The Saturday Focus – Charlie Hall Chase Preview

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

This Saturday seems to be the most exciting day of racing so far this season – there are top-class cards at Wetherby, Ascot and Down Royal. My ‘Saturday Focus’ is on the Charlie Hall Chase, which I have previewed in full. Also, I have had a look at the other eight races that ITV are showing.

The Charlie Hall Chase is a grade two race over three miles. There are ten runners going to post for this year’s renewal. I consider this race to be the first proper race of the season. It is great to see Cyrname back racing after that scary fall at Ascot last time. Apparently, he bounced back from the tumble well and would’ve ran again if Covid hadn’t happened. He had won well at Ascot before that and then, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton, he was second. The thing with Ascot and Kempton is that they are both right-handed. Wetherby is left-handed. I don’t like to make a problem about that though – surely the best horse in the race can win regardless of how the track turns?

A similar thing can be said about Vinndication. I think a lot of this horse and always have done. He won his first two novice chases at the backend of 2018 before following in Defi Du Seuil twice. He won the Sodexo Gold Cup on this day last year but didn’t run again until he came forth in the Ultima at Cheltenham. He deserves his chance in this kind of company and has to be one of the leading players in this. Kim Bailey is running at a 37% strike rate over the past two weeks and David Bass is currently riding at 39%. He’s round about second favourite to Cyrname.

Ballyoptic (JTW Equine Images)

We have the last two winners of the race in the line-up – Ballyoptic (2019) and Definitly Red (2020). Ballyoptic ran a brilliant race that day, beating Definitly Red and La Bague Au Roi. After this, he was well-beaten on two runs but took winning honours in a listed handicap chase at Ascot on soft/heavy ground on his only start so far in 2020. You can never really discount him. He did have the benefit of a previous run last year before this. Definitly Red reversed form with Ballyoptic next time out when he came fourth in the Becher Chase and Ballyoptic was eleventh. He finished second in the Peter Marsh, before winning at Kelso on heavy ground in late February, with Saint Xavier third. It was good ground when he won this two years ago so he’s very versatile.

La Bague Au Roi was a very smart novice chaser in the 2018/19 season, even beating Topofthegame and Santini in a grade one and winning the Leopardstown Flogas Novice Chase. Since then, she hasn’t won and was last seen finishing fourth in handicap company. Saint Xavier’s last win was in a novice hurdle at Kempton in January. Two starts later, he was behind Definitly Red and he’s changed yards a few times since. He doesn’t have much going for him on paper but the in-form Kielan Woods rides.

Keeper Hill won a graduation chase on his first start last season and got to within a length and a quarter of Frodon. He was last seen in a handicap hurdle and, even though he’s a grade two hurdle winner, he seems to have a bit to find. Aye Right has form with Kepper Hill’s stablemate and my favourite horse, Mulcahys Hill. Aye Right won a two runner race in January against him. Next time, he out-ran his 100/1 odds in the RSA Novices Chase. On reappearance, he came second, staying on, at Kelso, which was an encouraging run. This is a step up in grade for him and, before he won, he unseated in behind Sam Spinner. That horse came second in the Stayers Hurdle and started out his chasing career at Wetherby and won both starts there. The last time we saw him was in a grade two at Doncaster, when he won by thirty-eight lengths. He was ruled out for the rest of the season because he suffered a bad pelvis injury so it is very impressive that the yard have got him back so soon. He’s a really exciting chaser and, if he feels good, he should go well.

Spectacular shot by JTW Equine Images. (left Cyrname, green and purple colours, Mister Whitaker)

Last to mention is Mister Whitaker. He won the 2018 Close Brothers race at Cheltenham. He won there next season in a listed and, a few starts later, was third in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s a good horse but its hard to know whether he’s up to this level.

Overall, I am going to overlook CYRNAME’s lack of good left-handed form and side with him because, when you think about it, Paul Nicholls could’ve sent him to Ascot or Down Royal. But he didn’t. I like the chamces of Vinndication too and I hope Sam Spinner can go well.

