By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
I did not expect to be writing my 20 To Watch Review (Read the original blog post here- https://t.co/7JZqNyFyVw?amp=1) in April. I wanted a couple of Aintree and Punchestown Festival winners and there was so much more to come from this season. I was well on track to smashing the amount of winners from last year’s list. But racing has been cancelled and the world has come to a halt because of the Coronavirus. At this time, we’ve just got to get on with it and get through it. The NHS and hospitals all around the world are trying their hardest to help those infected and we’ve got to do our part to help them out by staying at home.
My 20 To Watch is something I have done for the past two seasons and I love it. I really enjoy following these horses’ careers and growing to love them. I published this list on 9th October 2019 and, as the name suggests, I picked up on twenty horses who could be exciting for the season. They didn’t disappoint! The profit was only £2.09 to a £1 stake but at least it was a profit! In total, they ran sixty-two times, winning twenty times (strike rate 34‰), fourteen 2nds, nine 3rds and nineteen unplaced finishes. There was also a 67% placing (top three) rate for these horses. Eleven of the nineteen that ran won at least once. In 2018/19, the horses ran a total of seventy-two times but only won nineteen races between them.
I also kept track of which jockeys rode each horses. The most successful jockeys were Mark Walsh and David Bass, who both rode four winners each. Mark Walsh rode Andy Dufresne, Fakir D’Oudairies and Longhouse Poet. He won twice on Andy Dufresne and Fakir D’Oudairies. All of David Bass’ wins came on First Flow.
First Flow turned out to be one of the superstars for my list this season. I’ve always thought an awful lot of this horse and been very confident in his ability to be a good chaser. His campaign didn’t start the way I wanted to with him coming second to Summerville Boy and Angels Breath on his first two outings. However, he came good at Hereford at 1/9,which wouldn’t even be the shortest price he raced off this season, by twenty lengths. Next time, he ran in a competitive handicap at Ascot, coming third beaten twelve and a quarter lengths and was then second in a similar race at Sandown. After this, he farmed class threes and fours, gaining a hat trick of wins at Leicester, Doncaster and Carlisle by a combined forty-eight lengths. On the latter occasion, he was 1/16 favourite and the next priced horses was 16/1!
Relentless Dreamer, Bannixtown Glory and Manofthemountain did the majority of their racing towards the beginning of the season. Rebecca Curtis Relentless Dreamer was the first runner of the season for the blog and kicked things off with a good third behind Ballyoptic, subsequent Charlie Hall winner, and Lil Rockerfeller after a 350 day break. He was pulled up sharply next time out at Ascot but fortunately was okay. Nothing came to light after that and he ran in a grade three chase at Cheltenham and finished the last of six finishers. We haven’t seen him on a racetrack since. The Curtis yard, of course won the Stayers Hurdle with 50/1 shot Lisnagar Oscar. It was a welcomed return to the big league for the Wales-based trainer. A trainer who came out worse from this victory was Emma Lavelle. Her stable star Paisley Park was, for many, a banker of the Cheltenham Festival but, sadly, he did show his true colours and finished seventh, due to a fibrillation heart. His stablemate Manofthemountain is a lovely, strapping chaser. He agonisingly unseated Nico De Boinville at Taunton before making all at the same track under Ben Jones. He gave the horse a peach of a ride and there is more to come from this six year old son of Mahler.
Bannixtown Glory is a lovely mare. She’d been running well over the summer before making her first start for the blog in a competitive mares handicap hurdle at Sedgefield. She led pretty much all of the way and agonisingly in the shadow of the post got passed by two rivals, getting beaten a nose and a neck. Next time, ninety-one days later, she had to carry a gigantic weight of 11st13 and ran creditably to only be beaten one and a half lengths. On both of those occasions, she was partnered by Brian Hughes. He has shown his talent this year by winning the Jockeys Championship and it was much deserved!
Eight out of the twenty ran at Cheltenham. On the Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be there to see Fakir D’Oudairies in the Arkle and Cepage, Mulcahys Hill and Beakstown run in the handicap chases. Fakir D’Oudairies was going into the Arkle with Notebook, seemingly his biggest rival. This five year old got all the allowances in his first three races over fences and won the first two – at Navan, beating Melon, and in a grade one at Fairyhouse by a huge twenty two lengths. He went down fighting to Notebook in December but it was a different story in the Arkle. There was a false start, one of many through the week, and that really unsettled Notebook. He could play no part in the finishing proceedings. Put The Kettle On had been prominent all the way and was hassled by Fakir D’Oudairies up the straight. For a second, I thought he’d win but the mare was all guts and valiantly won under Aidan Coleman.
Cepage and Mulcahys Hill ran in the Ultima Chase. Cepage finished best placed of the two in seventh. He started off his season coming in second to Riders Onthe Storm, who went on to beat Cyrname at Ascot. Next time, he was fourth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. On New Year’s Day, he ran a weak race to be sixth in a Cheltenham Handicap. That racecourse was the scene of him finally coming good and landing the grade three chase on Trials Day. He was 8/1 and was a game winner. My favourite horse Mulcahys Hill finished twelfth in the Ultima and had had a good season in the lead up to that. A second season novice chaser, he kicked off the season with a gutsy, all-out victory on Cheltenham first raceday of the season. I cried a lot – I was just so proud of him. Next time, he didn’t enjoy running over the Grand National fences in the Becher and pulled up. He had a wind-op in December and came back in January with a second in a two runner event at Newcastle. There’s a couple more good days left in this quirky eight year old.
