Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: July 13th to July 19th
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.
Al Riffa - The Curragh, 16th July 2022
Al Riffa put up an eye-catching performance in finishing second behind the impressive Hans Andersen in the seven-furlong maiden that opened proceedings at The Curragh on Saturday. Slowly away and well back in the field early on, he got out-paced when they quickened as they raced inside the three-furlong marker, at which point he dropped to third last. But he stayed on strongly for Dylan Browne McMonagle from two furlongs out, moving into fifth place at the furlong pole and keeping on strongly through the final 200 yards to finish a clear second.
This maiden has been a really good pointer to the future in the past, with MacSwiney, Australia, Teofilo and New Approach on the roll of honour, and Hans Andersen shaped really encouragingly on his racecourse debut at Tipperary, and could progress to be top class. Aidan O'Brien's colt won with plenty in hand, but Al Riffa did well to stay on as well as he did to get to within two lengths of him.
Joseph O'Brien's horse showed signs of inexperience, which was of course understandable, given that this was his racecourse debut, and he could improve significantly for this. His dam is a sister to high-class stayer Mizzou, and his great grandam is My Emma, who won the Yorkshire Oaks and the Prix Vermeille, so he is bred to progress as he steps up in trip, a hypothesis that is backed up by his performance here. He should be winning his maiden soon, and he could be a horse for the Vertem Futurity Trophy or the Criterium International later in the season.
Extensio - The Curragh, 16th July 2022
Last Saturday was a great day for the O'Donnell family, with Silvia riding her mother Úna's horse, Extensio, trained by her dad Pat, to victory in the Ladies Derby at The Curragh. He did it well too under a fine ride by Sylvia O'Donnell, who was riding her first winner. She had her horse prominent from early, but she didn't panic when they turned for home. She allowed her horse make his ground gradually in the home straight, and she didn't ask him for his effort until they were well inside the two-furlong marker. When she did, Extensio picked up well and stayed on strongly all the way to the line to win by a half a length, leaving the impression that he had more in hand than that.
It was a second good performance on the bounce by Pat O'Donnell's horse. On his previous run, he stayed on well from the rear to take second place in a Leopardstown handicap behind Harry's Legacy, who won at Killarney next time off a 6lb higher mark. And the Ladies Derby is working out well too already, with sixth-placed Five Zeros and 10th-placed Massaman both winning at Down Royal on Friday evening. The handicapper raised Extensio by 5lb to a mark of 68, but that mark should still be well within range.
Supagirl - The Curragh, 17th July 2022
Supagirl can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of the performance that she put up in finishing third behind Kerkiyra in the 10-furlong three-year-olds' handicap at The Curragh on Sunday. Sharply away, Dylan Kidd quickly got his filly settled into a nice position in second place, just up on the outside of the leader Nectarine. She moved up on the outside of the leader as they raced down around the home turn, but she moved to her left as they straightened up, which allowed Kerkiyra up on her inside. From there, she was always playing catch-up, and she actually dropped to fifth place as Amortentia moved up on her inside and Giladah moved up on her outside at the two-furlong marker. She didn't have a lot of racing room either inside the final furlong, held in by Giladah but, once she got out and got rolling again, she finished off her race well to take third place, beaten a total of three parts of a length and hampered a little close home.
Jessica Harrington's filly continues in fine form. She went into this race on the back of an impressive performance in winning an apprentices' handicap at Navan eight days earlier. She was raised by 14lb for that win, but she proved on Sunday that she was well able for her mark in the low 90s. She continues to progress and she will be of interest wherever she goes next. Ten furlongs is a good trip for her, she could get 12, and she goes well on good and fast ground.
Youmdor - Ballinrobe, 18th July 2022
Youmdor put up a good performance on his first run in over a year to finish third behind Sionnnach Eile in the 12-furlong handicap at Ballinrobe on Monday. He was held up out the back early on by Colin Keane, last of the eight runners, and he was still last as they passed the three-furlong marker, but he got a nice gap among horses as they raced to the two, and he was able to go through that gap and move into fourth place. He picked up well too from there in an effort to bridge the gap to the leading group of three. He didn't have the pace to match Sionnach Eile and Stellium, who broke away and went clear, but he kept on well into third place.
He caught the attention of the stewards, but it was apparent that he just didn't have the pace to go with the two leaders when they quickened. That said, it was a really nice start back by Willie Mullins' horse, on his first run on the flat since he won a three-year-olds' handicap at Deauville in March 2020 when he was trained by Freddy Head. It was his first run under any code since he finished down the field in the Fred Winter Hurdle at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. He had been among the top juvenile hurdlers earlier that season, he probably would have beaten Teahupoo at Fairyhouse that January had he not come down at the final flight.
His next run was disappointing however, he could finish only fourth behind Quilixios in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown, but the fact that he was sent off as 100/30 second favourite is a measure of the regard in which he was held then. Willie Mullins has obviously been patient with him, but he should be able to build on this run and, if he can get back close to the form that he showed as a juvenile hurdler, it could be worth following him. He holds an entry in the Connacht Hotel Handicap at the Galway Festival, and, while that race might come up a little too quickly for him, he will be of interest if he gets into that race, and he will be of continued interest wherever he goes thereafter.
Mr Trinket - Ballinrobe, 18th July 2022
Mr Trinket can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of the performance that he put up in finishing fourth in the nine-and-a-half-furlong three-year-olds' handicap at Ballinrobe on Monday. Settled into a nice early position by Jack Kearney, in third place behind Prophets Voice and Heather Bear, he moved up on the outside as they left the back straight, travelling well. Three wide as they raced around the home turn, he was forced wider still as Brown Eagle moved up on his inside, and he appeared to lose his forward momentum, dropping back to fifth or sixth when they straightened up. He kept on well from there, despite hanging a little to his left. He was strong at the finish, going down by a total of just over two lengths in the end.
It was an encouraging performance by Mark Fahey's horse on his first run back after a short break. Winner of a one-mile handicap at Dundalk in early March off a mark of 68, this was his first run since he finished a close-up fourth behind Decorated Guest in a 12-furlong handicap back at Dundalk in early April, and it was his first run on turf since August last year, when he was with Ken Condon. He should progress from this, and he could do better on a more galloping track. This near-10-furlong trip is a good trip for him, it appeared as if he didn't fully stay 12 furlongs at Dundalk in April.
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