Rest of the Races

13:35 Wetherby – MINELLA FOR ME hasn’t actually won a race since March 2019 off a mark of 117. He got put up 10lbs for that. Last time, he showed that he was nearly back to his best with a second, beaten less than a length. He has won here before and the trainer/jockey combination are going well.

14:10 Wetherby – Verdana Blue was second thirteen days ago at Kempton. She’ll be odds-on for this so, looking for a good EW shot, I have settled with ROSIE AND MILLIE. On this weekend last year, she won a novice race by fifteen lengths and she only went down a neck in listed company. The Mares’ Novice at Cheltenham was a bit too much for her but the price of 25/1 is too big.

14:45 Wetherby – This looks a good race. We’ve got the Stayers Hurdle winner LISNAGAR OSCAR, who comes into this with a 6lbs penalty. He has a leading form chance and I don’t think his Stayers’ Hurdle victory was a fluke. It is interesting to see that Roksana is favourite and she was last seen in the Mares Hurdle. Copperhead could have a good chance at a bigger price.

13:20 Ascot – DORKING BOY made his chase debut eleven days ago, coming second to a rival carrying 7lbs less but only by a length. He’s related to grade one-winner Ballyandy and he seems to have a good chance.

13:55 Ascot – IBLEO is very lightly-raced. Early this year, he ran for the first time after 838 days and he won well, at Wincanton. Then, he went to Huntingdon and won again. Last time, he may have been stretched a little bit too far over two miles four at the latter track but was still second. I think he has a good chance here.

15:05 Ascot – I really like KID COMMANDO in this. He’s a six-year-old, who has only ran five times. He won his debut by eighteen lengths and was then second in a good race. He ran in a listed bumper, finishing fifth, and then made his hurdles debut. This really impressed me. He’s been campaigned ambitiously as he was next seen in the Dovecote, where he came third. He’s a nice son of Robin Des Champs.

15:40 Ascot – This looks an absolutely sensational race. It is full of talented horses but it think I’m going to side with VALTOR. He’s only had seven runs in England and, last time out, he ran very well to be second here, beating Regal Encore. He should go well first time this season off 11st1.

14:25 Down Royal – Gordon Elliott holds a strong hand here with five of the nine runners. This has been something dubbed as a clash between Presenting Percy and Delta Work but I’m siding with THE STORYTELLER. His run last time out, which was a win, was very good and he beat a few of these rivals. He is a grade one winner and this is a tougher ask but I’m hopeful.

Cheltenham Showcase Meeting Day Two Preview

Allmankind (JTW Equine Images)

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

The first day of the Showcase Meeting belonged to Rouge Vif. Harry Whittington’s stable star turned the competitive feature race, the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase, into a procession. He jumped amazingly and asserted without even breaking a sweat to a seven and an eased-down, half-length victory under Daryl Jacob. This was his first start of the campaign and off a mark of 156 – so seriously impressive. Daryl Jacob achieved a double on the card with Fusil Raffles in the 16:45. This horse has always promised an awful lot and seems to have a big future now over the larger obstacles. He jumped slickly and won by a huge margin. So did Galvin in the second race. Gordon Elliott’s charge had already had seven runs over fences and put his experience to good use.

There was a novice and a maiden hurdle on the card. I was hoping for a big run from Domaine De L’Isle, who is in my 20 To Watch, in the opening novice event but he didn’t quite have the pace for the trip and got severely hampered at a crucial time. The winner was Does He Know, a lovely, raw son of Alkaased, who is little known in the UK. He stayed on strongly but looks like he still has a lot to learn. The maiden hurdle was won convincingly by Faivoir for Dan and Harry Skelton. This was his second try over hurdles and he could be a nice type. He’s a half brother to a horse with a peak rating of 137.

