The big day of the jumping calendar for the track and a card that stood up fairly well despite overnight rain after the horses were declared on much better ground.
Cawthorne Lad could have been looked upon as a winner without a penalty in the opening juvenile hurdle following an unlucky run at Wetherby a fortnight ago, and quite rightly was backed into 11/4 after touching 4s in the morning.
There were a couple of 'unknowns' in the race, notably debutant Pour Me A Drink who ran to a decent level on the Flat but didn't look entirely straight forward in the prelims, and his jumping got progressively worse as the race went on. He might be one to avoid.
The other was Kangaroo Valley, who was supported into favouritism despite the apparent absence of his 'colourful' connections. The beast was never travelling, whether on ground or track is unclear, although he made solid late gains when the race was all over.
Gordolan raced in a different zip code behind Cawthorne Lad last time but was given a much bolder ride on this occasion and the decent-looking son of Foxwedge traded low on the home turn before his run petered out. An even greater speed test would suit and he should pick up a race or two this spring.
Staying handicaps confined to mares are thin on the ground so it looked a good opportunity for the progressive That's My Dubai to prove whether she could get 3m+ after a couple of staying-on efforts over shorter.
Settling better than previously under a 'balls of steel' ride from the equally progressive C O'Farrell, the enthusiastic seven-year-old - who looked in great heart beforehand - knuckled down well from the second last to defeat veteran Georgian Firebird.
Third-placed Keep The River didn't take the eye but ran perfectly respectably in third, without really suggesting her turn is next...surely better ground will suit her.
There were reports of cash flying around for the well-backed Massini's Dream but the 12-race maiden ejected Jack Tudor early doors - it may be worth watching to see if they go on a retrieval mission as it looked an unlucky exit.
There was a bit of each-way support for Raddle And Hum but she still looks a big raw horse in need of time.
A 105 staying chase came up next and there were several negatives particularly Sammylou, who looks very moderate and lacking size, ditto Witham who is unlikely to make it as a chaser. Geordielandgangsta still looked to be carrying loads of condition four weeks on from a seasonal return that wasn't devoid of promise.
Cudgel looked a short price considering his lack of size, he looked very fit but just lacks a bit of scope and that may have told in the final analysis as he was untidy at the final three in the straight when the chips were down.
It was Ask Paddy who made them all go, and Sam England's charge had ticked plenty of boxes, being down to a very good mark and returning to a track that has suited admirably in the past. He looked big and well and the headgear was a significant addition after a couple of lazy efforts.
He took the prize as a well-handicapped one should do, and he's the type to strike again from a higher mark when in this form. L'Attendue was quite interesting from a low mark but she doesn't look the heartiest of battlers.
The P Hobbs-trained Pileon looked a nice type before getting the better of Malystic in a weak novices hurdle, the runner-up predictably proving unable to defy a penalty while appearing to run his race.
Alph was the only one to go with the principals, but his efforts cost him third place as he weakened badly from the second last. He remains a headstrong character, but looks well capable of winning over shorter once handicapped.
Among those that didn't feature, Raymond looks a backward type that will do better on good ground while Milanvera is only small but will be of interest on better going now she is qualified for handicaps.
The feature race frankly looked a penalty-kick for last year's runner-up Little Bruce, racing here off a 10lb higher mark but this looked a much weaker renewal with several wishing the rain had stayed away.
A model of consistency over fences, the winner would be one of the best jumpers around relative to his size, and is pretty versatile regarding ground.
I didn't consider the veteran Snowed In, in the handicap hurdle that followed, which was a mistake because he wanted it far more than the three that followed him home.
XPO Universal, Nefyn Point and Monfass all have plenty of ability but unenviable strike rates, which could also be said for the winner, but on this occasion there was nothing progressive enough to pass him on the run to the line. Nothing much else appealed in a weak race.
The finale looked quite competitive despite a couple of defections owing to the ground, Enfin Phil benefiting from a much more positive ride than before to see off the opposable favourite Captain Woodie. He'd been threatening this for a while and the market spoke in his favour.
Romeo Brown was disappointing and may want freshening up before returning on better going, while Yes No Maybe So is another that shouldn't be overlooked when the ground starts to turn.