I was delighted with the performances of several of our runners at Newbury on Saturday, as despite coming away without a winner there were some excellent runs in defeat.

The recent progress of Ballyrock has given me as much pleasure as anything this season as he has not been the easiest to train since being purchased in May 2010 after winning his Irish point, being limited to just one run in a bumper in January last year prior to his comeback at Hereford last month.

Though he wasn’t fully wound up for that reappearance run, he still proved good enough to win and the presence of the Cheltenham Listed bumper winner One Term back in second suggested the form was strong enough to warrant us considering a step up in class for Ballyrock on his next start.

His second to the unbeaten novice Fingal Bay in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday clearly points to him having improved hugely for that comeback run and we now have to look at him as a genuine Festival contender. At this stage the Albert Bartlett (for which Fingal Bay is favourite and Ballyrock as short as 14-1) at Cheltenham in March is the aim, with the Grade 1 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock Park on February 18th a possible target for his next start.

I was very pleased with Destroyer Deployed’s comeback run in the 2m Introductory Hurdle, in which he finished a good second with the front pair a distance clear. He will improve for the run, his jumping will sharpen up and 2nd in last year’s Champion Bumper, he will be aimed at the Neptune Investment at the Festival this year and is likely to have two runs before then.

Saint Are ran much better than the result would suggest in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s day, as he was bang in contention when slipping badly on landing 4 out. The form has a very solid look to it and Saint Are remains a very exciting proposition over fences, though where he goes next has yet to be decided.

Ben’s Folly was a really game winner at Ffos Las on Boxing Day and he ran a fine race in defeat on what was his first start over fences in the novice handicap chase at Newbury. He is a scopey sort and I am very hopeful that he can win a nice staying novice handicap this season.