked fit and well but again lost many lengths at the obstacles, yet still came home in a close third and almost certainly retains ability. They will likely persevere over fences but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he popped up in something like the Coral Cup over hurdles come the spring. He has the size for fences though and time is on his side.
Willie Boy was next in and he looked fit and well, a nice robust individual that I wouldn't be risking on such lively terrain. I thought he was tip-toeing around and after whacking five out his jumping went to pot.
Market weakness belied a fit looking Acdc but I like many felt he was a soft ground stayer, and while this prize fell into his lap it's hard to knock this consistent type.
To the credit of Willie Boy he rallied from the second last when asked for an effort but Acdc had the answers. They'll go their separate ways now but both should be up to winning on softer ground.
There were some fantastic market gyrations in the staying handicap hurdle, with last year's winner Lough Salt and Lough Derg Farmer (both 14 > 7/2) backed off the boards but neither was sighted as Monbeg Theatre made it a hat-trick under Page Fuller.
You can guarantee the Snowden horses to be straighter than most first time up and with Fuller setting exacting fractions nothing landed a blow except Nautical Nitwit, who despite being poorly handicapped was able to push the jolly all the way.
Notnow Seamus almost certainly doesn't stay and he has the look of a chaser, while the aforementioned Lough Derg Farmer didn't look straight and his new yard will need more time straightening him out after going the wrong way with Henderson.
It was always considered that Theflyingportrait needed his own way in front, but with at least three keen goers in the line-up for the 2m handicap chase it was a race that was hard to predict.
The handicapper had a big say here though, as the grey was surprisingly dropped another 2lb for his gallant effort at Kelso in better grade last time. With his opponents looking anchored by the assessor, the race fell apart somewhat although he wasn't winning out of turn.
Cracking Find never runs a bad race and it didn't look like fitness stopped him winning this, for all that I would be very hesitant in backing one of Smith's horses first time out. I still think he's well handicapped but he wants at least 2m4f now and I'd love to see him go even further.
Oak Vintage looked in terrific order but he was crushed for what was essentially a solo trial on his reappearance and I suspect he's no better than that last winning mark.
It was great to see such a nice a horse as Midnight Shadow running so early in the season and again the Smith horse looked fit and well for the finale, and he came to win his race before being run out of it.
With the obstacles down the back being omitted that would have suited the ex-Flat horse Innocent Touch and that may have made all the difference, with the Daly horse landing a bit of a touch from early knockings. Aristo Du Plessis needs it softer and will be straighter next time, while Beach Break got quite warm and may have done enough for now.