However anomalous the stage, there was nothing wrong with the script. For various reasons, the first Flat meeting on turf in 2011 was yesterday staged at Catterick, of all places – three days before the William Hill Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster. But if few pulses could be raised by an apprentice handicap, won by a mare rated just 54, then hearts could still be touched when Eric Alston, trainer of Ballarina, revealed that it was exactly 50 years ago that he had ridden a horse called Troilus to win the first race of the season, on the forgotten old course at Lincoln.
Those of a less sentimental disposition were rather more stimulated, no doubt, by the fact that the two most impressive winners on the card were saddled by John Quinn, who endured a frustrating spell on the Flat early last season but whose string has palpably resumed in fine fettle this time. And he still has unfinished business over jumps. Recession Proof, who has excelled in his novice season over timber, steps up in trip at Aintree next week, while Quinn sounds much happier with Character Building's preparation for the John Smith's Grand National than last year, when he faded into seventh. Nina Carberry has again been booked to ride.
Paul Hanagan, who laid the foundations of his jockeys' title at the Lincoln meeting last year, had been sent south by Richard Fahey for the first day of his defence – and it was soon apparent why. Miss Work Of Art, a well backed favourite on her debut, ran out a decisive winner of the juvenile maiden at Lingfield. "She was a little bit green early, but once the penny dropped she came home well," Hanagan said.
Ryan Moore, whose own challenge for the title was derailed by a wrist injury last summer, laid down a marker with a double for Richard Hannon.
Havingotascoobydo (3.35 Ludlow) Highly progressive, after just four starts over timber, and regrouped in good style after giving the winner a start at Sandown last time, having travelled well through the race.
Man Of God (3.20 Leicester) Top-class pedigree, with two sisters having finished second in the Oaks and another third, and looks to have been given a manageable rating, with improvement guaranteed at this distance.
One to watch
Tasheyaat (Barry Hills) Was well backed for her debut at Lingfield last weekend and showed why with her strong finish for third.