Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 11th - 17th
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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Gars De Sceaux - Navan,13th March
5yo Gelding, Mrs Denise Foster
Gars De Sceaux was seriously impressive in winning the two-mile-seven-furlong novices' hurdle at Navan on Saturday. Always travelling well for Mark Walsh behind a solid pace that James O'Sullivan set on Velvet Elvis, JP McManus' horse made nice ground to move up just behind the leaders on the run to the home turn. Ragnar Ladbrok made ground with him, but it quickly became apparent that Gars De Sceaux was travelling better. He moved up on the outside of Velvet Elvis at the second last flight, Mark Walsh fairly motionless as James O'Sullivan rowed away, moved to the front on the run to the last and, despite stumbling a little on the landing side of the obstacle, came away easily on the run-in to win readily.
This was a good step forward from Denise Foster's horse on just his third run under Rules. Winner of his only point-to-point for Denis Murphy, when he beat Magic Trix - now rated 132 over hurdles and also owned by JP McManus - into second place, he did well to finish second to Hook Up in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on his racecourse debut, over two miles, which was obviously too sharp for him. He stepped forward from that next time when he stepped up to two and a half miles and stayed on well to win his maiden at Navan. Out of a sister to high-class staying French chaser Ilare and from the family of Bristol De Mai, he appeared to appreciate this step up to two miles and seven furlongs. He is an exciting staying chaser in the making, but he will also be of interest if he lines up in a good staying novices' hurdle later this season.
Stormy Judge - Navan, 13th March
4yo Gelding, Pat Fahy
Stormy Judge stayed on well to win the three-mile novices' handicap chase at Navan on Saturday. Held up early on by Danny Mullins, he made nice ground around the outside as they raced to the home turn. He and Enjoy D'Allen went on at the second last fence, the two of them had a good scrap from there over the last and up to the winning line. Stormy Judge jumped the last better and stayed on well to get the better of Ciaran Murphy's horse, who pulled 10 lengths clear of the third horse School Boy Hours.
This was a good performance by Pat Fahy's horse, stepping back up to three miles. Winner of a handicap chase over two and a half miles on his previous run, he stayed on well here to get the better of a progressive rival, who had shaped for a while as if he would improve for a step up to three miles, and he clocked a good time. The handicapper raised him by 10lb to a mark of 137, but he is only six and this was just his fifth chase, and his first run over three miles. He has the potential to progress again, and he is unexposed at staying trips. He will be of interest wherever he goes now, but he probably wouldn't want the ground to get too fast.
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Full Time Score - Gowran Park, 12th March
7yo Gelding, Henry De Bromhead
Full Time Score only had two rivals to beat in the end, and he was sent off a short-priced favourite for the beginners' chase at Gowran Park on Thursday, but he could hardly have been more impressive than he was. Quickly into a nice racing rhythm in front for Rachael Blackmore, his jumping was really good, and he just came clear of his two rivals to win as easily as he liked.
Third behind his stable companion Minella Melody in the bumper on this card two years ago, Henry de Bromhead's horse didn't race again after that until he made his debut over hurdles in a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse last month, which he duly won well. Connections obviously view him as a chaser, given that they sent him straight over fences after his maiden hurdle win, and that view was enhanced by the performance that he put up on Thursday. This beginners' chase is a chase that has been won by Discordantly and General Principle and Burrows Saint in the past, and Henry de Bromhead thought enough of Full Time Score to give him an entry in the Grade 1 two-and-a-half-mile chase at the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse. Chris Jones's horse is an exciting young chaser, and he will be of interest now when he steps up in grade.
Gladiateur Allen - Sandown, 13th March
5yo Gelding, Mrs Jane Williams
Gladiateur Allen did well to finish third in the EBF Final, given that he raced up with the pace in a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore. The other five horses who, with him, filled the first six places, were all held up early. By contrast, Gladiateur Allen raced up just behind the pace from flagfall, in third place behind Dorking Lad and Ocean Drifter. He travelled strongly down the back straight and he was still on the bridle as they rounded the home turn. He came under pressure when the winner Beauport went past him on the outside, and it wouldn't have been surprising if he had faded from there, but he stuck to his task well. He stayed on bravely for Chester Williams in the testing conditions, despite making a mistake at the second last flight, to get back up for third place.
This was just Jane Williams' horse's fifth run over hurdles, and he continues to progress. Winner of a novices' hurdle at Ascot in January, he was a little keen when he went back to Ascot for a handicap hurdle last month. He is learning to settle better as he gains in experience and, still only five, he should be able to continue his progression now. This intermediate trip is a good trip for him for now, but he shaped here as if he could get further.
Ujumpthelastuwin- Naas, 14th March
7yo Gelding, Gavin Cromwell
Ujumpthelastuwin was in the process of running a big race in the two-mile beginners' chase at Naas on Sunday when he came down at the second last fence.
He settled into a nice rhythm for Jonathan Moore early on just behind leader Momus. His jumping was good until he made a bad mistake at the second last fence in the back straight. He did well to remain upright, and Jonathan Moore did well to remain on board. He lost ground and momentum, but he was quickly back on an even keel. He moved up on the outside of Momus as they rounded the home turn, and he and Jungle Junction went on as they approached the second last fence, where he just clipped the top of the obstacle and slithered to the ground. It is impossible to know how the race would have panned out and, in fairness to Jungle Junction, he did stay on well to come away from Brawler on the run-in. But it would have been interesting between Ujumpthelastuwin and Jungle Junction, they appeared to be going as well as each other on the run to the second last.
It was to Ujumpthelastuwin's credit that he was able to arrive at the second last fence with a winning chance after making that bad mistake in the back straight. Winner of his maiden hurdle at Wexford last March, Gavin Cromwell's horse is progressing nicely over fences. Third behind the progressive Farmix at Fairyhouse in November, he stepped forward from that next time when he finished third behind Dinny Lacey and subsequent dual winner Stormy Judge in a novices' handicapped chase at Limerick over Christmas. He was well beaten in the hot Matheson Handicap Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, but he was in the process of running a much better race on Saturday. He will be of interest now again in novices' company before the ground gets too fast, but he will also be of interest in another handicap chase. He has the potential to go beyond his current mark of 124.
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Wakea- Naas, 14th March
10yo Gelding, Karl Thornton
Wakea stayed on well to finish a close-up fourth in the two-mile-three-furlong handicap hurdle at Naas on Sunday. Held up and keen enough early on, he made good ground on the outside as they raced across the top of the course. He came under a ride from Jody McGarvey as they raced to the second last flight, and he got a little out-paced when they quickened, but he stayed on well from the final flight - where he was slightly hampered by Halsafari's fall - to get up for fourth place. He was passed by the winner Jackson's Gold on the run-in, and Big King probably idled when he got to the front, but it was still a fine performance by Karl Thornton's horse to finish fourth, beaten a total of just over two lengths.
It was a nice step forward from his previous run, when he was pulled up in the Ladbrokes Hurdle. That was his first run in over three years, since he finished third behind Lil Rockerfeller in the Grade 2 Ascot Hurdle in November 2017. Connections have obviously been very patient with him, and that patience could be rewarded soon. There is every chance that he will come on again for this run and, a 100/1 shot here, it may be that he will still be under-rated. The handicapper raised him by 1lb to a mark of 134, and he is 10 now, but that mark is still 10lb lower than his peak, so he has at least a little bit of leeway.
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