Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: June 12th to June 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.
Carmela - Ascot, 15th June 2022
Carmela ran better in the Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday than her finishing position suggests. Slowly away from stall 14, she was caught a little in the middle in no man's land when the field split into two groups either side of her. Nudged along at the three-furlong marker, she was outpaced when they quickened, but she kept on well among horses to get up for eighth place behind the impressive winner Dramatised, beaten just a length for fifth.
It was a good effort by David Loughnane's filly, given that she was drawn in the middle and that she missed the break in a race in which she just got outpaced at half way. She had won two of her previous three races, both of those over five furlongs on fast ground. She was prominent from early in both of those races, and her only other defeat was at York's Dante meeting in May when, again, she missed the break. She could step up in trip to an easy six furlongs on this evidence, but she will be of interest wherever she goes next.
State Occasion - Ascot, 15th June 2022
State Occasion did well to finish fourth in the concluding race at Royal Ascot on Wednesday, the Kensington Palace Handicap. Ralph Beckett's filly was nicely away from stall five and had a nice position early on, travelling well for Rossa Ryan on the inside and not far off the leaders. She was squeezed out of it early in the home straight, however, when Farhh To Shy moved to her right, just when her rider wanted to go forward, and she had to be checked and switched outside that rival. She couldn't get into the clear after that as the ultimate winner Rising Star moved up on her outside, and, no better than eighth or ninth as they raced deep inside the final furlong, she did well to stay on as well as she did to take fourth place.
Awarded a seven-furlong handicap at Chelmsford on her seasonal debut, she stepped forward from that here. She stays a mile well, a strongly-run mile is probably optimal for her, but she did run well at Newmarket last season on her sole attempt at 10 furlongs, so she does have the option to go up in trip too now this seaosn. She goes well on fast ground, and she goes well on Newmarket's Rowley Mile and at Ascot.
Washraa - Ascot, 17th June 2022
Washraa was unlucky not to finish closer than she did in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot on the Friday. Smartly away, she travelled well through her race towards the near side, just behind the leaders. A little short of room as they raced to the two-furlong marker, Andrea Atzeni switched her to her left, but it got tight for her as Espressoo moved to her right, and Washraa clipped heels. She did really well to stay on her feet, it could have been a nasty incident, but she lost all momentum at a crucial stage of the race. She was really brave in the manner in which she got going again, you would have forgiven her if she had just dropped away after that incident, but she stayed on remarkably well to take eighth place, almost eight lengths behind the winner Heredia.
Beaten in three runs last season, Owen Burrows' filly had won her previous two races this season, a seven-furlong handicap at Wolverhampton and a one-mile handicap at Nottingham quite impressively. She was racing off a mark of 84 on Friday, just 3lb higher than her Nottingham mark, and the handicapper has left her on that mark, which could under-rate her ability by a fair way. She is progressive and, as long as she shows no ill-effects from the incident in the Sandringham, she will be of intrest wherever she goes next. She stays a mile well, and she could improve for a step up to nine or 10 furlongs.
Ajero - Ascot, 17th June 2022
Ajero did well to keep on as well as he did to take second place behind Candleford in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday. Sharply away, he duelled for the early lead with confirmed front-runner Longbourn before settling back into second place behind Ross O'Sullivan's horse, but the pace was strong, and the front two had a nice break on the rest of the field. David Egan moved Ajero up on the outside of the leader as they rounded the home turn, and Kim Bailey's horse picked up well when his rider asked him to, moving into a two-length lead as they passed the two-furlong marker. He was caugth by Candleford by the time they reached the furlong marker, and he was well beaten by the winner in the end, but he still kept on admirably to retain second place, over a length in front of third-placed Contact.
This was a race in which they went fast from flagfall, and in which it was probably an advantage to be held up. The winner and the third were both held up, while the fourth raced in mid-division. Ajero, by contrast, raced up just behind the fast pace that was set by Longbourn, who faded to finish 14th. A 135-rated hurdler, Kim Bailey's horse has now finished second in all four of his races on the flat, but that is more down to happenstance than any flaw in his resolution. The handicapper raised him by just 2lb to a mark of 91, which was very fair, and he will be of interest wherever he goes now off that mark.
Groundbreaker - Ascot, 18th June 2022
Groundbreaker can probably be marked up at least a little on the bare form of his run to finish fourth in the Golden Gates Handicap. He missed the break and he was held up early, but that wasn't necessarily a negative, he is a keen-going sort and it was a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore. Still just about last as they turned for home, he charted a path towards the inside in the home straight, but it was a toubled path. Andrea Atzeni had to stop riding as they raced to the two-furlong marker, and he had to switch again inside at the furlong pole. Once into the clear, he stayed on well on the far side to take fourth place behind three horses who had come with unchecked runs down the outside.
Groundbreaker wouldn't have beaten the impressive winner Missed The Cut here, but he could have been second with a clearer run. This was just his fifth run, and it was probably a career-best. The handicapper left him on his mark of 90, and that is a more than workable mark on this evidence. Ascot obviously suits his hold-up style of racing, he will be of interest wherever he goes next, but he will be of particular interest if and when he returns to Ascot.
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