Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 2nd - 10th
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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Getaway Trump - Doncaster, 6th March
8yo Gelding, Paul Nicholls
Getaway Trump was very good in winning the two-mile handicap chase at Doncaster on Saturday. Prominent from early, up on the outside of a good pace that Zoffee and Return Ticket set, he moved into second place when Zoffee made a mistake at the fifth fence. He travelled well into the home straight just behind Return Ticket, and joined the leader at the second last fence. He was challenged at that point by Duke Of Navan, but Lorcan Williams always looked happy. The rider allowed his horse pop the final fence and, when he gave him a squeeze, he came away readily on the run to the line, where he had six and a half lengths to spare over the runner-up, who was in turn 16 lengths clear of the other three finishers.
Getaway Trump was a high-class novice hurdler two seasons ago. He finished second behind Champ in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, and he beat Galvin in a novices' hurdle at Ayr's Scottish National meeting. He was well beaten in two novice chases last season, at Cheltenham's October meeting and at Cheltenham's November meeting, and his only other run last season was in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, when he was pulled up behind Epatante, but he has got back on track this season over fences.
Winner of two of his five novice chases in the early part of this season, he was well beaten by Gaelik Coast on soft ground at Musselburgh last month on his first run back after a mid-season break, but he appeared to be much happier on the good ground at Doncaster on Saturday. He is a horse who often doesn't find much off the bridle, but he did pick up nicely when Lorcan Williams gave him a squeeze on the run-in on Saturday, and he left the impression that he had plenty more left to give. He won well and the winning time was good. Good ground does appear to be important to him, so he will be of interest now on the back of this win as we move further into the spring. He will be of particular interest at the Ayr or at Sandown April meetings. He has been impressive in winning over hurdles at both those meetings on good ground in the past.
Palace Rock - Navan, 6th March
4yo Gelding, Francis Casey
There was a lot to like about the performance that Palace Rock put up in winning the opening maiden hurdle at Navan on Saturday. He was keen early on, and and he wasn't great over his hurdles as a result. He got in tight to the first two flights and, while he was better at the third, he still raced keenly in third place in a well stretched-out field all the way around into the back straight. He made another mistake at the final flight in the back straight, but he still travelled well out of the back straight and into the home straight. He moved to the front at the second last flight and, still displaying signs of greenness, he made a mistake at the final flight, which gave his challenger Boothen Boy a chance. But he picked up well once Denis O'Regan gave him a squeeze, coming away on the run-in to win impressively.
This was Palace Rock's hurdling debut, and it was just his fourth run under all codes. Second in a maiden at Dundalk in December, Francis Casey's horse was impressive in winning his maiden back at Dundalk last month over a mile and a half. Given a flat rating of 81 by the handicapper, he is a horse who could progress over hurdles now. He is from a good family, his dam Fingal Rock won twice on the flat and won a Grade 3 race over hurdles for Peter Casey, and she is a half sister to Cool Touch and Our Dougal and Palace Star, who won a McDonogh Handicap on the flat at Galway. He will be of interest again now, stepped up in grade over hurdles.
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Senior Citizen - Newbury, 6th March
8yo Gelding, Alan King
Senior Citizen ran a nice race to finish fourth in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday. Settled nicely by Adrian Heskin just behind the front rank early on, he travelled and jumped well along the inside, and he moved nicely into the home straight just behind the leading pair Barton Knoll and The Big Bite. He came under pressure when they quickened on the run to the third last fence, but he stayed on well up the run-in to finish within three and a half lengths of the ultimate winner Umbrigado.
It was a good run by Senior Citizen on his first run since he finished seventh in the Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree in December. He was beaten by 28 lengths by Beau Bay that day, but he ran much better than that. He jumped the big fences well and he travelled well to the second last fence before he weakened on the run-in. The soft ground probably took its toll that day, because he does stay that two-mile-five-furlong trip. He appreciated the better ground on Saturday, and he could be a horse now for the Topham Chase, back over the Grand Sefton course and distance but probably on better ground.
The Big Bite - Newbury, 6th March
8yo Gelding, Henry Oliver
The Big Bite was unlucky not to win the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday. Prominent from early, up on the outside, he moved up to share the lead with Barton Knoll as they turned into the home straight. They had a good dual over the first three fences in the home straight, but The Big Bite got the better of it on the run to the last, and he went on and looked set for victory, trading at 1.03 in-running. But he hung to his left up the run-in, he shaped as if he wanted to jump the water jump and go around again. It was all that Jonathan Burke could do to get him back onto the track, but he gave away ground and momentum in so doing, and he was passed by Umbrigado and Killer Clown on the run-in.
It was still a big run by the Scorpion gelding, racing for just the third time for Heny Oliver. He won on soft ground at Doncaster last January when he was with Tom George, but he is better on better ground. He won well at Aintree in November on his seasonal debut and his first run for Henry Oliver on good to soft ground, and this was a step forward from that. He wasn't beaten far by the progressive Ibleo on soft ground at Doncaster in January off a mark of 144, and he probably put up a career-best performance here off a 2lb higher mark. This two-and-a-half-mile trip is a good trip for him, and he will be of interest now on goodish ground wherever he goes next.
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Steer Clear - Leopardstown, 7th March
8yo Gelding, Padraig Roche
Steer Clear put up a really nice performance to win the rated novices' chase at Leopardstown on Sunday. Mark Walsh appeared to be intent on getting to the front on Padraig Roche's horse and, while he was a little to his right over the first and second fences, the Flemensfirth gelding settled into a nice racing and jumping rhythm.
He jumped well down the back straight and, while the challengers assembled around him as they raced around the by-passed second last fence, Mark Walsh always looked happy. He gave his horse a squeeze before the last, he jumped that obstacle well, and he kept on well up the run-in to come seven lengths clear of the well-backed runner-up Hesamanofhisword, leaving the impression that he probably had more in hand than that.
It was a really likeable performance from JP McManus' horse. Zero for four over hurdles, he was beaten too in each of his first nine chases, but he went close on two occasions, and he got off the mark over fences on his debut this season, when he kept on well to win a handicap chase at Thurles in October. He raced off a mark of 107 that day, the handicapper raised him by 6lb to a mark of 113 and, after unseating his rider early back at Thurles two weeks later, he proved on Sunday that he was well up to that mark. The handicapper raised him by another 10lb to a mark of 123, but it appeared that he won with plenty in hand, and he could go beyond that mark now. He does go well on this goodish ground, and he will be of interest wherever he goes now.
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