January 23 – Down Royal – Western Fold – 70

A race run at a sound tempo from the outset thanks to the exploits of well-backed favourite D Art D Art but once he fluffed his lines at the third from home, the way was paved for Gordon Elliott’s inmate to take advantage. Staying on strongly in the final half a mile, the five-year-old went on to record a comfortable 15 lengths success and even if his main market rival had not head butted three out, he may still have won anyway. Disappointing when pulling too hard over 2m4f at Fairyhouse previously (fell in between at Leopardstown), he might return to that sort of trip in future, but for now, a well run race over two miles seems to suit best and he should be followed accordingly.

January 25 – Gowran – Ain’t The A Shame – 72

A hugely competitive staying handicap – one of the best in the Irish calendar – and it went the way of a horse who has been a shade disappointing in recent times but based on this display, he is clearly a handful when on song. Taking the favoured wide route throughout, he tracked the pace setting Glengouly turning for home and with three good jumps in the home straight, he ended up seeing out the trip best of all. Well beaten in last year’s Grand National when well fancied, one would imagine he will head back to Aintree in a bid to make amends, it’s just a question of what sort of mood he’ll be in when he gets there.

January 26 – Sandown – Kotmask – 72

There was plenty of pace signed on in this competitive two-mile handicap and it ended up playing into the hands of Gary Moore’s inmate, who wisely kept away from the early dash over the first mile. Soon latching on to the main players turning for home, he had the pace to take advantage of a gap that appeared up the inside fence and within a flash he was away and gone. Clearly well suited by a strongly run race at the minimum trip, in keeping with many of his inmates at this track, he can pay to follow when returning to the Esher venue.

January 27 – Cheltenham – Ginny’s Destiny – 75

Arguably the best race of its kind so far this season and its one that should pay to keep on side when it comes to form at the festival in two month’s time. As he did at the previous meeting, Paul Nicholls’ inmate bowled along at the head of affairs and jumping well from the front, he soon had his rivals at full stretch. Maintaining the gallop all the way to the line, he kept his main challengers at bay and when you consider many of them came into the contest with strong form lines of their own, this performance under 12st has to go down as a top class effort. Similar in many ways to last year’s winner, Stage Star, he will now bid to repeat the exploits of his stable mate and land the Turners at the festival and even if Gaelic Warrior does show up in the same race, the eight-year-old is fancied to give it a good lash. Of the rest, runner-up Theatre Man suggested a step up in trip would suit him better next time and could be worth more than a look in the Ultima Handicap, while Es Perfecto could be one for the Plate against his elders in the Plate a day later.

January 27 – Doncaster – Geromino – 72

A winner over two miles at the previous meeting, Donald McCain’s inmate was up in trip in his bid to repeat the dose and, having raced handy throughout, he stayed on best in the final half a mile to prove his love affair with Town Moor. Clocking another smart time figure into the bargain, the question will be can he raise his game to another level away from his happy hunting ground and we are likely to find the answer at Aintree in April, when he bids to complete the hat trick in the boys’ race on Grand National day.

January 28 – Naas – Embassy Gardens – 73

Impressive on his opening gambit over fences at Punchestown, Willie Mullins’ gelding was all the rage to follow up in this Grade 3 and he duly landed odds with a touch of swagger. Tracking the decent pace set by the useful Sandor Clegane, the son of Shantou picked up the running in between the final two fences and once meeting the rising ground, he stayed on powerfully to record a facile success. Posting a very good time figure, he now heads to the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham as one of the favourites to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Gaillard Du Mesnil, Stattler and Ravenhill in recent times and based on this effort, it would be a brave man to bet against him not achieving his ultimate goal.