January 1 – Cheltenham – Shakem Up’Arry – 70

A race that revolved around Paddy Power hero Stage Star but once it became apparent he wasn’t going to justify favouritism, Ben Pauling’s gelding was the main one who stepped up to the plate. Back down to his optimum trip having failed to stay in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury previously, the 10-year-old moved into contention on the run for home and from that juncture he stayed on in particularly powerful fashion, ultimately pulling seven lengths clear from his nearest pursuer. Third in last season’s Festival Plate, presumably that will be the main objective again for the son of Flemensfirth and providing he gets soft ground on the day, he will have every chance of bettering that finishing position.

January 1 – Cheltenham – Bob Olinger – 68

To be fair, the jury has been out on Henry De Bromhead’s inmate ever since he landed the 2021 Brown Advisory but on the evidence of his two efforts so far this term, he looks to be back to something approaching his best. Quickening well to settle the argument after the last, the nine-year-old showed that the fire still burns bright and while he is bound to receive entries in both the Champion and Stayers’ Hurdles respectively, the chances are he will bypass both in favour of being saved for the Aintree Hurdle over his optimum trip.

January 1 – Fairyhouse – I Will Be Baie – 66

All eyes were on My Trump Card in his bid to build on his burgeoning reputation but he bumped into horse who simply proved too good on the day. Travelling well throughout, he showed the better turn of foot of the pair from two out and he ultimately went on to score a shade cosily. Considering this was his first run since the summer, one would imagine there could be a good deal of improvement to come and if that does turn out to be the case, Willie Mullins has another fine staying novice on his hands, easily capable of mixing it against graded opposition.

January 1 – Fairyhouse – Riviere D’Etel – 74

Allegorie De Vassy was sent off a warm order to back up her victory on her seasonal bow at Clonmel, but she never looked comfortable at any stage and Gordon Elliott’s mare didn’t need any second invitation to take advantage. Having jumped to the from at the third last, she readily drew clear of her main market rival in the home straight and by the time she’d hit the line, there was 33 lengths between the pair. While most will point towards Willie Mullins’ mare not being at her best – which may have been the case – the speed figure which the winner produced suggested she may not have won even if running a career high and based on this evidence, the daughter of Martaline still remains a powerful force in this division – albeit she probably has to go right-handed to be seen to best advantage.

January 5 – Ludlow – Saint Davy – 66

Off since finishing down the field at Grade 1 level at Aintree, Jonjo O’Neill’s inmate was well supported to make a successful return to action and despite looking a little rusty in parts, he duly landed the punt. Not only did he post the fastest time figure on the card, his final lap sectionals were also the best and with the front pair pulling well clear of the rest, the form looks solid. Although regarded as a chasing prospect further down the line, he is clearly no slouch over hurdles and it will be interesting to see where connections go from here. Nice type.

January 7 – Plumpton – Transmission – 68

Quite a remarkable effort by Neil Mulholland’s gelding considering he almost lost his pilot at an early stage and it will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts when reassessed. Given the ground and momentum he lost, to win in the manner he did suggested he had loads in hand off his current mark and he looks one to keep on side in similar events during the next few months.