Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 19 to February 26
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.
Brides Hill - Thurles, 23rd February 2023
Brides Hill was good in winning the listed mares' novices' chase at Thurles last Thursday. The early market with bookies was dominated by Telmesomethinggirl and Instit, rated, respectively, 142 and 139 over hurdles, and who had met at Naas in January, and those two moved on at the end of the back straight.
But Brides Hill travelled well in third place behind them under Luke Dempsey as they raced across the top of the track, and she tracked them into the home straight.
It was apparent early in the home straight that Gavin Cromwell's mare was travelling better than the two market leaders, and she duly joined them on the far side on the run to the final fence, jumped to the front over that obstacle, and stayed on strongly to win by four lengths in the end.
This was a first win over fences for Brides Hill, but she had been progressing toward it. She fell on her chasing bow at Fairyhouse in October, and her trainer said afterwards that that had set her back, that she was only just finding her rhythm now over fences.
A 137-rated hurdler, she could go even higher over fences now, she was impressive in beating two talented mares here. She goes well on goodish ground, so she will be of interest again now as we move into the spring.
Franciscan Rock - Thurles, 23rd February 2023
Franciscan Rock was impressive in getting off the mark over hurdles at Thurles last Thursday. Prominent from early, he moved into a share of the lead as they passed the winning post with a circuit to run, and he moved into a clear lead at the second flight down the back straight. The favourite Sir Argus moved up threateningly behind him as they ran to the home turn, but when Ricky Doyle asked his horse to pick up on landing over the second last flight, his response was impressive. He came away from his rival on the run to the last, jumped that well and kept on nicely all the way to the line.
Franciscan Rock had finished placed in his four most recent races over hurdles before Thursday, he had finished second to two talented horses in his two most recent races, and this was a nice step forward from him. Mouse Morris' horse is progressing with experience, but, as well as that, he was back up in distance to almost three miles here, and that may be significant. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree, he is surely a staying chaser in the medium term but, in the interim, he will be of interest in other staying hurdles between now and the end of the season.
Flegmatik - Kempton, 25th February 2023
Flegmatic only just missed out in the Coral Trophy at Kempton on Saturday. Held up early on by Harry Skelton, he made nice progress through his field as they raced down the back straight. Stuck to the inside rail, he moved into second place behind early leader Annsam as they raced out of the back straight, and he travelled well into the home straight.
Travelling best of all as they straightened up for home, he jumped to the front over the third last fence, which is probably around about the point at which he traded at 1.2 in-running on new betting sites. He just got in a little tight to the second last fence, and that gave Our Power a chance. He wasn't great at the last either, and Our Power surged past with about 150 yards to go. The manner in which Flegmatik rallied was admirable, however, and he only went down by a neck in the end.
This was probably a career-best from Dan Skelton's horse in his first-time cheekpieces. It wasn't a disadvantage that he was held up early on, away from the strong early pace, but he made his ground surprisingly easily, and Harry Skelton probably found himself in front a little earlier than ideal. He goes well at Kempton - he won two races at the track in February last year, the latter the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase on this card last year - and he goes well on good and good to soft ground, and he stays three miles.
He is probably at his best going right-handed - he ran well at Ascot on his debut this season - and a 5lb hike for Saturday's performance should be manageable. He will be of interest wherever he goes next, ideally in a big-field handicap in which a good pace is likely, and on goodish ground at a right-handed track.
Datsalrightgino - Kempton, 25th February 2023
Datsalrightgino did well to finish second to Solo in the Pendil Chase at Kempton on Saturday. Settled towards the rear early on by Gavin Sheehan, fourth of the five runners, he was out a little to his left at several fences, and he got in a little tight to one or two, and he was wider on the track than ideal. He made good ground over the fifth last and fourth last fences to move up on the outside and get close to the leaders, but he was tight to the third last and a little to his left, and he was three wide around the home turn.
By contrast, Solo jumped well in front throughout, flush against the inside rail, and he came away from his rivals from the second last fence. It never looked like Datsalrightgino was going to get to him, but he did well to keep on as well as he did to finish second, six lengths in front of Boothill, winner of the Wayward Lad Chase at this track at Christmas.
It was a good performance by Jamie Snowden's horse under less than optimal conditions. Solo got to set his own pace and he was quickly into a good rhythm at a track that suits his racing style, and Datsalrightgino closed to within two lengths of him. The It's Gino gelding put up a good performance too on his previous run in finishing second behind another Paul Nicholls horse in Stage Star in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham's January meeting, and this was probably a step forward from that.
He is only seven and he has run just six times over fences, so he has plenty of scope now to continue his progression. He stays this two-and-a-half-mile trip well, and he is worth a try over further. He could do better back on a left-handed track too. He ran well at Newbury on his only visit there last November, and he has won and run well in the past at Chepstow and at Cheltenham.
Classic Lord - Naas, 26th February 2023
Classic Lord put up a good performance to finish fourth in the two-mile maiden hurdle at Naas on Sunday. Nicely settled by Rachael Blackmore in mid-division early on, he made nice ground around the outside as they raced around the home turn, travelling well.
It took him a little while to pick up on landing over the second last flight, and he wasn't helped when Innatendue moved a little to her right in front of him between the last two flights. Only sixth jumping the final flight, he stayed on well up the run-in to finish fourth.
It was a good performance by Henry de Bromhead's horse on just his second run over hurdles. A four-time winner on the flat for Andrew Balding, and rated 94 at his peak under that code, this was his first run too since he finished down the field in the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh last September, so there is every chance that he will progress for it. He could improve too for a greater test of stamina, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.
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