Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 27th- March 2nd
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.
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Tax For Max - Fairyhouse, 27th Feb
4yo Colt, Willie Mullins
Tax For Max did well to finish second to Teahupoo in the Grade 3 juvenile hurdle that opened proceedings at Fairyhouse on Saturday. The Maxios colt was very keen early on in behind Crassus and Teahupoo, and his jumping wasn't fluent, probably as a result. He did settle better as they raced down the back straight, and his jumping warmed up. He travelled well to the home turn in behind the two leaders, and he moved to the outside to challenge on the run to the second last flight. He nodded a little on landing over that obstacle, and it never really looked like he was going to get to Teahupoo, but he kept on nicely up the run-in to get past Crassus and into second place, coming away from that rival on the run to the line.
It was a more than satisfactory debut over hurdles from Willie Mullins' horse, in a race that the trainer won last year with Burning Victory, who went on to win the Triumph Hurdle next time. A winner over 10 furlongs on the flat in Germany, Tax For Max is a half-brother to Tiger Tap Tap, a good juvenile hurdler for Willie Mullins who reached a peak rating of 136. Tax For Max should learn to settle better as he gains experience over hurdles, and he could progress significantly as he does.
Jason The Militant - Fairyhouse, 27th Feb
7yo Gelding, Henry De Bromhead
Jason The Militant looked good in winning the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday. Sent to the front from flagfall by Rachael Blackmore, his jumping was good, and he had his four rivals stretched out by the time they raced around the home turn. Petit Mouchoir did get close to him on the run to the second last flght, but Henry de Bromhead's horse picked up nicely on landing over that obstacle, and he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in to win by seven and a half lengths, with Darasso and Sixshooter well back in third and fourth.
The Red Mills Trial Hurdle can be a good pointer to the Champion Hurdle. Theatreworld won the race a couple of times before going on to finish second in the Champion Hurdle, and Hardy Eustace used the race as a springboard to both his Champion Hurdle wins. This was a really nice performance by Jason The Militant, he travelled well and his jumping was good, and he conceded weight to some talented individuals, clocking a good time in the process, a time that was over 10 seconds faster than the fastest of the other two two-mile hurdle races run on the day.
Peter Michael's horse is going to have to improve again if he is going to be competitive in the Champion Hurdle, but there is every chance that he will improve from this. It was his first run since November and it was just his seventh run over hurdles, and it was probably a career-best performance. Beaten just a neck and a short head by Abacadabras and Saint Roi in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, he could be a lively Champion Hurdle outsider.
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Captain Blackpearl - Kempton, 27th Feb
7yo Gelding, Tom George
Captain Blackpearl was unlucky not to finish closer than he did in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Kempton on Saturday. Held up early on behind a relentless gallop that My Way set, he lost ground as they raced away from the stands with a circuit to run, but he made nice progress down the back straight, despite making a mistake at the second fence on that part of the course, to move into fifth place as they started to turn for home. He continued his progress in the home straight and over the third last fence, and he was about to move into second place at the second last fence when he got in tight to the obstacle and sprawled on landing. He did well to remain upright, and Jonathan Burke did well to remain on board.
We will never know how it would have panned out had he jumped the fence well, but My Way appeared to tire on the run-in, allowing Awake At Midnight to get to within two lengths of him at the winning line. It looked like Captain Blackpearl would have finished in front of Awake At Midnight, and the fact that he was able to get going again after his mistake at the second last and get up for third place suggests that he might have gone very close.
Beaten in his only point-to-point and zero for three over hurdles, Tom George's horse was impressive in winning a novices' handicap chase at Kempton in November on his chasing bow, and he didn't run badly in his second chase, when he finished second to Evander at Doncaster in December, despite not jumping well. His jumping wasn't bad here, with the exception of the second last fence, and he can be marked up a fair bit on the bare form of the run. The handicapper left him on his mark of 127 after this performance, and that is a mark off which he will be of interest again. He is only seven, this was just his third run over fences, and he has the potential to go beyond this mark. Two and a half miles is a good trip for him, but he could get further in time, and he goes well on this goodish ground.
Seemorelights - Newcastle, 27th Feb
9yo Gelding, Sandy Thomson
Seemorelights ran well for a long way in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Newcastle on Saturday. Prominent from early, he jumped well, and moved to the front at the eighth fence. He tired from there, however, as lack of a recent run probably took it toll, and he just kept on over the last three fences to finish fourth, beaten a total of 14 lengths by Fortified Bay and Informateur.
