January 26 – Wincanton – Aucunrisque – 68

Good on the numbers at Plumpton previously, Chris Gordon’s gelding was at it again at the West Country venue, clocking another smart speed figure. In beating a useful-looking field with the plenty to spare, the son of No Risk At All marked himself down as a novice of some repute and there looks to be even more to come. Where he goes now remains to be seen, but given the landscape of the current hurdling scene over here, something like the Kingwell Hurdle back at the same track could be an option if connections were so bold. Other than that, The Imperial Cup could be another possibility, but either way, we recommend following the six-year-old until proven otherwise. A revised mark of 126 is still nowhere near his true worth.

January 27 – Gowran – Longhouse Poet – 76

Another competitive renewal of a handicap steeped in tradition and if the speed figure is a reliable guide, this year’s running could turn out to have a significant influence on plenty of staying handicap chases further down the road. A relentless gallop from the start sorted the 18-strong field out turning out of the back straight and once the front-running Coko Beach faded out of the picture, there were just four who fought out the finish from the last. Just coming out on top of a battle royal with Franco De Port, Martin Brassil’s gelding recorded his most notable success to date and with both the English and Irish Nationals in the conversation with connections in the post-race chat, he would have to be a serious contender for either should the ground come up soft.

January 28 – Doncaster – Funambule Sivola – 71

Gold Des Bois ensured this small field was towed along at a good gallop and it really suited the winner, who came through in the dying strides to score in game fashion. Having been campaigned over 2m4f so far this season, a drop back to the minimum trip came as a welcome relief and, having finished runner-up to Shishkin in a Grade 1 at Aintree last season, no doubt connections will have an eye on the Red Rum Chase back over the same C&D in April.

January 29 – Cheltenham – Torn And Frayed – 66

Nothing outstanding on the clock from trials day at Cheltenham, but if forced to pick one race going forwards, this competitive handicap chase is probably the one we would nominate. A decent field was assembled and it still had a wide-open look to it at the second last. From that point, however, the winner really took control and storming up the hill, he left behind a useful collection of handicappers with plenty to spare. Seemingly unsuited by soft ground the time before, the son of Califet was much more at home on this drier surface and he is one worth bearing in mind for one of the festival handicaps in March.

January 29 – Uttoxeter – Burrows Diamond – 67

Just six runners but there was no hiding place and Sue Smith’s mare really relished the thorough test. Picking up the running two out, she stayed on powerfully all the way to the line and not only was her overall time very good, her final lap of 2.41.0, was fully 8.5 seconds quicker than the 2m4f handicap chase won by Keep Rolling. On this evidence, even a hike to 126 is not enough to prevent her from following up.

January 30 – Naas – Stattler – 70

A top-quality novice from last season, Willie Mullins’ gelding seems to have taken his game to another level since switching to fences and this victory backs up that view. A strong gallop throughout was only maintained by the winner and runner-up, and it’s form that entitles the son of Stowaway to be favourite for the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.