The festive period is always packed with plenty of highs and lows and, looking at some of the beaten horses, it seems as though it was a very mixed time for Willie Mullins.

You’d have to be very disappointed with Klassical Dream, who despite jumping very big, just didn’t seem the same horse that we saw last season.

Take nothing away from the winner, Sharjah, though. He is clearly still improving and is a dark horse in a wide-open Champion Hurdle.

Kemboy was another of those that could fall into that same category of slight disappointment. He was entitled to be tired on his first start since this season, but was beaten fair and square, and will have to improve plenty to be in the thick of it in a Gold Cup.

He’s still very classy and clearly has loads of natural talent, but you couldn’t set your watch by his jumping – something that has to be superb to win the pinnacle chase at Cheltenham.

Looking at the Gold Cup, I don’t think anyone should be discounting the obvious chances of last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, who won as he liked at Tramore on New Year’s Day.

He’s being trained for one race and one race only and his connections will be full of confidence going back to Cheltenham in March.

This weekend

Sandown Park hosts the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle (14:25) on Saturday and, while the race is a select field, it’s fiercely competitive.

I like the look of Emma Lavelle’s Hang In There , who won the Supreme Trial at Cheltenham in November. He looked a smart horse on up the up that day and I can see him going close in this.

I’m convinced that Dunvegan is a proper animal and is a horse who jumps very well, which is what you need at Naas. He’ll appreciate the cut in the ground and should be very tough to beat in the 13:20 on Sunday.

The Lawlor’s of Naas (14:20) is another Grade 1 Novice Hurdle this weekend and, while I might get zero points for originality, I’m confident that nothing will beat Envoi Allen .

I can’t say too much that you don’t already know. He’s a class act and would be a dream to ride and, granted a clear round, should be winning this.


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