December 27 – Chepstow – Golden Whiskey – 72

A good, even gallop was set by Paint The Dreams in this competitive handicap chase and when he capitulated late on, it was left for three to come clear of the rest. Of the trio, the eventual runner-up, When You’re Ready, set a reasonable standard with his C&D win previously, so the fact he ran his race is a fair guide to the strength of the form. The winner himself, all the better for his initial outing at Aintree, stayed on well in the final half a mile to score a shade cosily and further successes await this fairly lightly-raced nine-year-old on the evidence of this display.

December 27 – Kempton – Iceo – 67

As expected, the likes of Edwardstone (72) and Shishkin (76) posted the sort of numbers all their previous form suggested they would, but the big news at the Sunbury venue as far as we are concerned was a juvenile that finally clocked a time figure worth noting with regards to the Triumph Hurdle. Illico Des Places ensured the gallop was strong from the start and Paul Nicholls’ gelding was the only one who went with the front runner through the first mile. Once the pace-setter ran out of gas turning for home, the son of Coastal Path picked up the baton and led the field down to the second last and rather than capitulate like his effort up to that point suggested he might, he stretched even further clear of his toiling rivals, Eased down close home, this juvenile is clearly a strong stayer at the trip and one would imagine he will be back here in February for the Adonis Hurdle before being sent to tackle the big one at the Cheltenham Festival a month later.

December 27 – Leopardstown – School Boy Hours – 72

As ever, a competitive renewal of this sought-after prize and it went the way of one of the most unexposed members of the party who chose the biggest race of his career to date to finally get off the mark. The way he jumped and travelled throughout the contest suggested he was very much at home in this sort of environment and no doubt he will receive a Grand National following this display.

December 28 – Leopardstown – Howyabud – 69

A race that Gaillard Du Mesnil claimed before going on to finish runner-up in the Ballymore, and while not for one minute are we suggesting Mary Doyle’s gelding is likely to follow suit, he certainly posted the sort of number that warrants he deserves to be thoroughly respected in better company in future. Not totally unbacked prior to the race at the Dublin venue (40-1 into 25-1), the son of Milan set off at a decent pace in the early stages and even though he looked vulnerably at the second last when the favourite, Horantzau, loomed large, he soon cast his main threat to one side on the run down to and over the last. Clocking one of the best speed figures we have for a 2m4f maiden hurdle so far this season, it is also worth pointing out he managed to run the last circuit quicker than both Panda Boy in the Pertemps Qualifier and Klassical Dream in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle, a performance which indicates he is a pretty smart cookie. Likely to come back to contest one of the Graded races at the DRF in February, the five-year-old can more than hold his own.

December 31 – Warwick – Filanderer – 62

Hughie Morrison has already got a useful bumper horse in his care in the shape of Our Jester and in this son of Kayf Tara, the Berkshire handler has another cab off the rank. Related to the smart Marble Arch, the six-year-old really appreciated the thorough test at the trip and despite running green late on, he proved much the best. As far as bumper times go, this was right up there with some of the best we have recorded so far this term – certainly in this country – and he looks easily up to Graded class on this evidence.

January 1 – Cheltenham – L’Homme Presse – 71

A quality seven-race card at National Hunt HQ and for the third time on the spin, Venetia Williams’ gelding posted the fastest time of the afternoon. Good at both Exeter and Ascot previously, the seven-year-old was equally as good over this stiffer track and his jumping helped him soon have most of his rivals in trouble. Momentarily, The Glancing Queen looked a threat on the approach to two out but another slick leap from the front runner was enough to nip that challenge in the bud and from that point onwards, he powered his way up the hill for a comprehensive success. Clearly well suited by the New Course, one would imagine connections have the Turner Novices’ Chase at the Festival as the main plan and it is a case of working back from that target in the interim.