Donn McClean's Horses to Follow: May 28th - June 3rd
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.
The Blue Brilliant - Fairyhouse, 28th May
The Blue Brilliant was impressive in winning the 10-furlong fillies' maiden that brought proceedings to a close at Fairyhouse last Friday. Settled in second place early on behind early leader Snowdryft, she came wide around the home turn and moved to the front at the top of the home straight. She moved easily to the two-furlong marker and, when rider Shane Foley asked her to pick up, she did so nicely. She put a nice distance of ground between herself and her rivals and she won, eased down, by over two lengths.
It was a nice performance by Jessica Harrington's filly, it looked like a good fillies' maiden beforehand. This is a maiden that has been won two years ago by Search For A Song, and the second, third, fourth and fifth had all shaped promisingly on their respective previous outings.
The Blue Brilliant had shaped promisingly too on her previous outing, in finishing second in a Naas maiden behind Party House, who went on to finish third behind the Ballydoyle duo Sir Lucan and Wordsworth in the Listed Yeats Stakes. The Fastnet Rock filly will be of interest now when she steps up in grade. She holds an entry in the Listed Abingdon Stakes at Newbury on Thursday, and she will be of interest if she takes her chance in that.
Bernardo O'Reilly - Haydock, May 29th
Bernardo O'Reilly did well to get as close as he did in the six-furlong handicap at Haydock on Saturday. He was a little awkward out of the stalls and he was slowly into his stride, with the result that he was stone last of the 16 runners early on. He travelled well on the near side, but the far side probably had the upper hand from early, Punchbowl Flyer took them along over there early on and he lasted all the way to the line. Bernardo O'Reilly made his ground on the near side among horses, he was crowded a little at the two-furlong marker, and he didn't have a lot of room just inside the furlong pole either, as Bielsa went for home in front of him. He stayed on well on the near side though once in the clear, he kept on to take third place, just a length behind Bielsa, who was just a nose behind the winner Punchbowl Flyer.
It was a good run by Richard Spencer's horse, after a slow start and racing on the near side in a race in which the winner made all on the far side. He wasn't unlucky really, he wasn't badly hampered, but he didn't have an uninterrupted passage through the race either. This was just his second run of the season, and it was a nice step forward from an encouraging seasonal debut at Ascot, when he kept on well to finish sixth behind Fresh in a six-furlong handicap off a mark of 88, beaten a total of three lengths. This run could bring him forward again, he won on his third run last season, and he will be of particular interest back at a track at which hold-up horses do well. He is zero for two at Ascot, but he ran well there on his seasonal debut, and he will be of particular interest if and when he returns there.
Pondus - The Curragh, June 2nd
Pondus ran a big race in the Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Handicap at The Curragh last Wednesday. Settled just worse than mid-division early on by Seamie Heffernan, he travelled well through his race an he moved up nicely on the outside on the run into the home straight. He hit the front just inside the two-furlong marker, but he had a tenacious rival in Shanroe towards his inside. The pair of them had a good tussle for the final furlong and a half, with Shanroe emerging on top in the end, getting home by three parts of a length, but Pondus ran a big race in defeat, pulling three and a half lengths clear of Barbados in third.
This was a nice step forward by Joseph O'Brien's horse on his second run of the year. A dual winner over 10 furlongs for James Fanshawe as a three-year-old, he won a listed race at Roscommon last year on his second run for Joseph O'Brien and Lloyd Williams, and he ran a massive race at Flemington in November to finish second behind the Willie Mullins-trained mare True Self in a Group 3 handicap over a mile and five furlongs. The Ebor looks like the obvious target for him again this year, but he was disappointing in the race last year, on his only run to date at York, and York is a track at which course form is often more important than it is at most tracks. He obviously goes well at The Curragh, and he has run well at Haydock and Newbury in the past, so he will be of greatest interest if and when he runs again at one of those tracks. And a mile and a half could be his optimum trip.
Romantic Proposal - The Curragh, June 2nd
Romantic Proposal ran a big race to finish second to the high-class Sonaiyla in the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at The Curragh on Wednesday. She was smartly away from stall seven, but Shane Crosse took her back a little so that she could settle towards the rear of the field early on. She travelled well to the two-furlong marker, and she moved up nicely among horses towards the head of the field and she picked up well when her rider asked her to. She made her challenge on the far side of Sonaiyla, and Paddy Twomey's filly had to respond. Romantic Proposal went down by just a neck in the end, and the pair of them pulled more than a length clear of their rivals.
It was a really good run by Eddie Lynam's filly, racing from a low draw and towards the rear early on. Sonaiyla - who did well herself to win, after being badly hampered on leaving the stalls - raced from stall 14 and raced in fourth position from early. The third, fourth and fifth fillies, Teresa Mendoza, More Beautiful and Loch Lein, were all prominent from early, and they raced from stalls 10, 13 and 12 respectively, and towards the stands side. Romantic Proposal raced from stall seven, towards the far side and towards the rear from early.
The Raven's Pass mare continues on an upward curve. A dual winner over seven furlongs as a three-year-old, she won the Scurry Handicap over six and a half furlongs last season, and she ran some fine races in defeat. She started off this season well too, she finished third in the listed race at Naas that Logo Hunter won, racing over five furlongs, a trip that is probably short of her optimum. This six-furlong trip is a good trip for her, and she is at her best when she is held up off a strong pace, and ideally with a little bit of cut in the ground. She holds an entry in the Wokingham, and Ascot is a track that could suit her well. She will be of interest if she does take her chance in the Wokingham, especially if there is a little bit of cut in the ground at Ascot this year.
Eagles Flight - Leopardstown, June 3rd
Eagle's Flight did well to come from the rear and land Division 2 of the one-mile handicap at Leopardstown on Thursday. Drawn side, effectively 14 of 19, he was settled towards the rear of the field early on by Ronan Whelan in order then he could tuck in. Still three wide around as they left the back straight and with only three of his 18 rivals behind him, he travelled well around the home turn, but he was forced widest of all, he was eight horses wide into the home straight. He picked up well though from the two-furlong marker, he made good ground down the outside and he got up to catch Dream Tale, going on to win by three parts of a length.
This was a really good performance by Michael Halford's horse. Not only was he forced very wide into the home straight, but he did well to come from the rear in a race in which the pace held up well. The four horses who finished immediately behind him all raced in mid-division or better from early, and the runner-up race up into a prominent position before they left the back straight.
Eagle's Flight has plenty of potential for progression now too, over this trip. All his runs before this were over nine and a half or 10 or 10 and a half furlongs, and he seemed to really appreciate the drop down to a mile, and quickening off a fast pace. It was just his sixth run on turf too, and just his third after being gelded. As well as that, Michael Halford's horses are just starting to run into form now, he had another winner at Down Royal on Friday, and Eagle's Flight will be of interest again now stepped up in grade.
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