November 30 – Haydock – Hullnback – 67

Third when shaping like he would be all the better for the run on his opening gambit over hurdles at Chepstow, Fergal O’Brien’s inmate made no mistake at the second time of asking, beating a horse who had previously scored in a fast time at Hereford on his debut. Unlike at the Welsh track, a more forceful approach was employed and that switch around certainly paid dividends as he always seemed in control at the head of affairs. Staying on strongly in the latter stages, the five-year-old went on to post a pretty decent speed figure in beating his main market rival and with the pair well clear of the rest – including the well-fancied Lookaway – the form looks solid. A well-made strong type, the son of Schiaparelli will surely go on to much better things.

November 30 – Kempton – Belloccio – 100

Although it’s very much National Hunt racing all the way until the Flat returns in earnest in late March, the odd all-weather race will feature on this column providing the time figure allows, and this 1m4f listed contest was one we couldn’t leave out based on the numbers produced at the Surrey venue. Held up towards the rear off a very strong pace, David Menuisier’s gelding charged to the front with a devastating late burst and this performance conclusively proved he is very much a more potent force on synthetic surfaces. Now 3-3 at the track, finding races similar to this are going to be extremely difficult for connections, but if he can translate this sort of ability away from his happy hunting ground, he can continue to excel.

December 1 – Thurles – Darasso – 75

As consistent as the day is long, Joseph O’Brien’s gelding produced one of his finest career performances in a race that set up nicely for him in the closing stages and he can continue to be fully effective in races of this nature further down the line. Taking a while to warm to his task, the son of Konig Turf gradually and rather inevitably wore down the front-running pair Escaria Ten and Cilaos Emery on the long run to the last and in the end, he went on to score a shade cosily. Of the vanquished, the runner-up deserves quite a bit of praise considering this was his first run since finishing a distant ninth in the Grand National and he looks set for a decent season in some decent staying handicaps short of four miles.

December 3 – Aintree – Noble Yeats – 77

Grand National winners tend not to go on in the follow season – or through the rest of their careers for that matter – so it’s nice to see Emmet Mullins’ gelding bucking that trend. A good winner at Wexford previously, the son of Yeats once again travelled with plenty of zest throughout the three mile journey and then when asked to get competitive on the run down to the last, he found a turn of foot that was too much for his rivals to handle. Clearly in the rudest of health at present, his new rating of 167 highlights his rapid level of improvement and with the Aintree spectacular probably now off the table with that sort of mark, connections are fully entitled to have a tilt at the Gold Cup in what looks a wide-open division.

December 3 – Sandown – Edwardstone – 75

Once Jonbon had put down a seriously big marker (74) in winning the Grade 1 novice event, it was over to the more experienced two-mile chasers to see what they could do and Alan King’s gelding didn’t let his generation down with a performance pure class. Sat out the back by Tom Cannon, the son of Kayf Tara was delivered with his challenge at the Pond Fence and from that point onwards he always looked in total control. Eventually pulling nine lengths clear of his nearest pursuer Greanateen, the eight-year-old fully justified connections’ cautious approach to unsuitable ground on his two previous engagements and with all roads now leading towards the Champion Chase in March, he looks the most obvious threat to the current title holder, Energumene.

December 4 – Fairyhouse – Marine Nationale – 72

A quality field assembled for this Grade 1 novice and, following persistent rain in the build-up, it ended up being a proper test at the trip. As soon as it became apparent short-priced favourite Champ Kiely was in trouble (pulled too hard in the conditions), the race was up for grabs and in a driving finish with Irish Point, it was Barry Connell’s inmate who came out on top. Taking a huge step forward from his previous win in a maiden hurdle, the lightly-raced five-year-old recorded the sort of time that suggests he is likely to be a feature in many similar events throughout the rest of the campaign.

December 4 – Fairyhouse – Mighty Potter – 72

Arguably the race of the season with a whole host of top-class performers on show, so there is no reason to doubt the form. Apart from pecking on landing four out, Gordon Elliott’s gelding jumped and travelled like the winner throughout and even though Gaillard Du Mesnil offered some resistance after the second last, he had plenty left in reserves to fend him off. With his only flop last coming at the Cheltenham Festival, there has to be some reservations about taking ante-post prices about him for March, but there are plenty of races to be won with him either before or afterwards and on this showing, he sets the standard in this division.