Beakstown ran in the newly-named Northern Trust Handicap Chase. I was gutted when we heard Aintree was off because this lad ran a blinder in that race, coming fifth on ground that wasn’t ideal. He’s a huge horse and I really thought he’d win over fences. He started out coming second to Sam Spinner and then ran into three good horses, including Champ, at Newbury. He came third to Mister Fisher and Good Boy Bobby before he had an 87 day break and ran at Cheltenham. He keeps his novice tag for next term and will be hard to beat on decent ground.
On the Wednesday, there were three runners. The Big Breakaway and Longhouse Poet contested the opening event, the Ballymore. The Big Breakaway was bought for a lot of money and got off to a great start over hurdles with an easy maiden win. In December, he won well again at Newbury but got an injury which ruled him out until the Cheltenham Festival where he came fourth, beaten fourteen and a half lengths. He’ll be better over fences. Longhouse Poet, in my opinion, should’ve ran in the Albert Bartlett as he seemed to stay really well. He started off coming second and then got off the mark in a maiden hurdle. He contested a grade one next time and got beat by Envoi Allen and Elixir D’Ainay, who beat him on his debut. He could only manage eighth in the Ballymore after running keenly. The race was obviously won by Envoi Allen who seems to have a big future!
My 20 To Watch Blog had a Cheltenham Festival winner on day two thanks to the incredible bravery of Champ and Barry Geraghty to hunt down the leaders and get back up in the final strides after seemingly being beaten in the RSA. He’d been the favourite for that race for a long time after winning his first two chase starts. Who could forget him nearly going the wrong way at Newbury? He agonisingly fell at Cheltenham Trials Day and I think a lot of people lost faith in him that day. He has proved that he is a very intelligent and quirky individual. There is more jumping practice on the agenda for him and connections have Gold Cup aspirations.
The two runners on the Thursday weren’t as successful as the others. I don’t think Reserve Tank has risen to my expectations of him this season. He was so good at Aintree and Punchestown. On Chase debut, he was second to Jarveys Plate and then he won a grade two pretty well. At Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting, he was second to Danny Whizzbang in a three runner race and wasn’t seen again until the Marsh Novices Chase. It had a thrilling finish but Reserve Tank played no part as he pulled up. Ard Abhainn was very consistent until her run at Cheltenham. She easily won a maiden hurdle at Clonmel on Halloween and then came third in a listed event. She won a similar race at Thurles in January but came fourteen in the Mares Novice Hurdle.
It was disappointing that Andy Dufresne missed out on Cheltenham in preference for other races in Ireland, which he never got to run in after the Coronavirus stopped racing. He won a maiden hurdle by eleven lengths in early November before coming second in a grade two, behind Albert Bartlett second Latest Exhibition. Next time, he managed to win a grade two at Punchestown by less than a length. When last seen in February, Andy Dufresne finished third in a grade two and disappointed to a certain extent. Elixir De Nutz won three races last season before missing out on the Supreme due to injury. I was hoping he’d prove himself as a Champion Hurdle prospect but he started off his campaign with a seventh in a grade two. I thought sure he can improve for the run but he didn’t and finished seventh again in the Christmas Hurdle. He may have picked up an injury or not bothered to run him again after those two runs. He’ll go novice chasing next term.
I had also hoped that Enemy Coast Ahead would run in the Supreme. He’d shown lots of speed in a bumper at Stratford, winning easily, but ran once over hurdles when second to a more experienced rival, in a race that Supreme winner Shishkin fell in. He shaped well that day and hasn’t been seen since. He went on his holidays at the start of March and could run in the summer. Another horse who could be running in the summer Farouk De Cheneau, who I have a tiny share in. He thankfully made his debut shortly before racing was stopped at Kempton. He travelled enthusiastically and jumped well but when push came to shove he stopped quickly, coming seventh. Nicky Henderson’s team gave him a wind-op to hopefully sort out the noise he made and hopefully he’ll be better next time out as the yard likes him a lot. They also have O Connell Street. He ran at Catterick in January and was a good enough second. He probably needed it as he was coming off a wind-op and 272 day break. He probably needs firmer ground and could be seen in the summer too. He was a really last foal so that could explain about why he’s a been a bit slow to get into stride.
Flanking Maneuver isn’t badly bred but made his debut for Noel Meade and came fifth. He’s previously ran twice for Colin Bowe. The form of that race has worked out pretty well – the winner and fourth have won subsequently, the second, Ferny Hollow, won the Champion Bumper. He might end up winning a couple of races or he’ll be in the Gigginstown dispersal sale soon. A horse who came out of that last year was Clara Sorrento. I have a soft spot for this horse but I have no idea who he’s in training with. He hasn’t been seen at all this season and I’m quite disappointed. I just hope he’s in a good home!
It’s obviously really sad that jump racing has been called off in Britain until July but we all know why it has happened. We have to trust the government and respect their social distancing and lockdown rules. We need to stop the spread of this virus and get racing back as soon as possible! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support with my work and my 20 To Watch blog. (Next season’s is well on the way already). I’m so grateful for your like, RTs, comments etc and I hope you all enjoy reading my work.