Boxing Day saw an across-the-card four-timer for Alan King which included a Grade 1 win on Kempton’s King George card with Yanworth (King’s first top-level winner since Uxizandre won the 2015 Ryanair Chase in the same colours), and his runners are well worth keeping onside as we head into the New Year. Timoteo has yet to make much of an impact for King since joining his yard from France, but he has been highly tried (first start came in the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster in December, for which he was sent off at 10/1) and will likely have a much easier time of things if taking up his entry in the two-mile novice hurdle at Plumpton on Monday. King may also saddle point winner Dingo Dollar (cost £50,000) on the same card in the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle. Dingo Dollar’s second to Lough Derg Leader at Bangor on his rules debut (for which he was well supported) took a boost when that one followed up in good style at Doncaster at the end of November, and though Dingo Dollar ran poorly last time at Warwick, he remains an interesting prospect.
There is no hotter trainer on the all-weather at present than Mick Easterby, who has saddled five winners and a further eight placed horses from his 21 runners in December (at the time of writing), which has helped to take his number of winners this year into the 60s, bettering his yearly totals from the last 29 years. The yard don’t look to be slowing down as we reach 2017, and they have a number of interesting runners entered during the opening days of the new year. Holiday Magic has bounced back to form after being returned to the all-weather following a big drop in the weights during his 2016 turf campaign. A strong-travelling prominent racer, he could be just the sort to do well on the fibresand at Southwell, and should make a bold bid for his hat-trick on New Year’s Day over seven furlongs. Roller won a maiden at Newcastle on his first start for Easterby and will need considering in the seven-furlong handicap at the same venue on the 3rd of January.
The ground at Doncaster on Thursday potentially prevented Henry Daly adding a seventh winner to his tally in December, as his star mare Briery Belle was withdrawn from the listed mares’ chase (favourite at the time). Briery Belle may now run in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, and though this would represent a big step up in class compared to the field she would have faced at Doncaster, she doesn’t look out of place from a ratings perspective. She was suited by the emphasis on stamina when putting in a likable performance to win a listed chase in mares’ company at Warwick last time (on just her second start over fences) and the Dipper is likely to offer a similar scenario. Daly may also saddle Will o’The West on Sunday. He needs to bounce back from a disappointing run at the course in November, but he had previously looked progressive (reappearance third over C&D in October was a career-best effort) and is still lightly raced, so could have more to offer yet.