There were two handicap hurdles on the card as well. The first was won by Captain Tom Cat for Deva Racing and Dr Richard Newland under a brilliant ride from conditional jockey Cillin Leonard. They went from the front and no one could get past this exciting five-year-old. The final race on the card was for conditional jockeys only and it was won by Irish jockey Kevin Brogan, one of the retained riders for Jonjo O’Neill, on board Tegerek. This horse was a good second on seasonal reappearance and went one lace better in this at 5/1.

Allmankind and Nordano at Cheltenham (JTW Equine Images)

Day two of the Showcase Meeting looks more difficult to pick the winners of but a great day of action. The rest of this article is some of my observations for the races. The first race is the Masterson Holdings Hurdle. This race is just for four year olds and has been won by some nice horses lately with one of my favourite racehorses Pearl Of The West and Quel Destin. Pearly’s stablemate Anna Bunina comes over from Ireland. She was with Jedd O’Keeffe on the flat and got off the mark on her fifth start for John McConnell. That was by eleven lengths and she followed it up next time with a hard-fought victory. Last time, she followed in a subsequent winner so can’t be ignored. Nordano won a few nice races last season. Most eyes will be on ALLMANKIND and Botox Has. The former was sensational on his first three jumping starts and won a grade one at Chepstow over Christmas. He finished a good third in the Triumph Hurdle and has to be a leading player. It’s exciting to see him back out on the track. It’s also good to see Botox Has back out after 315 days. This horse was a great winner at Fontwell in October and then he faced Allmankind here at the November Meeting. Next time, he won at Cheltenham in mid-December and we haven’t seen him since. It’s a long time to be off but Gary Moore’s horses are starting to hit form.

The next race is the Best Odds At Matchbook Novices’ Chase. Four runners head to post. Southfield Stone has had a wind op since we last saw him and he has had five runs in chases so far, winning on the fourth and coming second in grade two on the fifth start. The yard couldn’t be in better form and the experience will be useful. He’ll be near the top of the market and the likely outsider is Coole Cody. This horse made a likeable start to his chasing career on his first start for Evan Williams Last time, he only went down just over two lengths to Soldier Of Love, who was second in behind Galvin later on. Not That Fuisse ran well in behind some good horses over fences last season. He won well at Perth last time. It was a cosy win. Pileon makes his chase debut in this race after a short head defeat in the Martin Pipe. He has had just five runs under rules so there is still a lot to come from him. I think I’m going to side with COOLE CODY as he looks a huge price at 10/1. His winning chase performance was really good.

The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle is one of the qualifiers for the big race at Cheltenham. Eighteen runners go to post and that includes last year’s winner Tobefair. He has top weight and carried 3lbs more than last year. He absolutely loves it here. Top conditional jockey Jack Tudor takes off 5lbs. Right at the bottom of the handicap is Vaniteux. This horse has been running in France since January and collecting a good amount of prize money. He has form figures of 6024224 over in France and he goes on pretty much all types of ground. He’s eleven now. My eye was drawn to BALLOON ONABUDGET in this. He has ran three times this season and was a good second first time this season and then third at Uttoxeter. Last time, he won at Newton Abbott and Story Of Friends was in second carrying 2lbs less. There is the same difference in weights this time around. Neville’s Cross won his last two starts and Lock’s Corner is on a five timer for Jonjo O’Neill.

Captain Chaos (JTW Equine Images)

Eleven runners go to post for the feature race, the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase, which has attracted a field of some old favourites. For example, Ryanair winner Frodon; 2017 winner of this Cogry; thirteen-year-old Perfect Candidate and ten-year-old West Approach. The youngest runners are Sensulano and Manofthemountain at seven years of age. The former is a good mare and won twice last season. She’s just 1lbs higher than her last winning mark. MANOFTHEMOUNTAIN is my selection though. I think he’s a really exciting recruit to this kind of race. He was in my 20 To Watch in 2019/20 and I think he is just the perfect looking chaser. He’s very easy on the eye and jumps well too. He should’ve won all five of his starts but unseated in one of them. He travelled so well last time so the extra furlong won’t do him any harm. Captain Chaos is interesting at 18/1. He either finished in the top two or is a complete blow out. Last time, he won really dominantly at Doncaster but I feel he needs mud to show his best form.

