January 10 – Ludlow – Quick Wave – 67

Returning from a 303-day absence, you could have forgiven Venetia Williams’ mare for being a little ring rusty, but it turned out to be quite the opposite as she showed a clean pair of heels to her six rivals. Quick and economical over her fences, the daughter of Gentlewave kept up a strong tempo from the outset and her winning time reflected her overall superiority. It is also worth pointing out she ran the last circuit over three seconds quicker than the 2m4f handicap chase won by Java Point on the same card, so she is most definitely one to bear in mind if she returns to the Shropshire venue in due course.

January 15 – Warwick – Brave Seasca – 76

This son of Brave Mansonnien has a body of work this season which suggests he keeps getting quicker with each run and on this evidence, there is no end to his progression. A real slick jumper with a good engine to boot, Venetia Williams’ gelding, along with L’Homme Presse, is right up there with some of the best novice chasers seen so far this season – certainly based on our figures.

January 15 – Kempton – Mister Fisher – 77

Only four runners went to post for this Grade 2, but the pace was strong from the outset and it really suited the patiently-ridden winner. Not quite good enough for the very best over three miles in the King George previously, Nicky Henderson’s classy gelding was more at home over his optimum distance and if the ground were to come up close to good at the Cheltenham Festival, he is capable of running a bit better than he did in last season’s Ryanair.

January 15 – Kempton – Cobblers Dream – 65

As competitive a handicap run all season and it went the way of one of the most unexposed members of the 19-strong field. A convincing winner at Doncaster on his handicap bow, he made it 2-2 in that sphere with an even better display and the way he hit the line after travelling best throughout suggests he is not done yet. Now rated 136, either the Coral Cup or the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival have to come seriously into the conversation.

January 16 – Punchestown – Dysart Dynamo – 73

Traditionally a strong guide towards the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and this year’s renewal looks no different. Setting off to make it a proper test at the trip, Willie Mullins’ gelding soon had most of his rivals in trouble and by the time he had swung for home, the race was over bar the shouting. Maintaining a relentless pace all the way to the line, the son of Westerner won with seemingly any amount in hand and in doing so, he overtook Constitutional Hill at the head of our pecking order. Likely to go straight to Cheltenham, it would be a massive surprise if he did not line up for the curtain raiser on day one – such is his natural speed – and he looks to have all the attributes of the likes of Douvan, Min and Vautour, all previous winners of both races.

January 16 – Punchestown – Bob Olinger – 78 

On any other day, the performance of Dysart Dynamo would have been good enough to claim the plaudits, but on this occasion, even he had to play second fiddle, figures-wise, to a horse who simple is the real deal. Not convincing every observer on his chasing bow at Gowran, his time figure that day, however, was still pretty good, but Henry De Bromhead’s gelding took his game to an even higher level in this Grade 3, posting a number similar to Ferny Hollow over the Christmas period. Jumping well in the main, the seven-year-old proved too strong in the end for his only serious challenger, Capodanno, and with the pair miles clear of the smart Gaillard Du Mesnil, the form has a very strong feel to it. The winner will now head to the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham festival as one of the hottest properties of the four days and barring accidents, it is hard to see him not following up last year’s Ballymore success. A special word goes in the direction of the runner-up, who was coming back at the winner on the run-in, and he looks sure to benefit for stepping up to three miles next time. Whether something like the Festival Novices Chase is the next target remains to be seen, but based on the figures, he comes out on par with stable mate Galopin Des Champs at this stage.