Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: May 4th to May 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.
Moon De Vega - Chester, 4th May 2022
Moon De Vega can be marked up at least a little on the bare form of her run to finish fourth in the Cheshire Oaks on Wednesday. Rushed up early on in order to make use of her stall one draw, she was in a share of the lead as they raced around the first turn, but she settled back in just behind the leaders as they raced up the home straight first time. Along the inside in a share of fourth place from there until they passed the three-furlong marker, she was caught in a little bit of a pocket when they started around the home turn as Above The Curve and Typewriter moved up from behind her on her outside. Rob Hornby had no option but to take her back off heels, and he had to sit and suffer as the leaders went for home. Only sixth or seventh as they started to straighten up for home, Moon De Vega picked up when she got into the clear. She couldn’t get close to the duelling leaders, but she kept on well to finish a clear fourth, beaten a total of just over six lengths by the winner Thoughts Of June, who made all the running.
This was a good run by Ralph Beckett’s filly on her seasonal debut. Winner of her third and final run last season in October, when she stayed on well to win a one-mile fillies’ maiden on soft ground at Doncaster, she was weak in the market before the Cheshire Oaks, and there is every reason to expect that she will progress from it. There is plenty of stamina in her pedigree, this one-and-a-half-mile trip should be a good trip, and easy ground is obviously not a negative for her.
Ffion - Chester, 4th May 2022
Ffion did really well to win the seven-furlong handicap that concluded proceedings on the opening day of Chester’s May meeting from stall 11. Strong in the market beforehand, she was dropped in early on from her outside draw by William Buick. No better than ninth as they raced around the home turn with two and a half furlongs to run, she was checked in her run too as she went for a narrow gap between horses two furlongs out. She had to check again as they straightened up for home in order that she could move into clear sailing on the outside, at which stage the leader Paws For Thought had kicked for home, setting up what looked like an unassailable lead. But once in the clear, Ffion stayed on strongly, widest of all, just getting up to nut dual course winner Paws For Thought on the line.
Ffion is five now, but she is a lightly-raced five-year-old. Unraced at two, David Loughnane’s mare raced just twice as a three-year-old, when she was two for two at Wolverhampton, and she has raced just 11 times now in her life. This was her first win on turf, but she ran some fine races in defeat last season, notably in the Kensington Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, when she just couldn’t get past her stable companion Lola Showgirl, who made all. Her trainer said that that was her likely target again now and, even though she will be eight pounds higher in the handicap, she is a better mare now and she will be of interest again at Royal Ascot and beyond.
Koy Koy - Chester, 5th May 2022
Lots went wrong for Koy Koy in the seven-and-a-half-furlong handicap at Chester on Thursday, and he did well to finish second behind Outgate. Well drawn in stall three, effectively stall two, he stumbled a little on leaving the stalls, which meant that he had to adopt a position in fifth place early on and one off the rail. As well as that, he was keener than ideal through the first couple of furlongs, he always appeared to be doing a little more than rider David Probert wanted him to do. He had to come three wide around the home turn too and, after expending plenty of energy through the race, he did well to pick up as well as he did and to keep on as well as he did to take second place behind Outback, who had enjoyed the perfect run through the race, just behind the leaders, and who got a lovely split when Ryan Moore wanted to go forward. Koy Koy got to within a length of the winner, with two lengths back to the third horse.
It was a fine performance by Andrew Balding’s colt on his seasonal debut and just his fourth run. He progressed nicely last season as a juvenile, and he rounded off the term by running out an impressive winner of a seven-furlong novice stakes at Newbury in September. This was a step forward from that, and he could improve again now with this run under his belt. The fact that he ran well to finish second in a maiden over seven furlongs of Ascot’s straight course in early September is obviously a positive if connections are thinking of going for the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot now, where he would be of interest off a mark in the low 90s.
Fresh - Ascot, 7th May 2022
Fresh did well to finish fourth in the Victoria Cup at Ascot on Saturday from stall 13. Smartly away and quickly into his position just behind the front rank, he was a little keener than ideal through the early stages of the race. He travelled really well through his race though he was still on the bridle as they raced well inside the three-furlong marker. Switched to his left by Danny Tudhope on the run to the two-furlong pole, he moved up nicely to join the front rank out in the centre. He stayed on well for pressure too, he kept on well all the way to the line, but he just couldn’t get to Vafortino and Accidental Agent, who raced down the near side from their high draws, and he was just caught for third place by last year’s winner River Nymph, who also raced down the stands side from a high draw.
Fresh did best of the middle-to-low-drawn horses. The first three home raced, respectively, from stalls 27, 26 and 28, and remained stand side throughout, while Fresh raced from stall 13 and remained further out towards the centre of the track. Also, the ground was probably just about as fast as he wants it. He stays seven furlongs all right, but he is probably even better over six, and he goes well at Ascot. A stiff six furlongs, ideally at Ascot, ideally on soft or easy ground, probably represent optimum conditions for him. As such, the Wokingham would be a good Royal Ascot target for him now. He is only 2lb higher now than he was when he was beaten a neck by Rohaan in the race last year.
Panama Red - Leopardstown, 8th May 2022
Panama Red ran better in the Guineas trial at Leopardstown last Sunday than her finishing position suggests. Sharply away from stall two but allowed drift back in the field early, she travelled well through her race for Colin Keane, and she picked up well on the inside in the home straight when her rider gave her a squeeze. She struggled for racing room though on the run to the furlong pole. Switched to her right, she did find a gap just inside the furlong marker, and she picked up nicely before keeping on well to finish fifth.
It is probable that Ger Lyons’ horse would have finished closer if she hadn’t been checked in her run when her rider wanted to go forward. Even so, she was only beaten just over two lengths by the winner History, and she was beaten a nose and a head for third, a position she probably would have nabbed in another couple of strides. She was a progressive filly last season as a juvenile, she beat Sunday’s winner History when she won her maiden at Tipperary in August, and she was very good in winning the Listed Ingabelle Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions’ Weekend last September, when she beat Limiti Di Greccio by a half a length. She is an interesting filly for the season ahead, and she could be an interesting outsider in the Irish 1000 Guineas if she takes her chance in that.
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