The next race is the six runner Lara Telfer Reined In For Racing Welfare Novices’ Hurdle over three miles. STREETS OF DOYEN really jumps out to me for John McConnell. I hold this yard in high regard and his horses are flying along in Ireland. This horse has won his last three outings, all over three miles, and he’s related to lots and lots of winners. This looks a very open contest though. Minella Encore was good for Willie Mullins before switching to Dr Richard Newland. He made his debut for the new yard in a maiden hurdle and it was a really nice run. Lee Edwards is a good jockey and gets the leg-up.

The penultimate race on the card is the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase. The top amateur jockey riding at the minute is Sam Waley-Cohen and he partners JEN’S BOY for Nicky Henderson and Middleham Park. He has been second on all three of his chase starts but is a dual winner over hurdles. Call Me Vic is making his yard debut for Fergal O’Brien. He was last seen winning a point to point three hundred days ago. He’s a grand horse but is thirteen now.  I’m a fan of Lillington and he won in September and then placed twice subsequently. He is hard to catch right though. Plantagent was twenty-five lengths behind Lillington when he won and only 1lbs split them.

The final race is the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. Fifteen horses go to post for this. The horse that is likely to be top of the market is Smurphy Enki. He didn’t win in point to points but he was an eighteen length winner on debut back in March. Harry Whittington has Calidad and he’s a half-brother to Badger Ales Trophy winner Drop Out Joe. Seymour Promise made his debut in February with a fourth-placed finish. I really liked RESTANDBETHANKFUL’s debut. It was a head victory but the second and this horse pulled twenty-nine lengths ahead of the third. He looks an exciting horse.

Cheltenham Showcase Meeting Day One Preview

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

1:50 Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Class Two) (2M5F)

This looks a nice race to kick off the season at Cheltenham and the race obviously shares the name with one of the grade one novice hurdles in March at the Festival. Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden’s season has started exceptionally well and their horse Ask For Glory is likely to start favourite. This son of Fame And Glory won a point to point in May 2018 and won on rules debut later that year in convincing style. He finished ninth in Envoi Allen’s Champion Bumper. After this run, he had a wind op yet he could only manage fourth on his return to the racetrack. He won by a huge twenty three lengths next time but he’s had another wind op. Also having their first start after a wind op is Global Fame. He’s also by Fame and Glory and ran out in the PTP that Ask For Glory won. Under rules, he is two from three and he won over hurdles at Wetherby in March. These horses’ novice tags won’t last much longer.

Finisk River has been busy over the summer with two wins, a second and a third, all in novice hurdles. His two winners were extremely convincing and one was over even further than this so we know he stays. Topofthecotswolds has had two starts so far in this campaign and he was second, beaten five lengths, on the first one but then he won on good ground last time. He’s three from nine over fences but has dropped down to the lower obstacles for now. So has my selection DOMAINE DE L’ISLE. This horse is in my 20 To Watch and I believe he could do well in races like the Welsh National. He is five from twelve over fences and won three races last season. He has three hurdle starts to his name and he was a good second and then third on two occasions. He’s rated 140 but only carries 10st12 because he has never won a hurdle race so he looks well-treated in this. However, he may need the run like a lot of horses seem to lately.

The two remaining horses to mention, Midnight River and Does He Know, won over hurdles nineteen and sixteen days ago respectively. Midnight River was third on both of his bumper starts and he made a good impression at Uttoxeter last time. He’s by Midnight Legend and out of a Presenting mare so has a proper jumping pedigree. Does He Know is the best of his sire’s progeny in the UK. He won a point to point before coming second on his first two hurdle outings but reappeared on 7th October to win nicely to win by seven and a half lengths. Kim Bailey’s runners are in flying form.

