February 7 – Sedgefield – Duo D’Enfer – 68

Just the five runners for this 2m1f handicap chase but it was run at a sound pace and it was won in convincing fashion by a horse who has seemingly taken well to the track. Handy throughout, Micky Hammond’s gelding picked up the running heading out of the back straight and from that point onwards he never looked like relinquishing the advantage. On this evidence, a well-run two miles on soft ground suit him best and with the cheekpieces clearly not a bad addition to his game either, further success should come his way in similar events. Of the rest, runner-up Leading Force kept on well without ever looking threatening but as he might be seen to better effect over further, he is worth another chance.

February 10 – Naas – Eagle Fang – 65

A race that amazingly has thrown up the winner of the Boodles Handicap four times out of the last five years and based on the clock, this season’s renewal might end up having some sort of say again. Bright Legend ensured the pace was honest from the start and he still looked to be going okay two out. However, from that point he began to wilt and having nibbled away at the deficit all the way down the back straight, William Durkan’s inmate finally got on top in the latter stages. The way he stayed on in the last half a mile suggests he is a strong stayer at the trip and given soft ground, he could turn out to be a dangerous floater at Cheltenham.

February 10 – Naas – Allegorie De Vassy – 69

Disappointing behind Riviere D’Etel at Fairyhouse previously, Willie Mullins’ mare was on some sort of recovery mission at the Co Kildare venue and under extreme waiting tactics, she came through strongly at the death to totally turn the form book upside down. Whether she has the consistency to back up a performance of this nature remains to be seen but there’s no doubting on her day, she is as good as any mare over fences at this trip.

February 10 – Newbury – Edwardstone – 73

Not a vintage renewal of this prestigious race on paper beforehand but it produced a brilliant winner in the shape of Alan King’s inmate. who now has to be given a chance of sorts in the Champion Chase. Bitterly disappointing when last seen at Kempton over 2m4f, connections decided to mix things up and let the son of Kayf Tara bowl along at the head of affairs and it soon became apparent he was in a totally different frame of mind to what we have seen of late. The way he travelled and attacked his fences was a reminder of how good this previous Grade 1 winning chaser can be and it would be a dangerous policy to write him off come Cheltenham in a month’s time.

February 10 – Newbury – Iberico Lord  – 73

A viciously competitive renewal of this sought after prize and it went the way of a young hurdler rebounding back in the right direction after a bump in the road at Ascot previously. never looking happy on the quicker terrain at the Berkshire venue back in December, Nicky Henderson’s gelding was much more comfortable going the gallop under these conditions and staying on strongest of all down the straight, he beat off a stellar field of handicappers. Winner of the Greatwood at Cheltenham earlier in the season, it’s clear he has an appetite for these big-field handicaps and providing the assessor doesn’t go mad, he might have a huge say in another – namely the County Hurdle back at Prestbury Park next month.

February 11 – Navan – American Mike – 72

A race that the betting centred around the two Willie Mullins-trained pair, Nick Rockett and Minella Cocooner, but it ended up going the way of Gordon Elliott’s gelding who made up for a slightly below-par effort previously. Clearly better suited going left handed and a slightly more sedate gallop than he encountered at Limerick behind Gaelic Warrior, the son of Mahler sauntered to the front two out looking he was going to win with plenty to spare and even though that scenario didn’t quite materialise, he still had enough left in the locker to repel the late rally of Nick Rockett. Whether he ends up at Cheltenham remains to be seen, but as we saw here, on his day he’s still a match for many a good novice over fences.