December 12 – Punchestown – Blizzard Of Oz – 66

Willie Mullins’ inmate easily carried forward the best bumper form into this maiden hurdle but the slight unease in the market beforehand rather foretold how he might perform and in the end, he did well to win. Not particularly convincing over his hurdles early on, as a result, he found himself further back in the field than desired turning for home and it took all of his class and ability to get his head in front where in mattered. The fact he managed to win in a decent time figure despite not much going for him, however, bodes well for the future and once he does iron out his technique he will no doubt take much higher rank as the season progresses.

December 14 – Naas – Blood Destiny – 69

A talented juvenile hurdler last season just short of top class, connections chose to waste no time and send him straight over fences this term and on the evidence of his opening display at the Co Kildare venue, their decision proved spot on. Pinging his fences right from the start, Willie Mullins’ inmate soon had main market rival Heart Wood on the back foot and without being resorted to a particularly vigorous ride, he came readily clear in the closing stages. Despite being eased down, he still clocked a smart time figure for a race of its kind and it will be interesting to see where he goes next hailing from a stable blessed with many riches in this category.

December 15 – Cheltenham – Dysart Enos – 71

A strong race of its kind and it produced a winner who could easily return to Cheltenham later in the season for further glory. Unbeaten in four previous races, Fergal O’Brien’s mare faced the boys for the first time, several of whom had strong form lines, and the way she turned them away inside the final half a mile points towards a mare of the highest quality. Posting a smart speed figure, she also exhibited a useful turn of foot in the climb to the line and having a taste of what lies before her in March can only stand her in good stead. If it wasn’t for the classy Irish mare Brighetdaysahead looming on the horizon, she would be a short priced favourite for the Dawn Run.

December 15 – Cheltenham – Ginny’s Destiny – 70

A graded race in all but name and it produced a stirring finish between two progressive types. The winner got the run of the race up front and it’s fair to say his jumping probably was the difference. In contrast, the runner-up threw away his chance with a bad mistake at the second last and he surely would have won given the way he stormed up the hill. Although they are good enough to mix it in better company, chances are the pair will be geared around coming back here in March for one of the handicaps.

December 16 – Cheltenham – Fugitif – 76

A strong renewal of this Paddy Power re-run and two that finished well beaten behind Stage Star a month ago fought out a rousing finish. Il Ridotto served up a treat from the front and despite being taken on, still had enough in reserve to go again when joined by the eventual winner after the last. Had he not been hassled for the lead, Paul Nicholl’s inmate would have undoubtedly won and this must go down as one that got away. That said, if any horse deserved a big pot it was Fugitif so maybe the gods were shining on him for once. Both likely to return for the Festival Plate in March, it would be a brave man to rule either out given their love for the track.

December 16 – Hereford – Handstands – 66

Ben Pauling is assembling a decent-looking team of young novice hurdlers in the shape of this fella, Fiercely Proud and Tellherthename and it will be fascinating to see which one develops into a Graded horse the quickest. Brought out of an Irish point for 135k, the son of Getaway had a decent reputation carried forward into his rules debut and he didn’t disappoint, winning in the style of a horse who could turn out to be anything. Clocking a smart time without being unduly punished, he will take some stopping under a penalty next time and it won’t be too long before connections are dreaming of something bigger and better. Nice type.

December 17 – Navan – Spread Boss Ted – 67

Probably not a bad race as the first three home were all strongly fancied by connections and considering the winner scored with a bit up his sleeve, he deserves to be afforded extra merit. Although doubtful he will develop into a graded horse over hurdles, he might be good enough to land a decent handicap along the way but as we won’t see the best of him until he goes over fences further down the track, anything he does in between is a bonus.