January 31 – Punchestown – Kilcruit – 65

DRF week began with a taster of to what to expect a few days further down the line with a Willie Mullins-trained novice booking his ticket to Cheltenham with an authoritative display. Despite his easy win, it is worth pointing out he still looked a bit novicey at one or two of his hurdles, so he would need to brush up on his jumping if he is going to bridge the gap between himself and the likes of Constitution Hill, Jonbon and stable mates Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo.

February 5 – Sandown – Goshen – 77

It is fair to say, this fella has had his fair share of column inches written about him in this past two years or so, but whether you are for or against Gary Moore’s gelding, there is no denying his talent when on song. As we saw at the Esher track, he is just as good, if not better, taking a lead off another rival, and the way he maintained the strong gallop all the way up the straight says plenty for his engine. Likely to go to Wincanton next for the Elite Hurdle, soft ground there should make him hard to beat for the second season in succession.

February 5 – Leopardstown – Vauban – 71

On to the main action of the week itself and the first performance of note at the Dublin venue came courtesy of Willie Mullins’ star juvenile in the big Grade 1. In lowering the colours of long-time Triumph Hurdle favourite Fil D’or, he also paid a handsome complement to his previous Punchestown conqueror, Pied Piper and his victory sets up a rematch with his old rival in a month’s time. With the pair seemingly improving along a similar trajectory, it would be a brave man who calls it at this stage.

February 5 – Leopardstown – Conflated – 80

A bit of shock here with an 18-1 outsider stepping up markedly on anything he had achieved before. That said, there did not appear too much of a fluke about the result and his time figure backs up that view. Whether he can repeat the same level of form at Cheltenham remains to be seen, but he certainly has to at least come into the conversation, especially given the wide-open feel to this year’s Gold Cup.

February 6 – Leopardstown – Galopin Des Champs – 82

It is very rare when we get a race over jumps beyond an 80 time figure, but for a novice having only his second start over fences is unheard of. Looking at the comparisons to his race against Chacun Pour Soi reveal he was going at the same speed as the Two-mile Grade 1 horses having already covered five furlongs previously, which is quite astonishing. Clearly capable of going a tremendous lick over 2m4f, it all depends whether he can maintain that sort of gallop over an extra half a mile, but being as he has already proven he does stay three miles well courtesy of his Grade 1 success at the Punchestown Festival, it looks odds on he will end up in the Brown Advisory rather than tackle Bob Olinger in the Turners Novices’ Chase.

February 6 – Leopardstown – Sir Gerhard – 70 

The best hurdle race on the card, certainly based on the figures, was the Grade 1 won by Sir Gerhard and he now sets a poser for connections heading into the festival. Do they stick in their lane and take on the likes of Dysart Dynamo, Constitution Hill and Jonbon in the Supreme, or do they step him up in trip and tackle the easier-looking Ballymore. Either way, the fact he managed to run the two miles at Leopardstown comparable to Honeysuckle despite making several notable mistakes says a lot for his natural ability and he will be a major player whichever option is chosen. The runner-up, Three Stripe Life, deserves a special mention with regarding the Ballymore, as he surely won’t be asked to take on Sir Gerhard again, let alone the other three stars mentioned. Despite running exceptionally well over the two miles, he looks to be crying out for further, so the longer journey at Cheltenham is bound to play more into his strengths. Therefore, the 14-1 NRNB for Gordon Elliott’s gelding would seem a fair investment at this stage.