Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 18th - 25th
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.
One For The Team - Cheltenham, 16th March
7yo Gelding, Nick Williams
One For The Team ran better than the bare form of his run in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday suggests. He had a nice position early on, just behind the pace, but he made a slight mistake at the water jump on the final circuit, and he was slow at the ditch two fences later, with the result that he dropped back to ninth or 10th as they raced to the top of the hill. He was slow at the last ditch too, the fourth last fence, and he came under a ride from there. Still only ninth as they raced down the hill, he jumped the third last fence like a tired horse, but he stayed on well from there. He was about 10 or 12 lengths behind the leaders jumping the second last fence, but he stayed on from there to get up for fifth, past Discordantly and Alnadam, running on all the way to the line.
It was a game performance by Nick Williams' horse. He hasn't won yet over fences, but he was a progressive staying hurdler last season, and he ran a big race to get to within two lengths of Next Destination in a Grade 2 novices' chase at Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy meeting last November. A rating of 140 could still under-rate him and, a seven-year-old who has raced just five times over fences, he still has potential to progress. Out of a half-sister to Grand National winner Rule The World, he could be better-suited by an even greater test of stamina. He goes well at Newbury, and he could be a horse for the Ladbrokes Trophy next November.
Ibleo - Cheltenham, 17th March
8yo Gelding, Venetia Williams
Ibleo did well to finish third in the Grand Annual. Wide at the start, widest of all, the plan was obviously to drop him in, but he was stone last jumping the first fence, and he was two lengths behind the second last horse jumping the second. This was a race in which you probably didn't want to be too far back. The winner, Sky Pirate, raced just behind the leaders from early, while the runner-up, Entoucas, was better than mid-division, and the fourth horse home, On The Slopes, was up with the pace. Ibleo was still stone last of the 23 runners jumping the fourth fence and wheeling away from the stands.
He travelled well down the back straight, but he was still only 13th jumping the fence at the top of the hill. He started to make progress on the run down the hill and, moved to the inside on the run around the home turn, he progressed from 10th as they straightened up for home to a share of sixth place as he jumped the last. He stayed on well up the run-in too, just getting past On The Slopes and into third place, and finishing less than four lengths behind the winner Sky Pirate.
It was another good run by Venetia Williams' horse. Second behind Sky Pirate in a good handicap chase at Cheltenham's December meeting off a mark of 137, he won his next two, and he ran a big race on Wednesday off his mark of 154. He continues to progress, and he should do better back on easier ground, or with a stiffer stamina test. He is eight now, but he has run in just eight chases, and he remains progressive on this evidence.
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Caribean Boy - Cheltenham, 18th March
7yo Gelding, Nicky Henderson
Caribean Boy did well to keep on as well as he did to finish seventh in the Paddy Power Plate. Daryl Jacob had him lined up in a good position, handy and towards the inside, but there were two false starts and he didn't get away quickly from the standing start, with the result that he was further back in the field than ideal. It was a race in which the prominent racers dominated, they didn't go a great pace early on, it was difficult for the hold-up horses to make ground, as evidenced by the winner's finishing speed of 111.72%, and it was messy enough in behind at times.
Moved towards the outside on the run down the hill, Caribean Boy came under a ride, but he didn't start to make progress towards the leaders until they levelled up for home. He stayed on really strongly from the second last fence. He didn't get close to the impressive winner The Shunter, but he would have been closer had he had a better run through the race.
Winner of a hurdle race in France in October 2017, Simon Munir & Isaac Souede's horse has progressed nicely over fences since he has joined Nicky Henderson. He won a handicap chase over two and a half miles at Haydock on heavy ground last February, but he proved that he could handle better ground when he beat Fiddlerontheroof and Getaway Trump in a Grade 2 contest at Newbury in November. He stays this intermediate trip well, and it may be that he will be even better when he steps up in trip. The handicapper dropped him by 1lb to a mark of 152 and, a seven-year-old who has raced just six times over fences, he has the potential to go beyond that mark.
Magic Daze - Cheltenham 18th March
5yo Mare, Henry De Bromhead
Magic Daze did well to keep on as well as she did to finish second in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle on Thursday. Allowed stride on in front from early, she appeared to be happy bowling along in front early on for Robbie Power, even if she was probably doing a little more than her rider wanted her to do. Two lengths clear jumping the flight in front of the stands first time, she stretched her field out behind her down the back straight, jumping well. She was still in front and travelling well as they raced around the home turn, and she found more when Telmesomethinggirl challenged her on the run to the final flight. She ceded the lead to her stable companion on the approach to that obstacle, but she still kept on well up the run-in to retain second place, over two lengths in front of Mighty Blue.
It looked like they went fast here, and the winner's finishing speed of 91.25% confirmed the visual impression, with the result that the hold-up horses generally came to the fore. The winner Telmesomethinggirl and the third horse Mighty Blue were both held up early on, while the fourth and fifth, Skyace and The Glancing Queen, raced in mid-division. The mares who raced in second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, all faded to finish sixth or worse. Magic Daze was the only one of the prominent racers who finished in the first five, and she finished second, having set the strong pace.
Winner of her only point-to-point when she was with Colin Bowe, the Doyen mare did well to finish third behind Gaillard Du Mesnil in a two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival in December, again after racing freely in front, and she stepped forward from that to easily land her maiden hurdle at Clonmel in January. The fact that her trainer was happy to allow her take her chance in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on the back of just a maiden win gives an indication of the regard in which she is held at home.
From the family of Kicking King, she could be an exciting novice chaser next season if connections choose to go down that route. She is only five, she is a super jumper, and her forward-going style could be seen to even better effect over fences than over hurdles. In the meantime, the Robcour mare will be of interest if she takes her chance in the Grade 1 Mares' Novices' Hurdle Final at Fairyhouse over two and a half miles, but she will be of greater interest if she runs over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival, where an aggressive style of racing is often rewarded.
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Milkwood - Cheltenham, 19th March
7yo Gelding, Neil Mulholland
Milkwood ran a big race in the County Hurdle to finish third behind Belfast Banter. Settled nicely early on in mid-division and towards the outside, he travelled really well down the hill and over the second last flight, and he moved up on the outside to join the front rank as they rounded the home turn. Third Time Lucki kicked for home just in front of him as soon as they straightened up, and Milkwood got out after him, but that is a long way from home in the County Hurdle. He had caught Third Time Lucki on the stands side before they got to the final flight, but a mistake at the obstacle didn't help and the pair of them were swamped by the closers on the far side. Milkwood did well to run on again close home and take third place.
It was a fine run by Neil Mulholland's horse. Winner of his maiden hurdle on good ground at Hereford last season, he did well to finish third in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury in November, also on good ground, when he was badly hampered at the second last flight. He was well beaten in the Betfair Hurdle on his return to Newbury last month, but he stepped forward from that here. He is a talented horse for whom goodish ground appears to be important. He travels well through his races, and he has a turn of foot that is probably most effective when it is deployed late in his races. The handicapper raised him by just 2lb for his County Hurdle run, and he will remain of interest now on a mark of 142, as we move into the spring and the ground becomes even better. He has good form at Newbury and Ffos Las, both flat, left-handed tracks, so he will be of interest if he runs now at Ayr or Aintree.
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