December 19 – Punchestown – Galopin Des Champs – 79

The perfect start for last season’s top novice chaser and presuming all roads with now lead towards the Gold Cup. Obviously he will have to prove he stays the trip over fences but he was good enough to win a Grade 1 over three miles as a novice hurdler to suggest it shouldn’t be a problem and he looks a worthy favourite for Cheltenham at this stage.

December 20 – Ludlow – Pembroke – 69

Previous C&D winner Western Zephyr set a good standard heading into this contest but the fact he was readily brushed aside suggests the winner must be very useful. Noted going well in behind the pace set by the favourite, the way Dan Skelton’s gelding quickened right away in the closing stages was really impressive and on this evidence, Graded races will surely have to be on the agenda from here on in.

December 20 – Naas – Inthepocket – 64

Very good on the clock when creating a favourable impressive on his rules debut at Wexford, Henry De Bromhead’s gelding made the transition into Graded company a seamless one with a gritty display. Having travelled well throughout, he rather made harder work of getting the job done than at first anticipated but being as this was the first time he’d had to come off the bridle, he probably deserves to be cut some slack. Not short of pace, it will be interesting to see how the remainder of his campaign pans out.

December 21 – Lingfield – Fast Buck – 72

A competitive handicap chase on paper beforehand but it was turned into somewhat of a procession by a horse who sprung back to life after a series on modest efforts. The way he jumped and travelled throughout pointed towards a horse who thoroughly enjoyed the testing ground and he can be placed to good effect under similar conditions further down the line.

December 21 – Fairyhouse – El Fabiolo – 71

A top-class novice hurdler last season, Willie Mullins’ gelding, however, was always likely to be a different proposition over fences and so it proved. Jumping and travelling strongly right from the start, the son of Spanish Moon never saw another rival and his winning time reflected his total dominance. Looking like an out-and-out two-miler he, along with the likes of Appreciate It and Dysart Dynamo now set his trainer a headache of how to keep all these novices apart in this division for the remainder of the season.

December 22 – Ffos Las – Complete Unknown – 66

Another strong-looking novices handicap and the winning time figure suggests the form should work out well. The winner was well-backed to make a successful transition to the larger obstacles and even though he ended up justifying the gamble, it was only in the dying strides he managed to assert his superiority. Winner of last season’s EBF Final at Sandown, he looks a copper-bottomed stayer in the making and he can land a big pot when stamina is at a premium.