December 26 – Leopardstown – Ferny Hollow – 78

Without doubt the clash of the Christmas period between the two best novice chasers so far this season and in what turned out to be an enthralling watch, Ferny Hollow just got the better of the previously impressive Riviere D’Etel. Willie Mullins’ gelding made sure the pace was strong from the start and in doing so, he made his main market rival have to mix up her normal game and after a few slightly hesitant jumps here and there, the latter just could not get back on terms with the front runner. That said, there was very little to choose between them at the end and they both came out of the race with their reputations intact. Presumably the Irish Arkle will be the target for both and the rematch will be no doubt just as fascinating.

December 26 – Leopardstown – Facile Vega – 65

Coming into the race with a big reputation, Willie Mullins’ gelding lived up to expectations with a performance of total dominance and in posting a tremendous time, he now rivals American Mike as one of the best bumpers horses seen out so far this season. Such was the pace he went, his final circuit time eclipsed the one posted by Sir Gerhard by ten seconds (roughly 50 lengths) and his position towards the top of the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival is thoroughly deserved. All in all, a top class prospect one worth following throughout his career.

December 26 – Wincanton – Belle De Manech – 66

A strongly-run mares only chase and the winner, ridden with restraint, came through powerfully at the business end to win with some authority. The other notable feature of her performance was her sound jumping during the hottest part of the race, so even though it is fairly early days in her chasing career, she clearly has a bright future based on this initial evidence.

December 26 – Kempton – Jacamar – 69

Three quality chases on a stellar card, so some good comparisons with the overall times and final circuit sectionals could be observed and despite this class 3 handicap chase being much the weaker on paper, the numbers suggest otherwise. Danny Kirwan ensured there was a good gallop from the start and when he fell away three out, Milton Harris’ gelding was the one who saw the trip out the best. In posting a decent overall time figure, the son of Maxios also managed to run the final circuit 4.9 seconds quicker than King George hero Tornado Flyer, so based on those findings, the seven-year-old went way beyond anything he had previously achieved. Likely to be Cheltenham bound later in the season, he will be worth more than a second look in what ever race connections choose.

December 26 – Kempton – Epatante – 75

Not totally convincing on her seasonal reappearance at Newcastle, Nicky Henderson’s mare was back to her best at a track that suits her natural pace and even though her performance was still someway short of Honeysuckle’s achievements, she will still command the utmost respect if going down the Champion Hurdle route.

December 26 – Limerick – Master McShee – 70

A bit of shock in this Grade 1, but by no means a total fluke because the son of Malinas has shown plenty of top quality form in the past. Staying on too strongly for Farouk D’Alene after the last, the eight-year-old proved he gets beyond two miles really well and in doing so, he also paid a handsome compliment to his Gowran conqueror, Bob Olinger.