January 8 – Taunton – Golden Ace – 64

A race that centred around just three and it went the way of the least experienced, making her hurdling debut. Runner-up in the Grade 2 mares’ bumper at Aintree when last seen and having undergone wind surgery, Jeremy Scott’s inmate comfortably kept tabs on the front two in the market and when push came to shove after the last, she found the necessary reserves to fend off Lucky Place, who had shown strong form the time before at Doncaster. Entitled to improve for the run, she is worth bearing in mind in a better race next time as her numbers suggest she is above-average.

January 9 – Southwell – Doctor Khan Junior – 105

There hasn’t been too many races on the all-weather good enough to break rank and find itself onto this column in recent times but this quality seven-furlong handicap at the Midland venue bucks that trend. Sent off favourite following back-to-back wins, Geoff Oldroyd’s inmate set his stall out right from the outset by getting over from his high draw to lead and despite being headed over a furlong out, he rallied in impressive fashion to rest back the spoils close home. Clocking a very fast time for this time of year, the son of Muhaarar’s winning streak might not be over just yet. Of the rest, Greatgadian fared best of those held up towards the rear and he can be seen to better advantage over further next time (best form over 1m+).

January 10 – Doncaster – Personal Ambition – 64

A good winner over 2m3f at Warwick before struggling on heavy ground at Sandown, Ben Pauling’s inmate was dropped back in trip in a bid to get back on track and under an aggressive ride from the front, he turned away his rivals with some panache. Jumping and travelling well from the outset, he momentarily looked vulnerable when main rival Inoui Machin loomed up to challenge three out but he soon regained his poise to readily draw clear. Confirming he is a useful sort, one of many in the care of his handler this season, he is well worth a shot at something better.

January 12 – Naas – Reading Tommy Wrong – 70

A race that often has a big influence on the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival, and it would be dangerous to assume anything different of this year’s renewal. Ile Atlantique made sure it was run at a true gallop from the start and he looked to have the race in safe keeping (traded at 1.07) until the eventual winner found extra reserves close home. A difficult horse to weigh up prior to the contest, having landed several minor events, he now deserves to be taken seriously as a contender for more top honours, especially if he can iron out one or two jumping errors along the way. Of the runner-up, he lost very little in defeat and he has several options going forward.

January 13 – Fairyhouse – Miss Manzor – 69

Well beaten in the Grade 2 at Leopardstown over Christmas, Willie Mullins’ filly found herself in much calmer waters at the Co Meath track and, having signalled her intent from an early stage, she gave a better insight of her capabilities. Clocking a smart speed figure – the best we have of any juvenile so far this season – the daughter of Almanzor looks capable of making her presence felt back up in class and the Spring Juvenile Hurdle would appear the most likely target.

January 13 – Kempton – Banbridge – 77

Pic D’Orhy ensured this Grade 2 was run at an honest gallop throughout and it meant the winner had nowhere to hide on his first outing of the season. Despite hitting a few in the latter stages, Joseph O’Brien’s gelding proved too good for his four opponents and he looks one of the main contenders for the Ryanair Chase on this evidence.

January 13 – Warwick – Grey Dawning – 72

Unlucky at Cheltenham previously, Dan Skelton’s grey was extremely well backed to make amends in this Grade 2 and, having travelled well throughout, he made mincemeat of three rivals who had all shown a useful level of form so far this season. The feature of his performance, however, was his slick jumping down the back straight and that sure-footed technique should hopefully stand him in good stead for sterner tests in future. Likely to head to Cheltenham via the Scilly Isles at Sandown, this classy seven-year-old is sure to be a big player in whichever race connections choose.

January 14 – Punchestown – Spillane’s Tower – 75

While all the focus of attention was on Mystical Power (63) in the Moscow Flyer, and to a degree Blood Destiny in this race, Jimmy Mangan’s gelding was the star on show based on the numbers and he probably deserves more credit than he received on the day. Although it could be argued he inherited the victory due to Blood Destiny’s inability to maintain the strong gallop over 2m4f, he still has to afforded plenty of praise and now that connections appear to have found his right trip, further races can be won when conditions are in his favour (best form on soft ground). As for the runner-up, it’s far too early to be writing his off and even though many will be willing to do so, let’s not forget this was his best ever performance based on the clock. A drop back to two miles might be the answer to him.