Donn McClean's Horses to Follow: April 15th - 20th
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.
Jumby - Newmarket, 15th April
3yo Colt, Eve Johnson Houghton
Jumby ran well to finish third in the six-furlong handicap at Newmarket on Thursday. Slowly away and settled towards the rear of the field early on by Charlie Bishop, and on the far rail, he was a little keen early on, but he travelled better than any of his rivals to the two-furlong marker. He didn't have a lot of racing room though, his rider had to thread a path down into the Dip. It opened up a little for him at the furlong marker, and he picked up well when it did, moving from sixth to third, closing on the runner-up Significantly all the way to the line and getting to within three lengths of the winner Creative Force, in a race that was run in a time that was almost identical to the time that Summerghand clocked in winning the Group 3 Abernant Stakes later in the day.
It was a really good return to action by Eve Johnston Houghton's colt. A winner over seven furlongs on his racecourse debut at Ascot last July, he ran well to finish third behind Yibir in the Haynes, Hanson & Clarke Conditions Stakes over a mile on his final run as a juvenile, so it was interesting that his trainer started him off over six furlongs at three. He seemed to cope well with the distance and, if he had enjoyed a better run through his race, he might have gone close to winning it. The handicapper left him on his mark of 95 after this, and he has the potential to go beyond that mark. It is interesting that his trainer has given him an entry in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot next Wednesday over six furlongs again. The stiff six furlongs at Ascot could suit him well.
Came From The Dark - Newbury, 16th April
5yo Gelding, Ed Walker
Came From The Dark put up a nice performance to win the good five-furlong handicap at Newbury on Friday. Steadied at the start by Hollie Doyle, he was last of the eight runners through the early stages of the race. He travelled well to the two-furlong marker and, moved through a gap towards the near side, he picked up well at the furlong marker, showing a nice turn of foot to get up and run down Garrus and King's Lynn close home.
Ed Walker's horse only got home by a neck, but it was a cosy neck, and he probably had more in hand than the bare winning margin. A 480,000-guinea yearling, out of a half-sister to Pipalong, who won the Haydock Sprint Cup on heavy ground, Came From The Dark won a five-furlong handicap last year at Haydock off a mark of 95, and he made an encouraging start to this season when he went down by a total of a head to Jabbarockie in the Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh in early April. He is five now, but he is obviously in the form of his life, and he appears to be improving nicely now as a sprinter. A fast-run five furlongs in which he can be held up and delivered late suits him well, and he will be of interest now in a Group race.
Shinkansen - The Curragh, 17th April
2yo Colt, Donnacha Aidan O'Brien
Shinkansen ran better than his finishing position suggests in the juveniles' six-furlong maiden at The Curragh on Saturday. Smartly away and into his stride, he quickly adopted a good early position in the front rank and towards the near side. About a half a length behind the overall leader I Have A Voice on the near side after they had gone two furlongs, he moved up easily to join that rival in front as they raced inside the two-furlong marker. The ultimate winner Glounthaune matched strides with the pair of them, but it appeared that Shinkansen was travelling better than both those rivals until they raced to the furlong marker. He didn't find as much for pressure as Glounthaune did, however, and he weakened through the final 150 yards, just holding on to fourth place from his stable companion Geodesic, who finished well on the far side.
It was a good run by Donnacha O'Brien's colt, who shaped like a horse who would probably do better back down at five furlongs. He did run over five furlongs on his racecourse debut at Cork two weeks earlier, and he ran well, but the race developed on the far side, away from him a little bit. He had to do a lot of running on his own towards the near side and, actually, he did well for one so inexperienced to keep on as well as he did. By Caravaggio, who won the Marble Hill Stakes and the Flying Five over five furlongs and the Coventry Stakes and Phoenix Stakes and Commonwealth Cup over six, he will be of interest wherever he goes next, but it may be that he will be at his most effective over five furlongs, at least for now.
Agrimony - The Curragh, 17th April
3yo Colt, Joseph G Murphy
Agrimony put up a good performance to finish second to Wordsworth in the 10-furlong three-year-olds' maiden at The Curragh on Saturday. Weak in the market beforehand, Agrimony was smartly away from his wide draw, and Gary Carroll was able to come across and slot in in about seventh place early on, and just three off the rail. He was a little keen early on, but he settled better after they had gone about three furlongs, and he travelled well from there until the entrance to the home straight. He made nice ground from there on the outside of runners, and he started to bridge the gap to the leading group of six as they straightened up for home. Wordsworth, who had raced prominently from flagfall from his inside draw, got the better of early leader Sunwalk on the run to the furlong marker, but Agrimony stayed on really well down the outside, moving into second place and getting to within two lengths of the winner by the time they got to the winning line, two and a half lengths clear of Zaynudin in third.
It was a fine run by Joe Murphy's colt to finish second to the Aidan O'Brien-trained Wordsworth, a brother to Kew Gardens who finished second to Derby favourite High Definition in a maiden last August on his only previous run. Agrimony had to do plenty of running from his high draw to slot in and get a nice racing position, and he was just a little keen for a couple of furlongs. He had run just once himself before too, finishing a close-up second in a Punchestown maiden over a mile last September to Liffey River, who ran in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes on his next run. He saw out this 10-furlong trip, and his pedigree is mainly middle-distance, so he could do even better over a mile and a half. This was just his second run, his seasonal debut, and he should be able to build on it.
Blue Cup - Epsom, 20th April
5yo Gelding, David Menuisier
Blue Cup did well to finish as close as he did in the City And Suburban Handicap at Epsom on Tuesday. Slowly away and dropped in early on by Ryan Moore from his outside draw, he wasn't helped by the fact that the early pace was not overly fast. Hector Crouch rushed habitual prominent racer Victory Chime up on the inside to take the lead after they had gone a furlong, and he steadied the pace once he had the lead secured. Blue Cup was a hostage to the early pace. Victory Chime led all the way from the nine-furlong marker to the line, and Sky Defender, who sat in second place from early, finished second. By contrast, Blue Cup was ninth of the 10 runners early on and racing keenly. Still keen as they started to race down around Tattenham Corner, he travelled well early in the home straight but, although Ryan Moore tried, he couldn't get his horse to the outside in order to deliver his run. He ended up trying to pick his way through towards the inside, which is always difficult at Epsom as horses drift down the camber. He kept on well through the gaps that he could find, into fifth place, but he didn't have a clear run. It appeared that he had lots left to give at the end, and he was only beaten a total of two and a half lengths by the winner.
A winner over seven furlongs on soft ground in France as a three-year-old for Fabrice Chappet, the Kendargent gelding raced just three times last year as a four-year-old for David Menuisier, winning the second of those races, a handicap at Sandown in July over 10 furlongs on fast ground. This was his seasonal debut, his first race since he was beaten on a conditions race at Deauville last August, and it was a most encouraging return. He progressed with racing as a three-year-old and as a four-year-old, and there is every reason to expect that he can progress this season too. He is five now, but he is a relatively lightly-raced five-year-old, and, on this evidence, his current handicap rating of 93 should be well within range. He stays 10 furlongs well, and it appears that he is equally adept on good to soft ground and on good to firm ground. He should do better too back at a track at which a clear passage for hold-up horses is not as uncertain as it is at Epsom. He could be an Ascot horse.
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