Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: May 26th to May 31st
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.
Rebel Territory - Sandown, May 26th 2022
Rebel Territory put up a good performance to win the one-mile handicap at Sandown last Thursday evening. Smartly away from his inside draw, he was a little keen without cover through the early stages of the race, but he settled in fourth place and along the inside under Jim Crowley as they raced around the home turn.
He travelled well into the home straight, and he travelled best of all inside the three-furlong marker. He moved towards the inside on the run to the two-furlong pole, probably onto the worst of the ground, as his path to the outside appeared to be blocked, but he was still able to make his ground quite easily up into the front rank on the far side. It took him a little while to pick up when his rider asked him to, and he was challenged by Ouzo on the near side, but he did pick up inside the final furlong and finished off his race strongly, going on to win by a neck from Ouzo, with a nice break back to Lindon B in third.
It was a nice performance by Amanda Perrett's horse on his seasonal debut. He progressed nicely last season as a three-year-old, putting up a career-best performance on his final run last season when he won a one-mile handicap at Newmarket off a mark of 88. He was racing off a mark of 93 on Thursday, and the handicapper raised him by 5lb for that win, but he still has the potential to progress beyond a mark of 98.
He holds an entry in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, and he will be of interest if he gets into that. He does have form on Ascot's round course. That said, he will be of more interest when he returns to Goodwood, which is surely on the cards for him, a track at which his trainer loves to have winners and where he won an apprentices' handicap last year.
Sea La Rosa - Haydock, May 28th 2022
Sea La Rosa did well to win the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock last Saturday. Smartly away from her inside draw, she was keen all the way down the back straight behind a sedate pace that leader, Darlectable You, set, and she was still keen as they raced around the home turn with four furlongs to run.
She got a nice gap on the inside as the leader moved off the rail on the run to the three-furlong marker, and she moved up nicely into a share of the lead. She came under a ride then on the run to the two-furlong marker, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which she picked up to go two lengths clear, before keeping on nicely to record an impressive victory.
This was a good performance from William Haggas' filly. It was an impressive win, especially given how keen she was through the early stages of the race, and how much energy she must have consequently expended before they got into the home straight. The winning time was not good, but that was attributable to the sedate early pace. The Sea The Stars filly did well last season, winning four of her seven races and finishing second in two of them and third in the other one, and she rounded off the season by winning a listed race over a mile and five furlongs at Lingfield.
This was a really nice start to the season for her, and she should progress from this. She hopefully won't be as keen next time with this run under her belt. Maureen Haggas said afterwards the Lancashire Oaks could be next, and that makes a lot of sense, run, as it is, over Saturday's course and distance. Looking further ahead, she would be interesting if she took up her entry in the Irish St Leger.
Jimi Hendrix - Haydock, May 28th 2022
Jimi Hendrix did well to win the one-mile three-year-olds' handicap at Haydock last Saturday, coming from the rear and wide, as he did, on a day on which it appeared to be an advantage to race prominently and along the inside. Held up early on by Jim Crowley and tucked in from his wide draw, he was just about last of the 10 runners as they raced out of the back straight. He came under a ride early in the home straight, but, moved to the outside, he responded to his rider's urgings. He stayed on well down the outside, and he passed all his rivals, getting up to win going away by a length.
This was just Jimi Hendrix's fourth run. He is talented and progressive, but he is also quirky, as evidenced when he idled in front when he had the race in the bag on his final run last season at Doncaster, just getting home by a short head in the end.
It took him a while to win here, and it didn't look likely at the top of the home straight, but he saw out the mile well - he could get further too on this evidence. He handled this good ground well, but he proved last year that he could operate on soft ground too. He is progressive and could improve again for a gelding operation.
First Emperor - Navan, May 28th 2022
First Emperor stayed on well on the far side - probably on the worst of the ground - to take fourth place in the one-mile-five-furlong maiden at Navan behind Newfoundland. Snowfall's brother ran out an impressive winner in the end, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which First Emperor stuck to his task. Last of the eight runners as they turned for home, Donnacha O'Brien's horse travelled well to the three-furlong marker, and he picked up well when Gavin Ryan asked him to. He stayed on well all the way to the line, and, while the Willie Mullins-trained newcomer Raving Royal finished off her race well on the near side to just deprive him of third place, he ran on willingly all the way to the line, going down by a total of just two-and-a-half lengths.
This was First Emperor's third run, and it was his best yet and the longest distance over which he has raced to date. A three-parts brother to Snow Lantern, winner of the Falmouth Stakes last year, he obviously stays further than his sister, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next. The handicapper has given him a rating of 82, and that is a more than workable mark. He holds an entry in the Ulster Derby at Down Royal a week from Saturday, and he will be of interest if he lines up in that.
Digby - Ballinrobe, May 31st 2022
Digby did well to finish third behind Metersandmarks and Hewick in the three-mile-one-furlong handicap hurdle at Ballinrobe last Tuesday after making a significant mistake at the second-last flight.
Dermot McLoughlin's horse settled into his racing rhythm early for Keith Donoghue, towards the inside and just behind the pace. He was travelling best of all on the run to the second-last flight, when he got in tight, clouted the obstacle and landed flat-footed. He was always playing catch-up after that. He came under a ride immediately after that, and he did keep on well to finish third, just over two lengths behind the winner.
Digby continues to progress. Winner of his maiden hurdle at Sligo last August, and of a novices' hurdle at Killarney in October, he was impressive in making all the running to win a novices' handicap hurdle at the Fairyhouse Irish National meeting in April, getting home by just over two lengths from Auckland, who has since won his maiden hurdle at Killarney and is now rated 11lb higher than he was then.
Digby is rated just 10lb higher, on a mark of 128, and that is a mark that is more than workable. He is only seven and has raced just eight times in his life, and he remains unexposed over staying trips. He is a chaser in waiting, but he would also be of interest in a good staying handicap hurdle in the interim off his current mark.
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