Mossy Fen (Right) (JTW Equine Images)

2:25 Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) (3M1/2F)

I was there when Mossy Fen won the grade one Leamington Novices Hurdle at Warwick. He battled it out well and steps up three furlongs in trip from that. This is not a concern though as he has won a point to point and novice hurdle over three miles. He was last seen coming fifth to Envoi Allen in the Ballymore so that is a long absence. Ask Dillon and Clondaw Caitlin are both running for the first time in a while. The former is from the in-form Fergal O’Brien yard. His form over hurdles wasn’t top level and he was last seen finishing tenth in the Stayers Hurdle. Clondaw Caitlin is such a good mare. Last season, she managed to win four races in a row, culminating in a grade one prize. She’s an exciting recruit to fences and the new Mares’ Chase at the Festival will probably be her target. She gets over a stone from the horses numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the racecard.

There are two Irish representatives in the form of Galvin and Doctor Duffy. Galvin heads the market as he’s three from three since July. He won by twenty two lengths on the first of those and then by smaller margins, the most recent being in a Tipperary grade three. He actually has quite a bit of experience over fences compared to some of the others. Doctor Duffy has ran seven times over fences too, but all of those occasions were since racing resumed in Ireland. He won two of them but unfortunately fell in the Munster National last time, injuring Davy Russell. The drop back to tamer company will probably do him good. Lastly is SOLDIER OF LOVE. He’s looked like a completely different horse since lockdown ended and has won four races, all over this trip or further. This is probably a bit more competitive than what he has faced before but, if the ground stays on the good side of soft, he’s got a very good chance.  

3:00 squareintheair.com Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (2M5F)

A maximum field of twenty go to post for this race and I have picked out a few to talk about. Captain Tom Cat heads the market with a feather weight of 10st9 and then Cillian Leonard takes off his 7lbs claim. This horse did nothing special in points but was second to Sangha River on 1st July. He probably needed that as he has won well on both starts since. He steps up five furlongs in trip and into handicap company. Our Power managed to win a competitive handicap hurdle before lockdown, beating subsequent dual winner The Butcher Said.

Fergal O’Brien and Nicky Henderson both are dual handed in this. O’Brien has Imperial Elysian and Lungarno Palace. The former is three from nine over hurdles and he won at Southwell in July. He was third last time over a little bit shorter than this. Lungarno Palace hasn’t won since October 2018 and he goes off a 4lbs lower mark. Hijack and Fix Sun represent Nicky Henderson. Hijack has had one start this season, finishing second at Fontwell over a shorter trip. He has only ran five times. Fix Sun has had a wind-op since he last ran, which was when he was only beaten a length. He won well on all three starts before that. He’ll want some cut in the ground but this is the furthest trip he’s ever ran at. Young Lieutenant’s wind-op before last time out worked wonders as he won by three lengths as a result. He struggled to win last season but looks on good terms with himself.

The horse that I find interesting is WEATHER FRONT. He has done the majority of his racing so far for Karen McLintock and won quite a few races for her before moving to Iain Jardine. He is a very good dual-purpose trainer and has only sent a total of ten horses down to Cheltenham in his career so this is notable. Last time out, Weather Front was second to Chapmanshype and he is on his last winning mark. The mares Yeavering Belle and Storm Goddess are worth keeping an eye on too.

3:35 Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase (Class 2) (2M)

This is a really good handicap chase. ROUGE VIF is a grade two winner over hurdles and made a perfect start to his chasing career by seven lengths. Next, he disappointed a bit behind subsequent Arkle winner Put The Kettle On but he won a grade two at Warwick, before finishing third in the Arkle. He’s kept some excellent form and Harry Whittington’s runners are going well at the minute. Top weight is sits with Dolos though, who is rated 161. He has had a wind-op since we last saw him, which was when well-beaten at Doncaster. It looks a tough ask with the weight. Katpoli finished second that day and he’d previously won at Wetherby and Southwell.

