Donn McClean's Horses to Follow: May 20th - 27th
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.
Highland Avenue - Sandown, May 20th
3yo Colt, Charlie Appleby
Highland Avenue did well to stay on as well as he did to finish second to Mostahdaf in the Heron Stakes at Sandown last Thursday. Settled towards the rear of the field early on and along the inside, from his stall one draw, he travelled well into the home straight, but he had to make his ground on the far rail, probably on the worst of the ground. Three horses remained over there from the three-furlong pole, and the other two, Nando Parrado and Imperial Sands, faded to finish fourth and sixth respectively, whereas the first and third, Mostahdaf and Bullacre, raced well away from the far rail up the home straight. Highland Avenue did well to get the better of Nando Parrado on the far side, and he stayed on strongly all the way to the line, going down by just a half a length to Mostahdaf.
It was a fine run by Charlie Appleby's colt, conceding 3lb to all his rivals. Second in a Kempton novice stakes last December on his only run at two, he had won his three races this year before Thursday. The last of the three was the Listed Feilden Stakes at Newmarket's Craven meeting, when he kept on well to beat his stable companion Secret Protector, with subsequent Chester Vase winner Youth Spirit back in fourth. He handled the soft ground at Sandown too, and he had gone well on better ground when winning the Feilden Stakes. He holds an entry in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot, and he would be of interest if he took his chance in that. He stays a mile well and the stiff mile at Ascot could suit him.
Seasett - Haydock, May 22nd
3yo Gelding, Richard Fahey
Seasett put up a good performance to finish second in the Silver Bowl at Haydock on Saturday. Settled nicely in mid-division early on behind a fast pace, he made progress to move up just behind the leaders at the two-furlong pole. He didn't have a lot of racing room on the run to the furlong marker, as Raadobarg went for home in front of him and Nebulosa moved up on his right, but he picked up well once into the clear. It never really looked like he was going to catch Raadobarg, but he stayed on well to get to within a length of him at the line, pulling five lengths clear of Teodolina in third.
It was a really nice performance by Richard Fahey's horse and was a step forward from his previous run, when he won a one-mile handicap at Nottingham off a mark of 72. He was 8lb higher here, and the handicapper has raised him by another 7lb to a mark of 88, but this was just his fifth run, and he has the potential to go beyond his new mark. He does go well on this soft ground, but he is a progressive individual whose breeding and racing style suggests that he could do even better when he goes beyond a mile.
Rock De Baune - The Curragh, May 23rd
7yo Gelding, Aidan Howard
Rock De Baune did well to keep on as well as he did to finish sixth behind Foveros in the two-mile handicap that brought proceedings to a conclusion at the Curragh on Sunday. Billy Lee settled him at the rear of the field, he was stone last setting out, and he was still last as they started to run down the hill with five furlongs to go. But he travelled well and he made nice ground up on the outside of runners as they started down the hill. He moved into fifth place as they raced to the two-furlong marker, as Foveros challenged Dinard Rose for the lead, but his run just flattened out from there as he started to tire. He just kept on from there and lost fifth place to Yenillik close to home.
It was still a fine run by JP McManus' horse on his first run for Aidan Howard and his first run for 512 days. The last time we had seen him, he finished seventh behind Treacysenniscorthy in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival in 2019. His last run on the flat before Sunday was in the 2019 Irish Cesarewitch, in which he finished third behind Royal Illusion and Dalton Highway. He is a talented individual and he proved here that he retains lots of ability. He is seven, but this was just his fifth run on the flat, racing off a handicap rating of 84, 4lb lower than the mark off which he finished third in the Irish Cesarewitch. The handicapper left him on that mark and he should be able to build on this run now.
Baby Zeus - The Curragh, May 23rd
4yo Gelding, Willie Mullins
It could be worthwhile following Baby Zeus for another little while, even though he was raised by 9lb by the handicapper for winning the 10-furlong handicap at The Curragh on Sunday. Held up early on by Colin Keane, second last of the 11 runners, he had to go wide into the home straight in order to guarantee a clear run, and he had to drop back to last in order to do so. He made nice ground though up on the outside of the field as they raced to the two-furlong marker, and he picked up well to hit the front at the furlong pole. He wandered around a little once he got to the front, and he gave a chance to Mirann, who himself finished well on the far side after extricating himself from a pocket, but Baby Zeus kept on well enough on the outside for Colin Keane and got home by half a length.
It was a strong performance by the Footstepsinthesand gelding on this, his first run for Willie Mullins. It was a good race, and he left the impression than he had more in hand than the bare winning margin. He did well for Ger Lyons, winning his maiden at Killarney on his racecourse debut as a juvenile, and he finished third in the Ulster Derby last July.
This was his first run of the season and was his first run since he finished seventh in a 10-furlong handicap at Naas last August. It was also just his seventh race, so he has plenty of potential for progression. He has the potential to go higher than his new mark of 94. He is a full-brother to Lagostovegas, who won an Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot and who finished second in a listed race at Naas over a mile and a half, so he could go out in trip now. He will be of interest wherever he goes next.
Donacheady Gale - Ballinrobe, May 24th
7yo Gelding, John Ryan
Donacheady Gale ran out an easy winner in the end of the opening maiden hurdle at Ballinrobe on Monday evening. The market was dominated by Irish Poseidon and Gamin Original, and those two disputed the lead over the first flight before Gamin Original went on at a good pace, with Irish Poseidon in second and the field stretched out behind them.
Donacheady Gale actually made a bad mistake at the first flight. He was high over it, he almost over-jumped, and he nodded badly on landing. Robbie Power did well to remain on board. He wasn't great at the second flight either, but his jumping did warm up and he made ground to move into fifth place as they raced down the back straight. He still had about 12 lengths to find with the leaders as they left the back straight with three furlongs to run and one flight to jump, and it didn't appear as if he was travelling as well as the two leaders, but they had gone hard up front, and he stayed on really well from the two-furlong marker. He moved into second place past the weakening Gamin Original on the run to the final flight and, while he didn't jump the last that well, it didn't really matter. He caught Irish Poseidon 200 yards from home and he stayed on strongly to come over five lengths clear of that rival, with another 11 lengths back to the third horse.
This was a really likeable performance by John Ryan's horse on this, his debut over hurdles and his first run since September 2019 when he finished third in a Listowel bumper. He was sent off as favourite for that bumper, but he wasn't beaten far, and the form of his win in another bumper on his racecourse debut at Down Royal is working out well, when he had previous bumper winner Centaur and subsequent dual winner on the flat and over hurdles Sneaky Getaway behind him in second and third.
It is possible that the Kalanisi gelding was flattered by the magnitude of his victory on Monday, given that the early pace was strong and that he came from well back, but it may be that he was the best horse in the race on the day anyway and the winning time was really good. It was the fastest by far of the four races run over the course and distance on the evening and over seven seconds faster than the next fastest.
Trainer Ryan was very positive about him afterwards too and said that he was only about 80% fit. He has obviously had his issues, a tendon injury has reportedly kept him off the track since that Listowel race, but hopefully his trainer will have a good run with him now, because he obviously has talent, and he will be of interest wherever he goes now. It may be, though, that this soft ground is important to him, but he could be fine on soft summer ground.
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