November 16 – Warwick – Jonbon – 74

A top-class novice hurdler, there were obviously big expectations prior to his debut that Nicky Henderson’s gelding would be capable of going to even greater heights over fences and on the evidence of his opening display, there’s every chance he will. The way he jumped and travelled before dismissing two very useful opponents simply oozed class and it came as no surprise to find the winning time figure one of the best we have seen so far in this division. Installed as a short-priced favourite already for the Arkle, it is hard to argue with his position in the market with the threat of more to come.

November 16 – Hexham – Crystal Glory – 71

While Jonbon was strutting his stuff in the Midlands, up North Nicky Richards’ gelding made sure his opening gambit over fences didn’t go unnoticed by putting in the kind of performance that will have his set of connections dreaming big for the remainder of the campaign. Similar to his Southern counterpart, the feature of his round at the Borders venue was his sure-footed jumping and even though he was heavily eased in the closing stages, his winning time figure was still extremely healthy. Likely to be examined at a higher level sooner rather than later, the son of Fame And Glory will be one to keep on side when he does.

November 16 – Southwell – Anif – 97

As is often the case throughout the Winter, there are quite a few relatively low-grade races that stand out from the crowd and this seven-furlong handicap proved to be one such case. The fact that usual front runner, Finery, couldn’t get to the front suggested the pace was very strong and it came as no surprise to find the winner, plus the next two home, were all held up towards the rear through the early exchanges. Coming home best of all, Michael Herrington’s gelding surged by a whole posse of rivals in the home straight and in the end, he probably won with more in hand than the official margin suggested. Having dropped to a handy mark prior to this victory, he probably has a few pounds left in hand going forward.

November 18 – Chepstow – Saint Segal – 70

What looked to be a very competitive novices’ handicap beforehand, turned out to be an extremely strongly-run one and the winner, making his debut over fences, benefitted from being ridden well off the early speed. Coming through strongly in the latter stages, the son of Saint Des Saints clocked a very fast time for a race of its kind and, as a result, the form should stack up nicely during the coming months.

November 18 – Ascot – Your Darling – 70

Ben Pauling’s gelding has flattered to deceive on quite a few occasions in the past but as he showed at the Berkshire venue, he is also a serious piece of kit when he is on-song. Noted going well throughout, the turn of foot he exhibited once rounding the home turn was enough to blow apart his field and although he was coming back to his rivals on the run-in, the dye was already cast. Clearly best when fresh, it would come as no surprise if connections wisely plotted a course whereby the son of Shirocco only has a handful more starts during the rest of the season.

November 19 – Haydock – Protektorat – 84

Only once or twice in a season do we get times beyond the 80 mark – usually at the Cheltenham Festival – but we did not have to wait too long for that milestone to be breached as Dan Skelton’s gelding put down an early marker for the Gold Cup. Maybe A Plus Tard had a rare off-day, but either way, he would have done really well to cope with the seven-year-old at the peak of his powers and this performance could herald a changing of the guard. Clearly a different horse to the one we saw last season – bigger and stronger as stated by his connections – all roads now lead to The Festival in March when he will bid to go two places better than he did in last season’s blue riband. Based on he numbers at the Merseyside track, odds of 12-1 look miles out of whack and he deserves to be played accordingly.;