Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: October 7th to October 14th
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.
Kitty's Light - Chepstow, 9th October 2021
Kitty's Light put up a good performance to finish second to Chirico Valis in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow recently. Nicely settled in mid-division early on by Jack Tudor, he made nice ground early in the home straight, and he arrived there as the main challenger to Chirico Vallis at the third last fence. He just couldn't get past the leader, but he stayed on all the way to the line, going down by just a head in the end, with the pair of them almost 10 lengths clear of their rivals.
This was a race in which the pace held up well. The winner made all, while the third and fourth horses were both prominent from early. Kitty's Light was the only horse who was able to get into the race from the back. Christian Williams' horse is a progressive staying chaser last season. He stayed on well to win a three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap chase at Kelso at the end of March off a mark of 135, and he was unlucky not to win the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on his final run of the season off a 4lb higher mark, he was just coming to deliver his challenge on the run-in when the idling leader Enrilo came across him and halted his momentum.
Enrilo was ultimately disqualified, but, because Potterman had got up past Kitty's Light on the run-in, after the incident, he had to be awarded the race. This was Kitty's Light's first run since and, racing off a mark of 143, 4lb higher than his Sandown mark, he probably stepped forward again. He has been raised by another 6lb to a mark of 149 but, still only five, he has raced just eight times over fences, so there could be plenty more to come.
Russian Diamond - Fairyhouse, 9th October 2021
Russian Diamond ran out a good winner of the two-mile-five-furlong beginners' chase at Fairyhouse recently. Sent to the front early on by Brian Hayes, his jumping was good, and he had his better-fancied rivals on the stretch from early. He was chased by the two market leaders Port Stanley and Western Run as they raced across the top of the track, but it always looked like he was travelling better than that pair. As Western Run weakened, Port Stanley was left as his only real challenger, but he jumped the last two fences well and he cleared away to win impressively from Jessica Harrington's horse, a 132-rated chaser, who was in turn clear of his other rivals.
Russian Rhythm's form figures going into the race - F5F2U over fences - suggested that he wasn't a great jumper of fences, but that is not the case. He jumped well in a beginners' chase at the Galway Festival, and he was probably the most likely winner when he came down at the final fence. And on his last run before Saturday, he was brought down at the third last fence by Fancy Foundations, who fell in front of him, in the good Grade 3 novices' chase at Tipperary that Gin On Lime won. This was much more like it from Emmet Mullins' horse, he put it all together and he was impressive in winning. This intermediate type of trip is a good trip for him, and it appeared as if he enjoyed himself, bowling along in front.
Ontheropes - Limerick, 10th October 2021
Ontheropes is not under the radar, he was an impressive winner of the Munster National at Limerick recently, but there is an awful lot to like about him, and he is a horse who still has the potential to go beyond his new handicap mark. He couldn't have been much more impressive than he was at Limerick. He pecked a little on landing over the first fence but, after that, he was very good. Never far off the pace, he jumped his way up to the leaders down the back straight final time. He moved up in between the two leaders Spyglass Hill and Fairyhill Run as they rounded the home turn, he moved to the front on the run to the second last fence, and he kept on well over the last two fences to get home by just over two lengths from A Wave Of The Sea, the pair of them clear, leaving the impression that he had a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin.
The handicapper raised him by 11lb for that win to a mark of 152, which is a decent hike, but he has the potential to progress to be at least as good as that mark, and possibly better. He is only seven and his most recent run was his seasonal debut and just his seventh run in a chase. Willie Mullins' horse raced just once last season, in a beginners' chase at Fairyhouse in November, when he finished second to his stable companion Monkfish. It never really looked like he was going to beat Monkfish that day, but he travelled really well into his race, he only came off the bridle at the second last fence, and he went down by just four lengths to Monkfish, last season's Brown Advisory Chase winner and a horse who was high in the betting for this season's Cheltenham Gold Cup before he was regrettably ruled out for the season.
It may be that the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury next month will be a good race now for Ontheropes, a race that his erstwhile stable companion Total Recall won in 2017, off a handicap rating that was 18lb higher than the mark off which he won the Munster National two months earlier. Ontheropes could be more than capable off his new inflated mark, and there is a chance that he can improve to be even better than a handicapper.
Sea Sessions - Punchestown, 12th October 2021
Sea Sessions did well to finish second to Bell Ex One in the juvenile hurdle at Punchestown recently. Settled back in the field early on by Shane O'Callaghan, she was impeded when Captain Clever fell in front of her at the first flight. She did really well to avoid her rival, she actually jumped over him after she had jumped the flight, she was remarkably nimble, but she still had to use up energy, and she lost some ground and momentum, with the result that she was in a share of second last position as they raced away from the stands with a circuit to run.
That incident didn't affect her jumping though. She was very efficient in the main throughout for a hurdling debutant. She was well behind in a well stretched out field as they raced down the back straight, but she travelled well, and she made nice ground towards the leaders as they raced across the top of the track. She moved in behind the leaders on the outside as they rounded the home turn, and she picked up well when her rider asked her to. She made her challenge on the near side and she stayed on well all the way to the line, moving into second place in front of Calvados and getting to within a half a length of the winner Bell Ex One.
It was a smart performance from Ross O'Sullivan's mare on her hurdling bow. Winner of a claiming race over 10 furlongs at Fairyhouse in July, she stayed on well to finish second in an 11-furlong handicap at Killarney on her last run before Tuesday. That was just her ninth run on the flat, and we know that she handles soft ground well, so she could improve now over hurdles as we move into the winter. Tuesday's race has been a good pointer to the future, it was won last year by subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios and in 2017 by subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D'Allen, and A Wave Of The Sea and Cerberus finished first and second in the race in 2019.
Recite A Prayer - Tramore, 14th October 2021
Recite A Prayer ran out a good winner of the two-mile-five-and-a-half-furlong beginners' chase at Tramore recently, under conditions that were probably less than optimal for him. The decent pace that Donagh Meyler set on Optional Mix probably was a help to him, and he settled nicely for Danny Mullins just behind it, jumping well for a debutant. Optional Mix and Champagne Sparkles moved on as they raced down the back straight final time, but Danny Mullins remained unperturbed, he just allowed his horse make his ground on the run down the hill and, moved towards the outside, he joined the two leaders at the second last fence. He picked up quickly from there, moved to the front and across to his right onto the inside rail, popped the last, and kept on well up the run-in to beat Champagne Sparkles by four and a half lengths, with Optional Mix 11 lengths further back in third.
A point-to-point winner, the Recital gelding ran twice in bumpers for Paul Hennessy before joining Willie Mullins and putting up an encouraging performance on his first run over hurdles at Tipperary in May to finish second behind Queensteel. He didn't build on that in two subsequent runs over hurdles, but, from the family of three-time Champion Chase winner Badsworth Boy, it always looked likely that he would be a better chaser than hurdler. He got his chasing career off to the best possible start at Tramore, and he should be able to build on this now. He should do better on a more galloping track and probably on easier ground, and he could be even better on a left-handed track.
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