Bottom weight is a three-way tie between Movie Legend, Northern Beau and Doitforthevillage. The latter is a stalwart in this kind of race but he hasn’t got his head in front for a while. Movie Legend was last seen coming second over hurdles but was thought good enough to run in a grade three chase at the Aintree Grand National Meeting. Northern Beau has had a wind-op within the last twenty eight days, after she was beaten at Uttoxeter over four furlongs further. Dan Skelton has two runners in the form of Azzuri and Hatcher. Azzuri’s first two runs since July were good and he only just missed out on a better placing. Last time, he didn’t seem to stay and he has finished well-behind Katpoli before. Hatcher won well at Southwell, beating the late Croco Bay. He has a 50% strike rate over fences. Alan King has had a brilliant flat season and Ballywood is his representative. He has been seen once so far this season when second to Beat The Judge, who is looking to make it three wins in a row.

Champagnesuperover (JTW Equine Images)

4:10 Catesby Estates Maiden Hurdle (Class 3) (2M1/2F)

This race is quite easy for me to work out – CHAMPAGNESUPEROVER. This horse is in my 20 To Watch and he has some really good form to his name. He won by sixteen lengths on his debut and then followed in Ocean Wind, who has won multiple races since, in a listed bumper. He’s a stunning horse. Hopefully, he won’t need the run. Art Approval could be a threat as he’s from the in-form Fergal O’Brien team and he has one start over hurdles under his belt, which was a second place over further. Dan Skelton’s representative, Faivoir, won a point to point on debut and is two from four under rules. He was beaten three lengths on hurdles bow last time out. Pipesmoker, for Nicky Henderson, has been consistent so far and the same can be said for Presentandcounting. Lessankan is having his first start under rules after a seventh in a point to point but his dam is a half-sister to two multiple winners over obstacles. Temur Khan is a dual winner on the flat but his first hurdles run was poor. Found On completes the line-up and she is a point to point winner.

4:45 Two Farmers Crisps Novices’ Chase

Just four runners go to post for this but it is a competitive little affair. FUSIL RAFFLES is my pick. He has always been well-regraded and his rating of 150 reflects that. His win last time out, which was his first run over fences, was very good. He kept on well to a four length victory. I think he’s a little bit better than these. I really like Getaway Trump too, though. However, it has took him a few runs to win a Chase but he did so last time by a length. Return Ticket also won last time. He’s not from one of the big yards like the aforementioned two but Rebecca Menzies is very capable, as shown by her recent four timer. He may not be up to the same standard as Fusil Raffles and Getaway Trump and a good hurdler Our Valentine is making his fences debut after 224 days off.

17:15 Back And Lay At Matchbook Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (2M)

A big field go to post and I’ve had a look at a few of them. I’m a big fan of Percy. One – has a great name, and two – he’s a really likeable horse. He placed at 28/1 on reappearance in July then won well at Uttoxeter. Last time, he went over to France on heavy ground, which may not have suited. Harry Reed is a good jockey. So is Fergus Gregory. He rides Endlessly for Olly Murphy. After running five times on the flat for Martin Meade, he switched to Olly Murphy, winning twice on the level. He won twice early this year over hurdles but has has a big absence to get over. Top weight Sternrubin has a 531 days to overcome. He was last seen finishing second to Potterman in May 2019. He’d ran at the Cheltenham Festival and the Aintree National Festival. He’s a classy horse on his day.

