December 26 – Kempton – Il Est Francais – 77

The first sighting UK racegoers have had of this exciting French raider and it was a performance that will live long in the memory. Setting out to make it a proper test at the trip, the six-year-old gelding soon had his rivals at full stretch and in maintaining the gallop all the way to the line, he posted some pretty impressive numbers. Quicker than Hewick who took the King George an hour later, the son of Karaktar is clearly a very high class novice but with connections stating afterwards that he is very unlikely to go to Cheltenham, we will probably have to wait a full year to see him run again in this country.

December 26 – Leopardstown – The Folkes Tiara – 68

A very strongly run handicap, confirmed by the fact the overall time was five seconds quicker than the Grade 1 novice chase won by Found A Fifty. The winner, runner-up in the same race the previous season, went one place better courtesy partly of a fine round of jumping but more predominantly the superior stamina he exhibited after the last. On this evidence, he could be worth noti8ng should he get an entry in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March. Of the rest, Path D’Oroux would have surely taken a hand in the finish had he not capsized and he too, looks a likely candidate for the same two-mile event in two month’s time.

December 27 – Kempton – Master Chewy – 71

Nickle back and Bourbali ensured this Grade 2 was run at a sound gallop and it played into the hands of the eventual winner, he sat and bided his time in behind. Showing a nice turn of foot to pull clear late on, Nigel Twiston-Davies inmate ended up winning with something to spare and in a division that lacks any great strength in depth over this side of the Irish sea, he could easily pick up pieces in the Arkle should there be a small field – which looks increasing likely given Marine Nationale’s apparent dominance.

December 27 – Leopardstown – Marine Nationale – 66

4-4 over hurdles and easily the best of his generation last season, Barry Connell’s charge embarked on his new vocation with the spotlight well and truly on him and he didn’t disappoint, turning in a performance of the very highest class. The way he jumped and travelled before pulling effortlessly clear of his rivals oozed star quality and even at this stage, he looks to have his name half engraved on the Arkle Trophy. Likely to go back to the Dublin venue to contest the Irish version, you could see the son of French Navy being around the 2-5 mark for the Grade 1 at Cheltenham if. as expected, he passes his next time with flying colours.

December 27 – Leopardstown – Meetingofthewaters – 75

A typically competitive renewal of this sought after prize and it went the way of a progressive young chaser who belied his lack of experience with a performance of some maturity. Taken wide to keep out of trouble, Willie Mullins’ inmate worked himself into contention coming out of the back straight and from that point onwards, he proved strongest of all, ultimately pulling nicely clear after the last. Whether he stays in handicaps or is raised in class only time will tell but whichever route connections decide, he remains one to keep on side when the emphasis is on stamina.

December 28 – Limerick – Gaelic Warrior – 80

Silky smooth when making a winning start to his new vocation at Punchestown, Willie Mullins’ gelding was a warm order to make the transition Grade 1 company a seamless one and he duly lived up to his star billing. Pinging his fences and gaining ground over his rivals right from the start, Paddy Mullins could afford to rein his mount back on the home turn in order to save a bit back for the final rush to the line and he impressed with the way he went clear again in the closing stages. Winning with seemingly any amount in hand, the only issue he may have over fences – particularly when he goes back to Cheltenham – is his tendency to jump to his right, but other than that slight negative, he looks to have the full package.

December 28 – Leopardstown – Fact To File – 71

A shade disappointing when a beaten favourite on chase debut, Willie Mullins’ inmate got back on track with a resounding success over a track that played more into his strengths and he looks one of the leading contenders for the Brown Advisory on the evidence of this display. It’s also worth pointing out he ran the final circuit at the Dublin venue not too far off Galopin Des Champs numbers, a finding that suggests he has a useful blend of speed and stamina.

December 29 – Leopardstown – Grangeclare West – 75

A top class novice chase run at a decent clip and a worthy winner who finally looks to be getting his act together. Good on his chase debut without setting the world alight, it is fair to say he had a bit to find with the likes of Corbetts Cross and Flooring Porter on form but jumping and travelling well throughout, he always gave the impression he had all bases covered. The dilemma facing connections going forward is whether they stay over three miles for the Brown Advisory or drop back in trip and tackle the Turners at Cheltenham, a question likely to be answered at the DRF in a month’s time.