Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: December 14th to December 21st
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.
Ramillies - Thurles, December 18th 2022
Ramillies was impressive in winning the three-mile beginners' chase at Thurles last Sunday. It was significant that Paul Townend chose to ride him in front of his slightly better-fancied stable companion Tenzing, and the champion jockey's decision was right on the mark, as Ramillies won well. His jumping was very good for a debutant; he moved up to join the leader Indiana Jones as they rounded the home turn and went clear on the run to the last. He stayed on well to win by just over two lengths from his stable companion, with the pair of them well clear of their rivals in a time that was almost nine seconds faster than the time that the handicappers clocked a half an hour later.
Willie Mullins' horse has won just one bumper and one hurdle race, but he kept good company under both codes. He ran in the champion bumpers at Cheltenham and Punchestown, and he ran in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle and in the Grade 1 three-mile novices' hurdle at the Punchestown last April. There is every chance, on this evidence, that he will be significantly better now over fences than he was in bumpers or over hurdles. It was a good performance to beat Tenzing, who had race fitness on his side having finished a staying-on third to subsequent Grade 1 winner Gerri Colombe in a beginners' chase at Fairyhouse in November. Ramillies could take a high rank among the top staying novice chasers this season. Connections Willie Mullins and Marie Donnelly also have Gaillard Du Mesnil, so it will be interesting to see which routes they both take. Ramillies could be targeted at the Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham in March if Gaillard Du Mesnil goes for the National Hunt Chase.
Shes Some Doll - Naas, December 20th 2022
Shes Some Doll fell at what was the final fence in the two-mile handicap chase that Know The Game won at Naas last Tuesday, and the last was a long way from home on the day, with the two fences in the home straight omitted because of the low sun. It is obviously impossible to know how she would have fared, but she travelled well and jumped well up to that point, and there is every chance that she would have been involved in the finish. She was just moving up to challenge at Tramore on New Year's Day too when she came down at the second-last fence. She has fallen three times in her life now, but she is really quite a good jumper. She was unlucky to fall at Naas; she actually jumped the fence well but just didn't appear to get her landing gear sorted on time.
She was racing for the first time since July at Naas, and for the first time for Tom Gibney, since she won a claiming hurdle at Roscommon in July on her last run for Gavin Cromwell. It is not ideal obviously that she has fallen in each of her last two runs, but hopefully her confidence hasn’t been affected, and there could be a handicap chase in her now off her mark of 98. Two-and-a-half miles is probably her optimum trip, and she handles all types of ground.
Three Card Brag - Naas, December 20th 2022
Inthepocket was a good winner of the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle, re-routed to Naas last Tuesday. He probably won with more in hand than the bare winning margin, and Henry de Bromhead's horse is obviously hugely exciting, but Three Card Brag did well to get to within a neck of him. The step up to two-and-a-half miles was a positive for Gordon Elliott's horse, after he had run a big race to finish a staying-on third in the Grade 3 For Auction Hurdle at Navan in November. A mistake at the second flight in the back straight didn't help him, and he was the first one of the leading quartet to come off the bridle at the top of the home straight with no hurdles left to jump. He kept responding to Adrian Heskin's urgings, though, and stayed on gamely on the near side to go down by just a neck in the end, with the front two pulling nicely clear of two talented stable companions Absolute Notions and Deeply Superficial.
Winner of his only bumper last season, Three Card Brag kept on well to beat subsequent winner Sandor Clegane in winning his maiden hurdle at Galway in October, and his two subsequent runs in graded hurdles have been highly encouraging. He shaped here as if two-and-a-half miles is a minimum for him and, a half-brother to Sun Alliance Chase runner-up and Scottish National fourth Idle Talk, he could improve for stepping up in trip again.
Jackpot De Choisel - Fairyhouse, December 21st 2022
Jackpot De Choisel put up a most encouraging performance on his Irish debut to finish third behind Jazzy Matty in the juveniles' maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse last Wednesday. A little keen early on and prominent from early, he moved up nicely on the outside of the leader Jazzy Matty as they rounded the home turn. The front two had a nice break on their field as they jumped the second-last flight, but Jackpot De Choisel just started to tire on the run to the last, and he just lost second place close home.
It was a good performance by John McConnell's horse, on his first run in Ireland, his first run over hurdles, and his first run since he won a 14-furlong race on the flat in France on his racecourse debut. Jazzy Matty is a talented horse. He finished second behind subsequent Grade 2 Finale Hurdle winner Comfort Zone and in front of subsequent Leopardstown maiden hurdle winner Tekao in a maiden hurdle at Navan on Troytown Chase day. Jackpot De Choisel emerged as his only real challenger on the run around the home turn. The Great Pretender gelding should progress from this now. He will be of interest wherever he goes next.
Big Debates - Fairyhouse, December 21st 2022
Big Debates followed up his Cork win in November by winning another two-mile handicap chase at Fairyhouse last Wednesday, making light of a 5lb hike in the ratings. He always travelled well for Philip Enright behind a good pace that Kitty Galore set. He moved up on the outside early in the home straight as he and Gallyhill closed on the leader, and when asked for his effort on the run to the last, he rose just about in front at the last. Despite getting in a little tight to the last and losing a little bit of momentum, he picked up well on the run-in, going on to win by six lengths from Gallyhill, who was well clear of the rest of the field.
Robert Tyner's horse has just turned 10, but he looks like an improved horse this season over two miles. He has run over three miles in the past, and he has won a handicap hurdle on heavy ground over two miles and six furlongs, but the minimum trip looks like his optimum now. On his last run over two miles before this season, he won a novices' hurdle at Limerick. The handicapper raised him by 11lb for this win to a mark of 131, but it was a good performance to beat Gallyhill, himself a progressive horse, with the pair of them clear. A well-run two-mile chase on soft ground probably represent optimum conditions, and most of his best runs have been at right-handed tracks.
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