Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: November 5th to November 12th
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.
Pileon - Aintree, 6th November 2021
Pileon only finished fourth in the Pertemps qualifier at Aintree last Saturday (November 6), but there was plenty of encouragement to be gleaned from his run. Settled just behind the leaders early on, he travelled well through his race and he jumped well. He came under a ride on landing over the cross flight on the run to the home turn, but he picked up nicely and he moved well just behind the leaders into the home straight. He came back on the bridle on the run to the second last flight, but he wasn't great at that obstacle, he landed quite abruptly, and he started to tire from there. Still a close-up third on the run to the last, he put in a tired-looking jump there, but he kept on admirably on the run-in to finish just over two lengths behind the winner Koshari.
This was Plieon's first run since he finished last of 12 behind Proschema in a handicap hurdle at Aintree in May, and it was a really encouraging comeback run. It didn't really happen for him last season, it was a disappointing season, but his trainer Philip Hobbs didn't have a great season last season. Winner of his only bumper in March 2019, Pileon was a progressive novice hurdler in 2019/20, winning twice and going down by just a short head to Indefatigable in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, when he looked certain to win after he was left clear on the run-in. He raced off a handicap rating of 138 that day, and he was raised to a mark of 143 after that, but his indifferent season last season has meant that the handicapper dropped him to a mark of 132, and he dropped him by another 1lb for some reason for this Aintree run. He is only seven and he has raced just eight times over hurdles, and he could be a well-handicapped horse now. He stayed three miles well on Saturday, on his first attempt at the trip, he is unexposed over the distance, and the Pertemps Final back at Cheltenham in March is an obvious target.
Aldo The Apache - Naas, 6th November 2021
Aldo The Apache was impressive in winning the Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle at Naas on Saturday (November 6). Settled in second place behind clear leader Minx Tiara, he travelled well in the leader's slipstream as they raced to the home turn with the field well stretched out behind. He came under a ride as they rounded the home turn, and he moved up to join the leader at the second last flight. The front two were still together at the last, but Aldo The Apache was strong up the run-in. He powered up the hill to come eight and a half lengths clear of his rivals, as Minx Tiara faded into fourth place.
It was a strong performance by Colm Murphy's horse. He chased the clear leader, and he was still able to finish off his race strongly, clocking a good time in the process. The handicapper raised him by 11lb to a mark of 130, but he continues to progress, he has now won three of his last four races, and the runner-up in the race that he won at Punchestown in October, Whatsnotoknow, ran well in a Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown on Sunday. Aldo The Apache is only five and he has run just seven times in his life, so there could be more to come from him. There could be another good handicap hurdle in him off his new mark of 130. The Coral Cup over the intermediate distance would be a legitimate longish-term aim.
Wa Wa - Naas, 6th November 2021
Wa Wa was impressive again in winning the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap chase at Naas on Saturday (November 6). Settled nicely in mid-division early on by Bryan Cooper, he made good ground down the back straight to move into a share of second place behind King Alex. He travelled well into the home straight, jumped to the front over the second last fence, and came clear on the run to the last. He jumped that fence well, and he came right away from his rivals on the run-in, winning, eased down, by seven and a half lengths in the end.
The handicapper raised Dermot McLoughlin's horse by 12lb for this win, but you would have expected a significant hike, and he still has the potential to go beyond his new mark of 128. He is only six and he has raced just four times over fences. He was probably unlucky not to win his beginners' chase at Ballinrobe in August when he was with David Christie, when he wandered on the way to the final fence and just went down by a half a length to The Dabbler in the end. He has continued his progression for Dermot McLoughlin, and there is every chance that he can go higher still. He was good over this intermediate trip, but he won his beginners' chase at Killarney in October over two miles and seven furlongs, and he could do even better stepped back up in trip.
Big Debates - Naas, 6th November 2021
It might also be worthwhile keeping Big Debates on side, after his fine run to finish second to Wa Wa in the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap chase at Naas on Saturday (November 6). Held up early on by Jack Foley, he made good ground from the rear as they raced down the back straight, and he arrived on the outside on the run to the second last fence with a real chance. In the end, he had no answer to Wa Wa's strong finish, but he kept on well to take the runner-up spot by almost three lengths from Brandy Harbour.
Robert Tyner's horse is eight now, but he has raced just six times over fences, so he still has plenty of scope to go forward. Winner of a handicap hurdle at Ballinrobe in May, he returned from a break to win a handicap chase at Limerick in October impressively off a mark of 101. Raised by 9lb for that to a mark of 110, he was raised by another 2lb for Saturday's run to a mark of 112. But time may prove that he faced a fairly formidable task, taking on Wa Wa in a 0-116 handicap, and he could be a well-handicapped horse now on that mark. He is on a nice upward trajectory now, and there is every chance that he will be able to continue his forward march as we move into the winter. He goes well on soft ground, and this two-and-a-half-mile trip looks like a good trip for him.
Boothen Boy - Navan, 7th November 2021
Boothen Boy was giving My Mate Mozzie a real race when he came down at the final flight in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle at Navan last Sunday (November 7). A little keen through the early stages of the race, he was held up fourth or fifth of the seven runners through the early stages of the race. He wasn't overly fluent at two of his hurdles in the back straight, but he moved up nicely around the outside as they rounded the home turn, and he joined the front rank at the third last flight. He travelled well up on the outside of the leader My Mate Mozzie on the run to the second last flight, but he wasn't great at that obstacle, and he was a little out to his right, with the result that he had to get after the leader who picked up in front on the run to the final flight. About three parts of a length behind at the last, he appeared to be a little uncertain, and he just clipped the top of the obstacle and came down. It was a pity that he fell, because he probably would have finished second at worst, in front of his much better-fancied stable companion Chemical Energy. It is probable that My Mate Mozzie would have won anyway, but you never know, Boothen Boy could have run him close.
Gordon Elliott's horse made just about all the running when he won his maiden hurdle at Downpatrick in October, keeping on well up the hill to hold off the challenge of Dad's Lad. He probably won that day with more in hand than the two-and-a-quarter-length winning margin, and Dads Lad enhanced that form when he won at Sligo two weeks later, and when he won a handicap hurdle at Cork on Sunday. He didn't look straightforward there, he looked a little reluctant at the start, and he probably wasn't ideally suited by having to lead, and he had to be encouraged to go down the back straight final time. He looked much more straightforward at Navan, however, able to take a lead. He is only four, he was the only four-year-old in Sunday's race, and there is every chance that he will progress significantly as he matures and gains experience.
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