Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: November 20th to November 26th
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.
Calico - Haydock, 20th November 2021
Calico faded to finish fourth in the end in the two-mile-three-furlong handicap hurdle at Haydock on Saturday (November 20), but he ran better than the bare form of the run suggests, over a trip that probably stretched his stamina. Weak in the market beforehand, he travelled well through his race up on the outside of the leader Wicked West, who set a good pace in front. His jumping was good, and he and Wicked West moved on from their field at the top of the home straight, but Calico jumped the third last flight well, which took him into a three-length lead. Tommy's Oscar joined him over the second last flight, and he weakened from there, as Thibault and Our Surprise got past him, and he just kept on from there to finish fourth.
It was a pleasing run from Dan Skelton's horse, he is only five, and this was just his sixth run over hurdles. Also, it was his second run of the season, his second since a wind operation and his first in a tongue-tie. A three-time winner over a mile and a half on the flat in Germany, and placed in a listed race over a mile and six furlong and fourth in the German St Leger, he won twice as a novice hurdler for Dan Skelton last spring, and he remains an interesting recruit. Even though he was a stayer on the flat in Germany, it may be that a drop back to two miles over hurdles will be the thing for him. He can operate on good ground and on heavy ground, and the fact that the handicapper dropped him by 3lb to a mark of 133 makes him very interestingly handicapped now, ideally in a good two-mile handicap hurdle.
Chatham Street Lad - Haydock, 20th November 2021
Chatham Street Lad ran well for a long way in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday (November 20), on ground that probably wasn't as soft as he likes it. He was obviously no match for A Plus Tard, but A Plus Tard is one of the best staying chasers in training, he was brilliant on the day, and Chatham Street Lad did well to travel as well as he did for as long as he did. Settled sixth of the seven runners early on by Sean Quinlan, he was a little keen, and he made a significant mistake at the final fence on the first circuit, and at the second fence in the back straight final time, and he wasn't helped when Imperial Aura fell at the third fence in the back straight. But he travelled well to the end of the back straight, and he moved nicely into fourth place as they left the back straight. He moved into third on the run to the third last fence, but he came under a ride at that point, and he just kept on from there to finish third, well behind A Plus Tard and Royale Pagaille, but 10 lengths clear of the 157-rated Clondaw Castle.
Mick Winters' horse probably doesn't get due credit. He was a seriously impressive winner of the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham last December, when he beat this year's Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Midnight Shadow by 15 lengths, and he won the Grade 3 Hugh McMahon Novice Chase at Limerick last March. That was over three miles, but he is probably even more effective over two and a half, or an extended two and a half. He is at his best on soft or heavy ground, so he will be of interest when he races again under those conditions. He came back from Haydock with an injury, but hopefully he will be back in action before too long, and he will be of interest when he returns, ideally on soft or heavy ground.
Farclas - Navan, 21st November 2021
Farclas ran a big race to finish second to his stable companion Run Wild Fred in the Troytown Chase at Navan on Sunday. Prominent from early, he was quickly into a nice racing and jumping rhythm for Jack Foley behind a decent pace that his stable companion set. He didn't come under a ride until they jumped the fourth last fence and raced across the top of the track. Third at the top of the home straight, he stayed on well from there over the last three fences. It never looked like he would catch Run Wild Fred, but he stayed on up the hill to get the better of Mister Fogpatches for the runner-up spot.
It was a fine run by Gordon Elliott's horse, on his first run back since the Kerry National at Listowel in September, a race in which he unseated his rider at the third last fence when he was travelling well. That was his first run since he had finished fifth in the Aintree Grand National, and that was a massive run for a seven-year-old. Seven-year-olds have a terrible record in the Grand National, so he did well to remain in contention until he started to tire from the second last fence. In contrast to seven-year-olds, eight-year-olds have a really good recent National record, winning the race four times in the last six renewals, and filling 10 of the 24 places available in those renewals. Farclas jumped the big fences really well last April, and there is every chance that the Grand National will be on his radar again this season. The Irish handicapper raised him by just 3lb for Sunday's run to a mark of 151, and anything around that would be a good rating off which to compete in the Grand National, just 5lb higher than the mark off which he ran such a big race last year as a seven-year-old.
The Dasher Conway - Navan, 21st November 2021
The Dasher Conway ran well for a long way in the two-mile handicap hurdle that opened proceedings at Navan on Sunday. Starting off on the outside of his field, Gillian Callaghan's horse was keen through the early stages of the race, with the result that he raced prominently in second place behind a decent pace that favourite Dixie Flyer set. Still keen, Keith Donoghue allowed him move up on the outside and into the lead by the time they reached the final flight in the back straight. He settled better once he got to the front, and he was still there over the third last flight. He travelled best of all to the second last, his jumping was good, and he moved on again and was over a length clear on rising to that obstacle. He came under pressure on the run to the last though as his early exertions told, and he was caught by the winner Clarens before the last, and he tired on the run-in, fading to finish fourth.
He ran better than his finishing position suggests though. It was his first run since May, so it was understandable that he was a little keen through the early stages of his race. He handled this good ground well, but he was an impressive winner of his maiden hurdle on heavy ground at Tipperary last May on his last run before Sunday, so he will also be of interest on softer ground. This was just his fourth run, and he has the potential to be significantly better than his new handicap mark of 110, up just 1lb for Sunday's run.
Crosshill - Thurles, 25th November 2021
Crosshill ran well in finishing second behind Ciel De Neige in the two-and-a-quarter-mile beginners' chase at Thurles on Thursday. He jumped more than adequately in the main for a chasing debutant, and he travelled well in third place, just behind Dark Spark and Ciel De Neige. He came under a ride on landing over the second last fence, but he stayed on well for Sean O'Keeffe up the home straight. He was the one who mounted a challenge to Ciel De Neige, in front of Soviet Pimpernel and Dark Spark and, while it never really looked like he would get to the impressive winner, he kept on well to get to within four and a half lengths of him, and he pulled seven lengths clear of Soviet Pimpernel. It was a good performance by Jessica Harrington's horse on his chasing debut and on his first run since last April. Ciel De Neige is a talented individual, he finished second in a Betfair Hurdle and he jumped his fences really well on Thursday, and Crosshill did well to run him as close as he did, over a trip that was almost certainly short of his best, and conceding race fitness. He was also conceding race fitness to Soviet Pimpernel, a 142-rated hurdler who admittedly may not be as good over fences as over hurdles.
Crosshill beat the Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner Vanillier in winning his maiden hurdle over two and a half miles at Punchestown last October, and he was only just caught by Lady Breffni in a valuable three-mile novices' handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse In April, so it is probable that he will do better now if and when he goes out in trip over fences. Out of a bumper winner and from the family of Badger Ales Trophy winner Cornish Sett, this was a good starting point for Ronnie Bartlett's horse, and he will be of interest now when he steps up in trip over fences.
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