Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: April 27 to May 4
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.
Kilcruit - Punchestown, April 28
Kilcruit was impressive in winning the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase at Punchestown on Friday. Paul Townend kicked Willie Mullins' horse out of the gate, and he never saw another rival. His jumping was very good. The only semblance of an error was at the second last fence, but his only pursuer Life In The Park also made a mistake at that obstacle, and Kilcruit came away from there to post an impressive victory.
This is a race that has been a really good pointer to the future, especially for Willie Mullins-trained horses, boasting, as it does, a roll of honour that includes Asterion Forlonge and Real Steel and Kemboy. Kilcruit was a top-class bumper horse, second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and winner of the Champion Bumper at Punchestown.
He only won once over hurdles last season, and this was just his second win over fences, but he raced just four times over fences this season, and his two losing runs were in Grade 1 races.
He could still be a Grade 1 horse over fences next season though, and it is interesting that the time that he clocked here was over three seconds faster than the time that the top-class Impervious clocked in winning the Grade 2 mares' chase run over the same course and distance 35 minutes later. The Galway Plate was mentioned as a possible target now, but, now rated 160, he is a horse to look forward to in graded chases next season.
Mighty Tom - Punchestown, April 28
Mighty Tom ran a big race to finish second to Seddon in the Grade B two-mile-three-furlong handicap hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday. Settled well back in the field early on by Denis O'Regan, he travelled well through his race, made good ground on the outside down the side of the track, and arrived there in the front rank as they turned for home. He just couldn't pick up from there, as lack of a recent run probably told, but he still kept on well enough to retain third place.
It was a big run by the Dylan Thomas gelding, on his first run for Cian Collins and his first run since he ran in a handicap hurdle at Killarney last May. He is eight years old now, but this was a most encouraging run from him for his new trainer, and he should be able to build on it now. He goes well on this goodish ground, so he will be of interest with bookies wherever he goes now. He made all for his two wins over hurdles, so he is obviously versatile in terms of tactics.
Montassib - Haydock, April 29
Montassib did well to get as close as he did in the seven-furlong handicap at Haydock on Saturday. Settled last of the 11 runners early on from his outside draw, it looked like they went fast early on up front, but the pace held up well. Gweedore led early, with Biggles in second, and they finished second and third, with Rainbow Fire just running the two of them down close home.
Montassib was still last as they raced to the two-furlong marker, but he stayed on really strongly through the final furlong to get up for fourth place, closing all the way to the line and closest at the finish. And he would have been closer still had he not had his run checked on the run to the furlong pole.
William Haggas' horse is five now, but this was just his ninth run, so he still has potential for progression. The Victoria Cup at Ascot was mentioned as a potential target now, and that makes lots of sense. He has never won at Ascot, but he ran well in the Buckingham Palace Handicap at the Royal meeting last year over the Victoria Cup course and distance, he was only beaten a total of a length and a half. Ascot's straight course suits his hold-up style of racing, and he could do even better on the easy ground that he could get at this stage of the season.
Snowcapped - The Curragh, May 1
Snowcapped did really well to win the seven-furlong three-year-old fillies' handicap at The Curragh on Monday. Slowly away and last of the nine runners early on, she was still no better than sixth after they had gone a furlong, with a gap of a couple of lengths between the first group of five and the second group of four.
She came under a ride from Shane Foley with a half a mile to go, but she made good progress towards the near side on the run to the two-furlong marker. By then, Lovejoy had skipped clear on the far side, but Snowcapped was strong in the finish. She hit the front with 150 yards to run, and she drew away close to home to win by over three lengths in the end.
It was a really likeable performance by Jessica Harrington's filly, coming from well back in the field in a race in which the prominent racers did well. Three of the four fillies who made up the leading group through the early stages of the race finished second, third and fourth behind the winner. Also, Snowcapped was dropping down to seven furlongs, having won over a mile on her seasonal debut, and she raced here as if she would appreciate a step back up in trip.
Out of a half-sister to Oaks and Irish Oaks and Irish Champion Stakes winner Snow Fairy, it was no surprise to hear her trainer say afterwards that she would step back up in trip now, to a mile or perhaps to 10 furlongs. This was just her third run, so there could be much more to come from her now, especially over further, and especially on easy ground.
Fools Glory - The Curragh, May 1
Fools Glory can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of the performance that she put up in finishing fifth behind Shimmerz and Veryhoyen in the seven-furlong handicap at The Curragh on Monday. It was a race in which it was probably an advantage to race handily and towards the far side. The runner-up was drawn in stall 16, but he was smartly away, as is his wont, and Joey Sheridan quickly had him going forward and moving to his right, over to the far side, where he led from early, with Shimmerz settling nicely behind him over there from her draw in stall two. The third and fourth also raced handily and towards the far side.
Fools Glory, by contrast, raced towards the near side from stall 18, and she was well back in the field early on. Probably better over further, she was being niggled along by Scott McCullagh from half way. 13th or 14th of the 18 runners as they raced towards the two-furlong marker, she stuck to her task well on the near side, finishing off her race nicely to finish fifth, going to the line willingly and doing best of the horses who raced towards the near side.
Paul McEnery's filly has just turned four, so there is plenty of potential upside to her. She was well beaten at Leopardstown on her seasonal return, but this was much more like it, competing over a distance that is probably short of her best. A dual winner last season on soft and heavy ground, she will be of interest again now when she steps up in trip, as long as the ground remains soft. She holds entries in the fillies' handicap and in the nine-and-a-half-furlong handicap at Gowran Park next Wednesday, and she will be of interest on new betting sites if she lines up in either, back at the track at which she won a handicap on soft ground in October.
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