November 27 – Kempton – Captain Marvellous – 65

As has been the norm over the last few years, the standard of juveniles in the UK has nosedived at an alarming rate but with this fella, along with recent Cheltenham winner, Burdett Road, there are one or signs things may be about to change for the better. Runner-up over the same C&D previously when lack of experience proved his undoing, Jane Williams’ inmate was a good deal more switched on second time around and at no stage did he ever look like giving his advantage away from the front. Even allowing for the fact he was eased in the closing stages, he still posted a speed figure well above average for a race of its kind (anything reaching 65 or above for a three-year-old is very good) and although talk of the Triumph Hurdle was soon quashed by connections in the post-race chat, that doesn’t mean to say he would be out place at graded level sooner rather than later. With that in mind, something like the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow later this month might be more his scene for now, and in the long term, he has the scope to do really well over fences. Nice type.

November 30 – Thurles – Il Etait Temps – 75

A useful-looking beginners chase on paper beforehand and it did not disappoint, with the winner clocking the sort time that suggests he will take just as high rank over fences as he did over hurdles. Impressing with the way he operated over his obstacles, he exhibited plenty of scope for a horse of his size and the fact he was only nudged out hands and heels late suggests there could be even more to come further down the line. Likely to be upped in grade next time, the big two-mile novices’ chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting looks the obvious target and having won around the Dublin venue over hurdles last season, a bold show looks a strong possibility for this exciting chase prospect. Purely on times, he rates a far more appealing proposition at 20-1 for the Arkle at Cheltenham than stable mate Facile Vega (4-1) at this stage.

November 30 – Taunton – Ballee – 70

A novices hurdle where they bet 66-1 bar three and the race itself reflected the market, with the main trio soon a long way ahead of their rivals. As he did at the previous meeting, Matterhorn set out to make it a proper test and although he ended up getting beaten far and square on the day, he actually ran quicker than he did in defeat (68) than in victory (65). The winner, who tracked the favourite throughout, proved really strong in the closing stages and there didn’t appear any fluke about the result. A horse with plenty of size and scope, the son of Sageburg looks one to jump a fence in time but for now, he remains one to keep on side in similar novice events.

December 1 – Newbury – Hermes Allen – 70

A keenly-contested Grade 2 novices’ chase run at a sound gallop and it produced a worthy winner in the shape of last season’s Challow Hurdle winner. Making his debut over fences, his jumping went from steady to more assured as the race developed and after picking up the running three out, Paul Nicholls’ inmate gradually drew clear. Clearly one of the best UK novices based on this excellent opening effort, the son of Poliglote already looks Cheltenham material and there should be plenty more races to be won with him in the interim.

December 2 – Fairyhouse – Waterford Whispers – 70

On a day where we saw some top class performances, it was rather a surprise to find the rated hurdle won by Henry De Bromhead’s inmate was easily the best on the card. Competitive on paper beforehand, it soon concerned just three on the run down to the last and from that juncture, the son of Westerrner proved the strongest. Hitting the line hard, he left the impression he would be seen to even better effect over further and he looks one to keep on side this season and beyond, when he will make into a lovely chaser. The runner-up, Answer To Kayf, also deserves a special mention for the way he performed and he too, is worth following for the remainder of the campaign.

December 2 – Newbury – Datsalrightgino – 72

A typically competitive affair for one of the big handicap chases of the season and it went the way of one of the most unexposed runners over the trip. Unproven beyond 2m4f prior to lining up at the Berkshire venue, Jamie Snowden’s inmate appeared in trouble as the main players exited the back straight but by the time he had jumped the second last, it soon became apparent he was heading into a zone that was playing into his strengths. The way he stayed on all the way to the line suggested there could be even more to come from him and races like the Ultima or even the Grand National are both firmly on the table in the New year. Runner-up Mahler Mission also deserves plenty of praise for the way he performed – even more so given how his yard has been bang out of form – and he too, looks a lively candidate for Aintree glory in April.

December 3 – Fairyhouse – Nurburgring – 68

A race that was won by subsequent Triumph Hurdle hero Lossiemouth last year and on the evidence of the clock, this season’s renewal could easily throw up several Cheltenham candidates. Previous winner Kala Conti ensured the gallop was honest right from the start and turning for home, she had quite a few of her main rivals in trouble, except for Joseph O’Brien’s inmate who soon picked up the chase. Staying on best of the pair from the last, he ground out a gutsy victory and with the pair miles clear of the rest, the form looks extremely believable. A point borne out of the fact they ran faster overall and final circuit sectionals than both Farren Glory and Teahupoo on the same card.  Based on previous seasons, a 68 speed figure is enough to lay claim to Triumph Hurdle glory and there is no obvious reason why this son of Zoffany – who should be 3-3 over hurdles – won’t continue to progress along the way. Although it’s still early days in this category and we have yet to see the likes of Salvator Mundi (Willie Mullins) and Sir Gino (Nicky Henderson) unleashed, this strong stayer at the trip sets the bar and there is no way he should be 25-1 for the Triumph in anyone’s language.