Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: April 19th to April 26th
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.
Mutasaabeq - Sandown, April 22nd 2022
Mutasaabeq did well to get as close as he did to Lights On in the Group 2 Bet365 Mile at Sandown. Held up early on, last of the six runners, he travelled well early in the home straight, but Jim Crowley had to wait for the gaps to develop. Still last as they raced inside the final furlong, he picked up when he got a gap between Sunray Major and Alcohol Free, and he finished off his race really strongly, but he failed by just a neck to catch Lights On, who got a nice split close to the rail earlier than Mutasaabeq did.
It was a race in which they didn’t go a great pace and was difficult to make ground from the rear, as evidenced by Mutasaabeq’s finishing speed of 108.12%. And, even with that, if he had got a gap just a little earlier than he did, for all that Lights On went to the line strongly, Mutasaabeq probably would have won. Charlie Hills’ horse is a talented performer; he was sent off at no bigger than 6/1 for last year’s 2000 Guineas on the back of a really impressive performance on his three-year-old debut last season. It didn’t happen for him in the Guineas, and he won just once in three subsequent attempts - he was well beaten in the Jersey Stakes and in the Celebration Mile - but he started off this season nicely with an impressive performance to win a conditions stakes over seven furlongs on soft ground at Thirsk, and this was a nice step forward from that.
He proved here that he stays a mile well, and while we know that he handles soft and heavy ground, he went well on this good ground. He doesn’t hold any lofty entries, but he shapes like a Group race performer over a mile or seven furlongs, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.
Westover - Sandown, April 22nd 2022
Westover shaped like a talented colt in winning the Group 3 Classic Trial at Sandown last Friday. Racing in third place early on, he was keener than ideal through the early stages of the race. He didn’t really settle until they started to leave the back straight after they had reached halfway. Ralph Beckett’s horse travelled well into the home straight, but he came under a ride on the run to the two-furlong marker.
It took him a little while to pick up, as the favourite Goldspur kicked on from the front and looked a likely winner. Westover picked up well, though, for Rob Hornby when the penny dropped, and he reeled Goldspur in and joined him at the furlong marker. He hung to his left, and that gave the finisher, Cash, a chance. But once he got straightened up again, Westover found more and just got to the line a short head in front of Cash, but he left the impression that he had more left in the tank.
Cash did well to get as close as he got from the rear, having shown signs of temperament before the start, but Westover was almost certainly the best horse in the race on the day. He was still green, though, and those signs of greenness almost resulted in defeat. It was his seasonal debut and just his fourth run ever, so he should learn from this and come on for it. Even with that, he did well to finish a length in front of last year’s Zetland Stakes winner Goldspur, who had the run of the race from the front.
A full brother to Wolferton Stakes winner Monarchs Glen, out of a half-sister to French Oaks winner Nebraska Tornado, he should get a mile-and-a-half all right. He holds an entry in the Dante, and he could be an interesting outsider for the Derby. Sandown’s Classic Trial has an illustrious roll of honour, including Troy, Henbit, Shergar, Pentire, Fantastic Light, Old Vic and Sakhee. Last year’s Derby winner, Adayar, finished second in the Sandown race, which was won by last year’s King Edward VII winner, Alenquer, with the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Yibir, back in third, and the Irish Derby runner-up, Lone Eagle, in fourth.
Boardman - Haydock, April 23rd 2022
Boardman showed a smart turn of foot to get up and win the seven-furlong handicap at Haydock on Saturday. Held up early on by David Allan, he was only eighth of the 10 runners as they straightened up for home. His rider bided his time early in the home straight and was still on the bridle in behind horses on the run to the two-furlong marker as his main market rival, Alrehb, set sail for home. It took him a few strides to pick up, but when he did, he picked up nicely and, wheeled towards the outside, he came late and fast to get up and nab Alrehb close home, going on to win by a cosy half-length.
Boardman is six now, and this was his 23rd race, but he proved that he retains lots of ability. The handicapper raised him by just 2lb for that, which was more than fair. It leaves him on a mark of 92, which is still 4lb lower than his peak. He won at York’s Dante meeting last year after winning at Haydock, and after starting off his season at Redcar, he has followed a similar path this season so far, so it wouldn’t be surprising if York’s Dante meeting was on his agenda again. In the meantime, he holds an entry in a seven-and-a-half-furlong handicap on Friday at Chester, a course and distance over which he has won before, and he will be of interest if he takes his chance in that.
Magical Lagoon - Navan, April 23rd 2022
Magical Lagoon was only just caught close home by Concert Hall in the Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan last Saturday. Weak in the market beforehand, Jessica Harrington’s filly was prominent from early, and she hit the front on the run to the furlong pole. She was caught by Concert Hall just inside the furlong marker, but she battled on well for Shane Foley all the way to the line, just going down by the bob of a head to Aidan O’Brien’s filly in the end, the pair of them coming nicely clear of their rivals.
It was a big run by Magical Lagoon on her seasonal debut. Concert Hall won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes last year and wasn’t beaten far in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile, while the two fillies who finished third and fourth, Cairde Go Deo and Tranquil Lady, were also talented juveniles last season. Magical Lagoon herself showed a high level of ability last term. She won the Group 3 Flame Of Tara Stakes over a mile, and she finished seventh in the Fillies’ Mile, just over a length behind Concert Hall and less than three lengths behind the Guineas winner Cachet, in a race that is working out really well so far. A half-sister to King George winner Novellist, she should improve for this run, and she could improve again for the step up to a mile-and-a-half.
Capodanno - Punchestown, April 26th 2022
There were many horses to note for next season from the Punchestown Festival, but chief among them was Capodanno. His task in the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase was rendered easier than it might have been by the fact that both Bob Olinger and Beacon Edge under-performed, but he could hardly have been much more impressive than he was in beating talented novices in Lifetime Ambition and Fury Road, with Grade 2 winner Ballyshannon Rose well back in third and the Manifesto Chase winner Millers Bank back in fifth. Prominent from early, Willie Mullins’ horse moved into the lead on the run down the back straight the final time, and it never looked like he would relinquish that lead. He wasn’t great at the third-last fence, and that gave Lifetime Ambition a chance, but he stayed on strongly for Mark Walsh over the last two fences and he won well.
JP McManus’ horse won the three-mile handicap hurdle at this meeting last year, and he did well to win his beginners’ chase at Naas on his debut this season after making a bad mistake at the second-last fence. He didn’t win again after that until Tuesday, but he unseated in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, and that probably upset the rhythm of his season. He didn’t run badly in the Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham - he was held up that day and kept on to finish fourth behind L’Homme Presse - but he appeared to be happier ridden forward at Punchestown. He stays well and is only six, so he has plenty of scope to progress next season, and he could take a high rank among the staying chasers.
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