Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: November 13th to November 20th
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.
Zanza - Cheltenham, 13th November 2021
Zanza only dead-heated for sixth place in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday (November 13), but plenty went wrong for him through the race, and he did well to keep on as well as he did, beaten a total of less than six lengths by the winner Midnight Shadow in the end. He had a good position early on, but he made a couple of early mistakes, with the result that he was shuffled back in the field. No better than 13th or 14th and under pressure jumping the third last fence, he stayed on well from there, and he showed a lot of guts over the last two fences and up the hill to force a dead-heat for sixth place with Simply The Betts.
There was a worry going into the race that Cheltenham didn't play to Zanza'a strengths. In four previous runs there, the best he had managed was sixth, although he was travelling well when he fell at the third last fence in a two-mile handicap chase at last season's December meeting, and he was halted in his tracks when Embittered fell in front of him going down the back straight in the Grand Annual in March. Even so, his best form is at Newbury, a flat galloping track. His record there reads 1161, the 6 recorded in the Betfair Hurdle in 2020, when he was beaten a total of two lengths. He was impressive in winning a good two-mile handicap chase at the Ladbrokes Trophy meeting there last year, and he will be of interest if he goes back to that meeting now in two weeks' time. The other thing worth noting about Saturday's run is that he was strong at the end of this extended two-and-a-half-mile trip, the longest trip over which he has ever raced, and that opens up options. He is only seven and there could still be more to come.
Top Bandit - Punchestown, 13th November 2021
Top Bandit probably won the two-mile rated hurdle at Punchestown (on Saturday, November 13), with more in hand than the bare winning margin. Nicely strong in the market beforehand, he travelled well through his race for Davy Russell, as is his wont. He moved up well on the run into the home straight, he took it up from Dark Spark on the run to the final flight, and he found enough on the run-in to win cosily enough. He only won by two and a half lengths in the end from Sit Down Lucy, but he left the impression that he was idling on the run-in, that he had plenty more left to give if more had been required.
Runner-up in each of his first three bumpers last season, Gordon Elliott's horse got off the mark in a weak contest at Downpatrick in September, before being sent over hurdles, and winning his maiden hurdle at Cheltenham's October meeting on his second attempt, a maiden hurdle that has been won in the past by Thomas Darby and Heaven Help Us. By Kayf Tara and out of a mare who won over hurdles, and a half-brother to Spirit Of Shankly, who reached a rating of 140 over hurdles, Top Bandit is progressing nicely now. He is only five and this was just his third run over hurdles, and he should be able to continue to progress now. The handicapper raised him by 9lb for this win to a mark of 128, but he would still ne interesting in a good handicap hurdle off that type of mark. It is interesting that his trainer thought enough of him to give him an entry in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Hurdle.
Camprond - Cheltenham, 14th November 2021
Camprond did well to keep on as well as he did to finish fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday (November 14). Prominent from early and around the inside, Philip Hobbs' horse travelled well for Aidan Coleman, and his jumping was good. He made a fairly significant mistake at the third last flight, on the run down the hill just as the pace was increasing, which obviously wasn't ideal, but he still came back on the bridle on the run to the third last. He was a little careful at that obstacle, with the result that he had to re-generate momentum as they raced around the home turn. He stayed towards the far side in the home straight, further from the favoured stands rail than the three horses who were in front of him, but he still kept on well up the hill to take fourth place behind West Cork, two and a half lengths ahead of Tritonic in fourth.
Camprond probably wasn't advantaged by racing handily and around the inside. The first two home, West Cork and Adagio, both came from mid-division. The third horse, No Ordinary Joe, did race prominently, but he raced out towards the centre of the track throughout. Indeed, of the seven horses who, as well as Camprond, raced towards the inside of the track as they raced away from the stands final time, the next best-placed horse at the winning line after Camprond was Jesse Evans, who finished ninth. JP McManus' horse had won his previous two races, both on good ground, and, still only five, there could be more to come from him now. And he stays two and a half miles well, he is two for two over the trip, so it may be that he will step forward again when he steps back up in trip. The Coral Cup would be a legitimate target this season.
Whatsnotoknow - Punchestown, 14th November 2021
Whatsnotoknow did well to finish third in the Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown on Sunday (November 14), given that he raced prominently from early in a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore. Quickly settled into a nice racing rhythm by Shane O'Callaghan, Mouse Morris' horse jumped well and he travelled well just behind the leaders. He moved to the front on the inside as they left the back straight after jumping the fourth last flight, and he travelled easily in front over the second last, before coming under a ride as they rounded the home turn. He couldn't hold off Sassy Yet Classy's challenge, and he weakened on the run-in, he was caught by Dallas Des Pictons for the runner-up spot.
It was still a really good run in a race in which the prominent racers probably weren't favoured. He was one of a leading group of six that had a small break on the rest of the field from early, and none of the other five horses who, with Whatsnotoknow, raced in the group of six that raced to the fore early on, finished better than ninth. Mouse Morris' horse is only six, and this was his first attempt at three miles. He did weaken close home, but he is worth another attempt at the trip now, perhaps ridden a little more conservatively. The form of his previous run at Punchestown is working out well too through the winner Aldo The Apache, who is now rated 20lb higher than he was then, and Whatsnotoknow will be interesting in another handicap now off his mark in the mid-120s. He is unexposed over fences too, and he will be of interest if and when he goes back over the larger obstacles.
Magic Daze - Cork, 14th November 2021
Noted when she was beaten in a beginners' chase at Galway in October, Magic Daze is worthy of note again now, after she won the mares' beginners' chase at Cork on Sunday (November 14). Henry de Bromhead's mare could hardly have been any more impressive than she was in winning on Sunday. Sent to the front from flagfall by Darragh O'Keeffe, her jumping was superb. She had all her rivals in trouble before they turned for home, and she stayed on well over the last three fences to win by 25 lengths in a good time. She was almost 11 seconds faster than her stable companion, the 140-rated Epson Du Houx, was in winning the handicap chase 35 minutes later, and she is a novice, a mare, who was carrying 4lb more than he was.
She appeared to appreciate the drop back down to two miles, and being allowed roll along in front, and she was very good. She was a progressive and free-going novice hurdler last season, she won her maiden at Clonmel in January, and she did remarkably well to finish second behind her stable companion Telmesomethinggirl in the mares' novices' hurdle at Cheltenham in March, when she raced keenly in front for much of the race, but still kept on well enough after she had been passed by the winner to retain the runner-up spot. The fact that she ran so well at Cheltenham last March augurs well for her, if and when she goes back to Cheltenham. If she continues to progress, she could emerge as a real candidate for the Arkle, in which she would be in receipt of 7lb from the geldings. Her forward-going style of racing, and her fluent and aggressive jumping, as well as the fact that she ran so well over hurdles at Cheltenham in March on her only run there, would all be positives in the context of the Arkle, as is the fact that she is trained by Henry de Bromhead, who trained another mare, Put The Kettle On, to win the Arkle in 2020.
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