Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: April 13 to April 20
Before we dive in, some basic rules for a horses to follow list is to keep them in a tracker and on your radar for the next three runs, bearing in mind ideal conditions across variables like venue, ground, opposition and price are satisfactory to you as a punter. This column should help you build up a list that proves profitable under those circumstances, provides timely reminders to reduce repeated form study and assist with your enjoyment of a season be it National Hunt or Flat racing in the UK and Ireland and sometimes beyond.
Nusret - Aintree, April 13 2023
Nusret did well to keep on as well as he did to finish third in the Grade 1 juveniles' hurdle at Aintree on Thursday. Settled last of the 11 runners through the early stages of the race, he travelled and jumped well for Daryl Jacob, but he wasn't helped by the fact that the early pace was not strong.
Still last of a well-bunched field as they turned for home, he made good ground among horses on the run to the second-last flight. He got in a little tight to that obstacle, just as the pace was increasing, but he still continued his progress towards the leaders. Moved towards the far side on the run to the final flight, he jumped the last in third place, but he couldn't bridge the gap to Zenta and Bo Zenith. But they are two talented juveniles who were ridden further forward than Nusret, and Nusret finished a clear third.
It was a good run by Joseph O'Brien's horse in a race that wasn't run to suit him. He was a hostage to the sedate early pace. Winner of the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton in February, after which his rider said that he could be at his best going right-handed, he holds an entry in the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival next Saturday.
It will be a quick enough turn around - there are only 16 days between the Aintree race and that race - but he would still be of interest if he did take his chance at Punchestown, where he is one for one and will likely intrigue people looking up the prices with UK bookmakers.
Saint Roi - Aintree, April 13 2023
Saint Roi did well to finish second behind Banbridge in the Manifesto Chase at Aintree. Stepping up to two-and-a-half miles for the first time in his life, it was understandable that he was keen through the early stages of the race, and it didn't help that he made a bad mistake at the second fence down the back straight. That knocked him back to last of the five runners, so he did well to regain his equilibrium. Still last as they turned for home, he moved up nicely on the outside on the run to the second-last fence. He landed awkwardly over that obstacle, and that allowed Banbridge get away from him a little, but there was a lot to like about the way that he picked up from there. He moved into second place on the run to the last, and, while it didn't really look likely that he would catch the talented winner, he kept on all the way to the line to go down by just over a length, with the front two clear.
It was a really encouraging run by Willie Mullins' horse over the longest trip he has ever raced. It opens up options for him next season now. He is set to run in the two-mile novices' chase at Punchestown, and it is difficult to see him beating his stable companion El Fabiolo in that, but he will be an interesting horse over two-and-a-half miles next season, if that is the route that he goes. A County Hurdle winner, he could be a horse for the Ryanair Chase, a race for which he is a big price with most new betting sites at present.
Good Time Jonny - Aintree, April 15 2023
Good Time Jonny did well to keep on as well as he did to finish fourth in the three-mile handicap hurdle at Aintree on Saturday, coming from the rear in a race that wasn't run at a strong pace. Held up early on by Liam McKenna towards the rear of the field and along the inside, as is his wont, he was still only about 12th in a bunching field as they rounded the home turn.
Still no better than 10th or 11th and behind a wall of horses as they raced towards the final flight, he jumped the last in ninth place, but he stayed on strongly down the near side to get up for fourth. He was a fair way behind the impressive winner West Balboa, but he was only beaten about a length for second.
It was another big run in a big handicap hurdle by Tony Martin's horse. He was racing here off a handicap rating that was 5lb higher than the mark off which he won the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March, but so much went wrong in that race, and he still won with such authority, that a 5lb hike did not appear harsh. He doesn't hold any entries at present, but he will be of interest wherever he goes now off the same mark of 147. Three miles and a big field and fast pace suits him well. The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on May 13 - Swinton Hurdle day - could be a good race for him now.
Brideswell Lad - Tramore, April 16 2023
Brideswell Lad was impressive in winning the two mile, five-and-a-half-furlong handicap chase at Tramore on Sunday, under conditions that were probably less than optimal. Prominent from early, he travelled well through his race from early for JJ Slevin.
He moved into the lead when the leader Old Soul made a mistake at the ditch up the side of the track final time, and he didn't relinquish it thereafter. He was challenged by Tyre Kicker at the second last, and Priory Park stayed on well, but Brideswell Lad won nicely, probably with more in hand than the three-length winning margin.
The worry about him going into the race concerned the soft ground, but he handled it well, and Seamus Neville's horse is on a nice upward trajectory now. He was clear at the last at Leopardstown last month when he unseated his rider, and you can allow him his last run before Sunday at Wexford, as the ground was just too soft for him.
This was much more like it, and he could be even better now on better ground. He is only seven, and he could take another step forward now. He has the pace for two miles, but this intermediate trip looks like a good trip for him for now, and he might do even better on a left-handed track and would be worth a look in the future.
Gulmarg - Newmarket, April 19 2023
Connemara Coast was the obvious eye-catcher from the one-mile three-year-olds' handicap that opened proceedings at Newmarket on Saturday. This was particularly given how well he travelled towards the near side, and the traffic problems that he encountered on the way through, as Surely Not kicked for home on the far side. But it may be that the quality of the performance that Gulmarg put up in finishing third will not get the credit that it deserves. Sean Woods' horse travelled well through his race in mid-division. He got a nice gap two furlongs out, and he travelled well into it, picking up nicely on the run into the Dip.
He had no answer to Surely Not's finishing kick on the far side, and he just lost out to Connemara Coast for the runner-up spot, but he kept on well to the line, in a race in which the hold-up horses were favoured. The other three horses who, with him, filled the first four places, were last, second last and third last through the early stages of the race.
This was Gulmarg's second run of the year, he didn't lack for race fitness, but he was weak in the market before this race, so there is every chance that he will come on for it, his first run on turf since last October. He should progress now again this season. Also, he showed a lot of pace here - his two wins last year were gained over six and seven furlongs, and out of a mare who won over six furlongs, he could appreciate a drop back down to seven furlongs.
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