Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 14 to March 21
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.
Echoes In Rain - Cheltenham, 14th March 2023
Echoes In Rain can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of the performance that she put up in finishing fourth in the Mares' Hurdle on Tuesday. She was settled in behind early on by Patrick Mullins, which made sense, she is a free-going mare who likes to be held up and who was racing over two and a half miles for just the third time in her life.
The first and second, the remarkable Honeysuckle and last year's Mares' Novices' Hurdle winner Love Envoi, raced in second and first places respectively from early, and the winner's finishing speed figure was 111.87%. Echoes In Rain travelled well down the hill, but it was always going to be difficult to pick up a mare with Honeysuckle's class and pace into a quickening pace.
To exacerbate the negative, she was forced wide around the home turn and she had to fight her corner for racing room. She did well to keep on as well as she did up the hill to take fourth place.
Conditions were not optimal for Willie Mullins' mare. As well as the sedate pace, she is probably at her best over a shorter trip, and off the faster pace that a shorter trip generates, and, on her only previous run at Cheltenham, she finished fifth in last year's Mares' Hurdle. She should be happier now back over two miles and off a faster pace, and she goes well at Punchestown, she won the Grade 1 novices' hurdle at the 2021 Festival.
Camprond - Cheltenham, 15th March 2023
For the second year in a row, the ground turned against Camprond in the Coral Cup. Very weak in the market on new betting sites beforehand, Philip Hobbs and Johnson White's horse was prominent from early.
Second jumping the third last flight, he landed in front over the second last, and he kicked into a clear lead around the home turn. But he was just run down half way up the run-in by Langer Dan and An Epic Song. Even so, he only went down by a head and a neck, with the first three clear.
It was a big run by JP McManus' horse on ground that should have been softer than ideal for him. He was even better than he was in the race last year, when he finished fourth off a mark of 140, 2lb higher than this year's mark.
The handicapper raised him by 5lb to a mark of 143, but that mark should be workable, especially when he can get back on better ground. He won a valuable handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last year, so he will be of obvious interest if he goes there again this year.
Lecky Watson - Cheltenham, 15th March 2023
Lecky Watson ran a big race to finish fourth in the Champion Bumer on Wednesday. In mid-division and towards the outside early on, he made nice ground on the run down the hill, and he moved up just behind the leaders as they raced around the home turn. He just got squeezed out of it as they raced through the wings of the final flight, Jack Foley had to check him, so he did well to keep on as well as he did after that to take fourth place, just proving stronger than his two stable companions It's For Me and Captain Cody in the scrap for that position.
It was a big run by the Valirann gelding, a Willie Mullins horse who was allowed go off at 80/1 in the Champion Bumper. He hasn't won now in four attempts, but he had three 2s beside his name going into this race, he passed the post first before being demoted at Punchestown in November, and he beat everything except Fascile Mode in the concluding bumper on the concluding day of Leopardstown's Christmas Festival. He remains a smart prospect, and his breeding and his racing style suggest that he could appreciate a step up to two and a half miles.
Gerri Colombe - Cheltenham, 15th March 2023
Gerri Colombe just went down by a short head in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase on Wednesday. Quickly into a nice racing and jumping rhythm for Jordan Gainford, in a share of third place behind the leader The Real Whacker, he still travelled well as they raced down the hill towards the third last fence. He came under a ride on landing over the third last though, and the leaders got away from him a little.
He wasn't travelling as well as The Real Whacker or Bronn, who had raced in first and second places respectively from early, on the run to the home turn, and he landed over the second last fence about four lengths behind the leader. He stayed on really strongly from there though. He got in a little tight to the final fence, which obviously didn't help, but he finished off his race really strongly, getting to within a short head of The Real Whacker by the time he got to the winning line. He was in front two strides past the winning line.
He lost his unbeaten record, but only just, and it was still a massive run by Gordon Elliott's horse, a career best. He is all stamina, but he has pace and class as well, and he is a real live Gold Cup prospect for next season. As long as everything goes well between now and then, the step up to an extended three and a quarter miles will suit, as will the fact that the Gold Cup is run on the New Course, which is more of a stamina course than the Old Course.
He had the pace to win a Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase over two and a half miles at Sandown on good to soft ground, but this was the longest trip over which he had ever raced, and he put up a career best. He will be of obvious interest if he goes to Aintree or Punchestown, but he will be of greatest interest if he arrives at Cheltenham next year on Gold Cup day at concert pitch.
Magical Zoe - Cheltenham, 16th March 2023
Magical Zoe ran a big race to finish second behind You Wear It Well in the Jack de Bromhead Mares' Novices' Hurdle on Thursday. Well back in the field and towards the outside early on, she was a little keen, and she was no better than third or fourth last as they turned away from the stands with a circuit to run.
Still no better than fourth last jumping the flight at the top of the hill, the third last, she was wide on the run down the hill, and she was hampered on landing over the second last flight. Still 14th or 15th turning for home, she was short of room again as they straightened up for home, and she had to switch on the run to the last. She jumped the final flight in a share of fifth place, and she stayed on gamely up the hill on the far side to get up for second place.
It was a massive run by Henry de Bromhead's mare, on her first run since early November. Winner of her bumper for Barry Fitzgerald, she was impressive in winning her maiden hurdle at Wexford, and she stayed on strongly to win the Grade 3 mares' novices' hurdle at Down Royal's big meeting in early November that has been won in the past by Impervious, Airlie Beach and Skyace. She is a really exciting filly, and she will be of interest if she goes to Fairyhouse or Punchestown now.
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