Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: December 4th to December 10th
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.
Protektorat - Aintree, 4th December 2021
Protektorat may not have got the full credit that he was due for winning the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last Saturday. Dan Skelton's horse was unproven at the trip of three miles and a furlong going into the race. On his only previous attempt at a distance in excess of two miles and five furlongs, in a three-runner three-mile novices' chase at Kelso last February, he was beaten by 40 lengths by Empire Steel, the only other finisher. As well as that, he was really keen through the early stages of Saturday's race, he was still wanting to go faster than rider Bridget Andrews wanted him to go as they raced past the winning post with a circuit to run. You would have forgiven him if, given how keen he was, he had tired on the soft ground in the closing stages of the race. On the contrary, however, he got stronger as the race developed. He moved up on the outside of Native River at the end of the back straight, moved into a clear lead as they rounded the home turn, and came clear from there over the last three fences to win by 25 lengths in a good time.
We know that Protektorat goes well at Aintree, he won the Grade 1 Manifesto Chase at the Grand National meeting in April, but he also goes well at Cheltenham, he won a listed novices' hurdle there on New Year's Day in 2020, he won a novices' chase there at the 2020 November meeting, and he ran a big race to finish second to Midnight Shadow there last month in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He raced that day as if a step up in trip would be a positive, and he added ballast to that hypothesis at Aintree. He is only six, and he has raced just seven times over fences, so he has the potential to progress to take his place among the top staying chasers, and Gold Cup talk is legitimate talk.
Whatdeawant - Navan, 4th December 2021
Whatdeawant put up a game performance to win the first division of the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Navan last Saturday. Settled nicely by Danny Mullins just behind the front rank, he travelled well and he jumped well for a hurdling debutant. Seventh of the leading group of seven down the back straight in a well-stretched-out field, he wasn't great at the third last flight, and he came under a ride shortly thereafter. He moved into third place at the second last, but he still had about four lengths to find on the leaders Gracchus De Balme and Harald Hardrad at that point, and it didn't look likely as he came under pressure on the run to the final flight. But he found lots for pressure and, still around four lengths behind Harald Hardrad as they landed over the last, he stayed on strongly up the run-in to join the leader with 100 yards to run, before going on to win by over two lengths.
It was a wholly likeable performance by Willie Mullins' horse. The runner-up Harald Hardrad had been impressive in winning his bumper last month on his first run back after a long break, and the winning time was good, over two seconds faster than the second division of this race, and marginally faster too than the time that Ginto clocked in winning the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle over the same course and distance later on the card. Actually, Sean and Bernardine Mulryan's horse beat Ginto in a bumper on his racecourse debut at Fairyhouse last January, and he ran a big race in the Grade 2 bumper over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, staying on strongly from an improbable position, after appearing to get out-paced, to take third place behind his stable companion Kilcruit. This was his hurdling debut, and it was just his third race under all codes, so he has obvious scope for progression. Also, out of a bumper winner and a three-parts brother to Hardline, a Grade 1-winning chaser over two and a half miles, he shaped here again as if he could improve further for another step up in trip.
Eldorado Allen - Huntingdon, 5th December 2021
Eldorado Allen only finished third in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last Sunday, but he didn't do badly in the circumstances. Held up early on at the rear of the six-runner field and on the inside, he made a mistake at the fifth last fence just as the race was starting to hot up, and that put him on the back foot. Only fifth as they raced to the final fence in the back straight, slightly detached from the leading group of four, he came under pressure as they left the back straight. Still only fifth as they rounded the home turn, he stayed on well over the last two fences, past Master Tommytucker and Allmankind and closing on the first two all the way to the line, beaten in the end by four and a half lengths and one and three-quarter lengths by First Flow and Funambule Sivola.
Colin Tizzard’s horse was an exciting novice chaser last season, he won his first two chases and he was sent off at just 3/1 for the Grade 1 Henry VIII Chase at Sandown, which was won by the now 164-rated Allmankind. He finished second behind Shishkin in the Arkle on his penultimate run of the season, although he did pick up the pieces a bit after Allmankind and Captain Guinness had duelled for the early lead. He did win the Haldon Gold Cup over an extended two miles at Exeter on his debut this season, when he had Hitman and Zanza and Greaneteen behind him, form that has worked out really well since, but he shapes like a horse who needs a true test at two and a half miles to be seen at his best. A half-brother to Auvergnat, who won a Paddy Power Chase over three miles and a La Touche Cup over four, he could step up to three miles in time too. Still only seven and with just eight chases on his CV, he still has time on his side.
Thedevilscoachman - Punchestown, 5th December 2021
Thedevilscoachman put up a fine performance on his chasing debut to finish third behind Ferny Hollow in the two-mile beginners' chase at Punchestown on Sunday. Kicking off in third place behind the favourite and The Priests Leap, he lost a couple of places on the run down the side of the track to the back straight. Only sixth and along the inside as they left the back straight, he had to switch out into the centre over the fourth last and third last fences, and he got caught in a little bit of traffic as they ran to the home turn. Still only sixth as they straightened up for the final two fences, he stayed on well from there. He moved into third place over the second last fence, and he stayed on well to close on the winner and Coeur Sublime all the way to the line.
It was a most encouraging performance by Noel Meade's horse. He was a progressive novice hurdler last season, he won three of his first four races, including a listed hurdle at Punchestown in February, before he disappointed on his final run of the season behind Echoes In Rain in a Grade 2 hurdle at Fairyhouse's Irish National meeting in April. This was much more like it, and he could progress to be a talented two-mile novice chaser this season. He should do even better on even softer ground, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.
Come On Teddy - Uttoxeter, 7th December 2021
Come On Teddy did well to win the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap chase at Uttoxeter on Tuesday on his chasing bow, over a distance that was surely shorter than ideal for him. Weak in the market beforehand, he was settled at the rear of the field early on by Jonathan Burke. He was quite novicey over some of his fences early on, but he warmed to his task as the race developed. Still last as they left the back straight, he made nice ground around the outside over the fourth last fence, he travelled well into the home straight, he made good progress on the near side to hit the front over the third last fence, and he stayed on well from there over the last two fences to just get home by a neck from Fern Hill.
It was a really good performance by Tom George's horses, in circumstances that were not ideal. It was his first chase, and his first run since he finished sixth in the Grade 3 three-mile handicap hurdle at Aintree in April. He was a progressive handicap hurdler last season, he won a handicap hurdle at Cheltenham's December meeting, and he ran a big race in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, coming from the rear to finish third in a race in which it was difficult for the hold-up horses. He will be of interest again now when he steps up in trip over fences, and he will be of particular interest when he goes back to Cheltenham, a track at which he put up two of his best performances over hurdles.
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