IN many big companies, January is the time of the year when employees are subjected to the dreaded performance review, in which the boss will tell you how good or bad you've been over the previous 12 months.
Some time back, I was working for a multi-national company and one chap was called into the office for a chat. During his review, the boss told him that he "should go far" and that the sooner and further he went, the better!
Thankfully, I don't work there anymore but, for those of us into betting, a regular personal performance review can still prove useful.
As this is my first column of 2012, I guess it would be a good time to look back at the year just gone and contemplate what has worked and what has not.
While the figures aren't earth-shattering, 2011 proved profitable and, assuming you had €10 on each selection in this column, you'd be up by around €76 (figures are for the Saturday column and exclude festival articles for Cheltenham, Galway etc).
The 'Do The Double' bet performed particularly well, with a profit of €126, while the 'Each-way Outsider' piece bagged some double-priced winners along the way, especially in the later part of the year.
On the downside, the non-racing and non-soccer bets (rugby, GAA, cricket, politics etc) showed a loss of €53 -- a reminder of what can happen when you try to be a jack of all trades in this game.
The punting low of the year came when I followed Workforce over a cliff with a string of bad wagers. I backed him in the Coral Eclipse, the King George and the Arc -- all losing bets.
I won't say how much I spent on the horse in total, but let's just say it was around the price of 200 pints of stout.
As a man once said, this gambling business is one of the hardest ways to make an easy living.
The high of the year came when the Dublin footballers won the All-Ireland and, although I didn't earn a huge amount of money from the bet, it gave me great pleasure collecting my winnings as it was such a long time coming.
The goal for 2012 is to stay in the black and be a bit more selective with my bets, so to get the ball rolling it's off to Sandown for the Tolworth Hurdle (2.35) in which Paul Nicholls' Prospect Wells is the one to beat, priced around 13/8.
A decent enough sort when he raced for Howard Johnson on the Flat, he looks even better over sticks and has now won two races from four in that arena.
His fourth place last time in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot was noteworthy as he faced some experienced opposition, and had the pace been stronger, he may just have won it.
Philip Hobbs' Colour Squadron is another exciting novice which will give the selection plenty to think about, but Prospect Wells sets the standard and a victory today should see his odds of 12/1 for the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham take a haircut.
Admittedly, it's not the most original selection to kick off the 'Betting Ring' column for 2012, but you can't pick holes in his form and I'm inclined to agree with the assessor, who has him rated 4lbs clear of the field.
AT 16/1, Darceys Dancer is largely ignored in the 32Red Handicap Chase (2.05 Sandown) but he's not as bad as those odds suggest and is worth a punt each-way. He fell last time at Haydock and needs to work on his jumping, but he ran reasonably well at Ascot in his previous two races (including a Listed handicap). At these weights, he's not without place claims in a relatively small field.
2.05 Sandown: Darceys Dancer (e/w)
2.35 Sandown: Prospect Wells
3.55 Lingfield: Eager to Bow