This was Seemorelights' third run back after a long break, and it was his first run since he finished third behind the talented Marown in a novices' chase at Ayr in mid-December. Weak in the market beforehand, he travelled and jumped well through his race before he tired. The handicapper dropped him by 1lb for this to a mark of 124 and, rated 128 over hurdles, he has the potential to go beyond that mark over fences. He is nine years old now, but he is a lightly-raced nine-year-old, he has raced just six times over hurdles and just three times now over fences. Sandy Thomson's horse goes well on soft ground and, while he is not bred for stamina, he has run well over staying trips over hurdles, so he could progress for a step up in trip now over fences.
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Lynwood Gold - Punchestown, 1st March
6yo Gelding, Mrs John Harrington
Lynwood Gold ran a good race in the Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown on Monday to finish sixth behind Atlantic Shore. Settled back towards the rear of the field early on by Robbie Power, he jumped well and he travelled well to the end of the back straight. He moved up on the outside travelling well as they raced towards the second last flight and, while he came under pressure as they raced around the home turn, he kept on admirably. Just eighth as the turned for home, he stayed on well over the final flight and up the run-in to get up and take sixth place, just failing to catch Gabbys Cross for fifth.
This was Lynwood Gold's first run since he finished eighth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October. Also, it was his first run over hurdles since he finished second in a novices' hurdle at the Listowel Festival in September, and it was just the fifth hurdle race of his life, and his first handicap hurdle, so there is every reason to expect that he will progress for the experience. Jessica Harrington's horse is a talented flat horse, he won a good handicap on the flat on Irish Oaks weekend at The Curragh last year, and he raced off a mark of 91 in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October, and he has the scope to progress now over hurdles. He is now qualified for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, and he will be of interest if connections allow him take his chance there.
This race was five days later than originally scheduled, he will only have a break of 17 days if he does run in the Final, but the Punchestown Pertemps qualifier has been a good pointer to the Final in recent years. Mall Dini and Presenting Percy finished third and fourth respectively in the Punchestown qualifier before going on to win the Final at Cheltenham. The Punchestown race was run in late January or in early February those years (2016 and 2017), but both horses ran again before they went to Cheltenham. Also, Delta Work finished third in the Punchestown Pertemps qualifier in 2018 before going on to win the Final at Cheltenham just 22 days later. The handicapper left Lynwood Gold on his mark of 130 after this, and the British handicapper has given the Robcour gelding a rating of 134, which is a mark off which he would be of interest in the Final.
Cedarwood Road - Gowran Park, 2nd March
6yo Gelding, Gearoid O'Loughlin
Cedarwood Road put up a good performance to win the two-and-a-half-mile beginners' chase at Gowran Park on Tuesday.
Antey set a good pace, Willie Mullins' horse got into a good rhythm in front for Paul Townend, and he jumped well. Cedarwood Road quickly moved into the leader's slipstream and he tracked him for two miles, with the rest of the field stretched out behind the front two. Derek O'Connor moved Cedarwood Roal up on the stands side of Antey as they straightened up for home, and he was good at the third last fence, whereas Antey got in tight and landed awkwardly. That handed the lead to Gearoid O'Loughlin's horse and, while Antey battled back well, it was a lead that he didn't relinquish. They came together on the landing side of the final fence, but Cedarwood Road stayed on well up the run-in, and moved nicely ahead to win by almost three lengths in the end, with the first two finishing well clear of their rivals.
Cedarwood Road was a progressive novice hurdler last season. Winner of his maiden hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival last year, Chris Jones' horse stepped forward from that next time when he showed a smart turn of foot to get up and beat Beacon Edge and Entoucas in a listed novice hurdle at Naas. Beaten on his chasing debut in Janadil's beginners' chase at Naas last November, he showed the benefit of that experience when he finished second to The Big Getaway in a good beginners' chase at this year's Christmas Festival at Leopardstown over two miles and five furlongs.
Tuesday's performance was a step forward from that, in a beginners' chase that has been won in the recent past by Spyglass Hill, Duc Des Genievres and Bachasson. His trainer mentioned the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse's Easter meeting as a potential target now and, while it may be that he is better going left-handed, he is a progressive young chaser who is well worth his place in a Grade 1 contest.
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