Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: October 15th to October 21st
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.
Symbolize - Ascot, 16th October 2021
Symbolize ran another big race in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot recently in finishing second to Aldaary again. Andrew Balding's horse raced towards the near side early on from stall 15, and he travelled well through his race just behind the pace. He picked up nicely on the near side on the run to the furlong marker to join Mathew Flinders in front on the near side, and he moved to the front on the near side deep inside the final furlong. Aldaary had picked up well on the far side though, and Symbolize couldn't match William Haggas' horse's finishing kick, but he kept on admirably to finish a good second, a length ahead of the third-placed Magical Morning.
Symbolize had finished second to Aldaary too on his previous run, in the Challenge Cup over seven furlongs at Ascot two weeks earlier. There was a sense that he may have been flattered by that run, as the pair of them raced in the group of three that stayed on the far side, but this recent race obviously proved that that was a solid run too. The handicapper raised him by just 2lb to a mark of 104, and that was fair. He does go well at Ascot, but he also goes well on soft ground away from Ascot, and he will be of interest if he races again now before the end of the season.
Boundless Ocean - Leopardstown, 16th October 2021
Boundless Ocean was unlucky not to finish closer than he did in the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown recently. Held up early on by Luke McAteer behind a good pace that I Am Magic set, he was eighth of the nine runners as they raced around the home turn, and along the inside. The false rail was a help when they turned for home, it opened up on the far side as they passed the two-furlong marker, and Boundless Ocean picked up when his rider asked him to. But it all got tight towards the inside at the furlong pole, he ran into a cul-de-sac and he had to be snatched up. He ran on again close home when he got a gap, finishing fourth in the end, just a length behind the winner Glounthaune, and leaving the impression that he had more left to give. He was in front 50 yards past the line.
This was a really competitive race, as the Killavullan Stakes usually is. The winner had finished sixth in the Dewhurst Stakes on his previous run and, with a clearer run through the race, Boundless Ocean could have run him close. Boundless Ocean himself had made his racecourse debut just two days earlier, when he was run down close home by Dark Vega in a strong-looking maiden at The Curragh. Jim Bolger's colt holds an entry in the Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes back at Leopardstown, he will be of interest if he lines up in that, and he will be an exciting prospect for next season.
Grange Walk - Cork, 17th October 2021
Grange Walk put up a good performance to finish second behind Poseidon in the two-mile-one-and-a-half-furlong handicap chase at Cork recently. Settled towards the rear of the field early on by Danny Mullins, a mistake at the second fence down the back straight saw him drop back to last of the 10 runners, and he wasn't great at the next fence either. But he travelled well out of the back straight, he jumped the fourth last fence well, and he made good ground along the inside on the run into the home straight. He jumped the third last fence in the front rank, but a mistake at the second last fence handed the initiative to Poseidon. He battled back well though, he jumped the last well and, while he couldn't get to Poseidon, he kept on well to finish a clear second, four and a half lengths on front of The West's Awake.
John Ryan's horse continues in really good form. He was travelling well in a good handicap chase at the Galway Festival when he came down at the third last fence, and he did well to win a decent handicap chase at Sligo last month, when he had to go wider than ideal but still ran out a good winner, for all that his task was rendered easier than it might have been had Benefit Run not come down at the final fence. He was disappointing at Listowel next time, when he reportedly lost his action, but this was a nice bounce back to form. Unusually for a John Ryan-trained horse, it appears that he enjoys being held up and coming through horses. Winner of his maiden hurdle at Tramore in September last year, he is already a better chaser than hurdler and, still only six and with just six chases on his CV, he has the potential to be better still. A new handicap rating of 127, 3lb higher than the mark off which he raced on Sunday, is fair, and he is still a novice this season. He could do even better dropped back down to two miles, a fast-run two miles is probably ideal for him, but he probably wouldn't want the ground to be too soft.
Sequoiaspirit - Naas, 17th October 2021
Sequoiaspirit can be marked up a fair bit on the bare form of the performance that he put up in finishing fourth in the 10-furlong apprentices' handicap at Naas recently. He was squeezed out of it a little as the field tightened up after they had gone a furlong, and rider Conor Clarke did well not to go out the side door, but he lost his iron, and the horse hit a piece of rail. Back on an even keel, Sequoiaspirit travelled well into the home straight on the inside, and he made nice progress towards the leaders on the far side on the run to the two-furlong marker. His run just flattened out inside the final furlong, and the first three horses got away from him a little but he kept on well on the far side to finish a clear fourth.
It was an admirable performance by Ray Hackett's horse on his first run back after a short break. He won his last three races before that break, over 11 and 11 and a half and 12 and a half furlongs, rising from a handicap rating of 50 to a handicap rating of 67 in the process. He proved that his new mark of 67 is well within range, and he should do even better stepped up in trip. He is in a 12-furlong handicap at Galway on Monday, and he will be of interest if he takes up his entry in that.
Ballyshannon Rose - Thurles, 21st October 2021
Ballyshannon Rose was impressive in winning the two-and-a-half-mile mares' beginners' chase at Thurles recently. Held up early on by Donie McInerney, and wide around the first turn, she moved up on the outside down the back straight first time, and she jumped her way into a share of the lead over the two fences across the top of the track. She moved to the front on her own over the first fence in the back straight final time, and she wasn't headed thereafter. She jumped well, stretched her rivals out across the top of the track and, when Brave Way challenged her, she just extended when her rider gave her a squeeze. She jumped the final fence well and kept on nicely to win by three lengths from The Sliding Rock, who kept on into second place.
It was quite a taking performance from Paul Fahey's mare. The ground was probably faster than ideal and the trip and track combination was probably sharper than ideal, so she did well to win as well as she did. As well as that, she was weak in the pre-race market, it is probable that she will come on appreciably for this run, her chasing bow and her first run since she finished second to Darrens Hope in a Grade 3 mares' novices' hurdle at Limerick last March. She was a rapidly progressive hurdler last season, she won four handicap hurdles on the spin during the winter, remarkably, on soft and heavy ground, improving from a handicap mark of 87 to a mark of 129, and there is every reason to expect, on this evidence, that she can continue that progression now over fences. She should do even better too when she steps up in trip over fences and when she encounters softer ground.
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