January 1 – Tramore – Minella Indo – 77

A race used to good effect by Al Boum Photo as a stepping stone towards the Gold Cup and there is a good chance both the first two home in this Grade 3 will head down a similar route. The winner, off the track since labouring in the Punchestown Gold Cup back in April, bounced back to something like his best in coming out on top of a rousing finish from a horse two years his senior and the logical step for him now would be the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival. Whether he’s good enough to compete at the very top level nowadays is open to debate, but at least he put himself in the conversation – which seemed an unlikely scenario six months ago.

January 3 – Musselburgh – Notlongtilmay – 65

Impressive over the minimum trip the time before, Laura Mongan’s gelding produced an even better effort both visually and on the numbers at the Scottish venue and he looks a handicapper going places. Always travelling well at the head of affairs, the son of Malinas never looked in too much trouble and even allowing for the fact he was eased down, he still had 16 lengths to spare over his nearest pursuer. A good jumper with a high cruising speed, the seven-year-old looks capable of taking his game to another level.

January 4 – Hereford – Saint Segal – 71

For the second time this season Jane Williams’ gelding has made his way onto the pages of this column and this performance was arguably better than the one he posted on his chase debut. Once again impressing with the way he travelled behind strong fractions, the only anxious moment was when he had a disagreement with his pilot at the ditch going down the side of the track. The way he recovered, however, suggested he had plenty left up his sleeve and there should be much more to come from this exciting novice who might find himself on a bigger stage sooner rather than later.

January 5 – Wolves – Johnny Boom – 95

A winner of his previous start over the same course, Shaun Lycett’s chestnut overcame a wide draw in following up that initial success and the time figure suggested it was a performance worth upgrading. Admittedly, he did rather get the run of the race around the home turn when several others didn’t, but he still impressed with the way he saw the trip out all the way to the line and on this evidence, the hat trick isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

January 7 – Wincanton – Elixir De Nutz – 71

Surprisingly not many races of note on the clock on a slightly substandard weekend, but the one won by Joe Tizzard’s ex-top-notcher was worthy of entering this column. A former Grade 1 winner in his pomp, the son of Al Namix rolled back the years with a display of total dominance and he could be named the winner a long way from home. Clearly suited by these conditions – and this time of year – the nine-year-old may have more races in him if found similar set of circumstances.

January 7 – Kempton – Kiwano – 102

A difficult one to assess prior to tackling this competitive six-furlong handicap, but in the end, David Simcock’s gelding proved too good. Given a typically patient ride by Jamie Spencer, the son of Dabirsim made rapid headway to race on the heels of the leaders at the cutaway and showing s mart turn of foot, he quickened up in impressive fashion to pull away late on. Posting a very impressive speed figure, the lightly-raced four-year-old is one worth keeping on side back at the same track (now 2-2 at the Sunbury venue) despite the handicapper inevitably having his say.