Clemencia and Nanabelle have only been with their respective trainers for a short while. Nanabelle was unbeaten over in France but was only fifth on debut for Nicky Henderson. Clemencia was with Brendan Duke before his last race and he won his maiden by a huge fifteen lengths. After that, he was fourth in grade two and then grade one company. His first start for Tim Vaughan was a really good fifth in the Fred Winter. He could be one of the big priced runners but could have a good each way claim. My selection is TEGEREK. This horse started his career in France before going to Jonjo O’Neill’s. He won on 1st March with first time head gear. That has done him the world of good as he’s ran very well to be second on his last two starts. One of the stable conditionals, Kevin Brogan, gets back on board after last time.

Qipco British Champions Day Preview 2020

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Qipco British Champions Day is going to look a bit different this year with no crowds, but I guess this is just the world we’re living in at the moment. It is a shame as this is the best individual day of flat racing in the season and we’ve got a lot of superstars to see on the card!

STRADIVARIUS is the big name of the day. It was recently announced that the Champion Stayer will be kept in training in 2021, instead of going to stud. Connections obviously believe he has more left to offer as a racehorse and it isn’t his time to go to stud yet, which is interesting. He races in the first contest of the day, the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup (Group Two). Long distance races are where Stradivarius shines – not so much over the Arc trip. His three defeats this season were all over one mile four and he’s versatile in the ground so has a good chance. He won this in 2018 before being nosed out by Kew Gardens in 2019.

Aidan O’Brien, Kew Garden’s trainer, has had a turbulent few weeks but has plenty of runners on Champions Day, like Broome, Sovereign and Dawn Patrol in this contest. The former hasn’t been seen for 134 days, when finishing fourth to Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup. Last year, he finished fourth in the Derby and sixth in the Irish Derby but steps up in trip. Sovereign won the 2018 Irish Derby from the front in emphatic style, beating Broome. He was next seen coming third in a Curragh group three, before he finished second to Enable in the King George. Last time, he under-performed in the Irish St Leger, finishing sixth behind Search For A Song and Fujaira Prince. Dawn Patrol is only three but is a group three winner against older horses. He’s a half brother to Pour Moi and is interesting with an allowance.

Search For A Song is a filly and probably Stradivarius’ biggest threat. The dual Irish St Leger winner took a while to warm to the task this year but won she’s related to two mile winner Falcon Eight. Fujaira Prince is a lightly-raced, ultra-consistent six-year-old, who won the Ebor and was only beaten by Search For A Song. He’s definitely not reached his ceiling yet. Monica Sheriff finished fourth to Fujaira Prince in the Ebor. Trueshan finished eighth in the Ebor and he is a solid, listed-level horse. He has the jockey of the moment Hollie Doyle on board. Spanish Mission has each-way claims as he won the Doncaster Cup over two miles one in September and that race is a tried and tested route into this. The son of Noble Mission was behind Stradivarius in sixth at Glorious Goodwood so there is some ground to make up.

From stayers to sprinters: the next race is the Qipco British Champions Sprint (Group One). I really like these kinds of races as the horses are really likeable and hardy. It looks a very competitive race. The recent Prix de la Foret winner One Master takes her chance dropped a furlong in trip. She was second in this race last year on heavy going, behind Donjuan Triumphant, and mud-lovers often win this race. She’s a classy filly and Pierre-Charles Boudot rides, who gets on with her so well. DREAM OF DREAMS is the likely favourite after two classy performances in the Hungerford Stakes and Sprint Cup, which I was really taken with. He goes on softish ground and has some very good form to his name. He’s my idea of the winner but I’d love for Oxted to run well. He was last seen winning the July Cup and has had a wind-op since However, I fear the ground may have gone against him.

Glen Shiel was a really good second to Dream Of Dreams in the Sprint Cup and I believe he’s Hollie Doyle’s best chance of a coveted, first group one win on this card. For a six-year-old, he is really lightly raced and he won a group three at the Curragh in, beating Sonaiyla, who won two good races before that. Another interesting horse is Art Power. He was thought by many as a horse who could beat Battaash in the Nunthorpe but put in a really disappointing effort. He’s a three-year-old and likes the mud but was fourth to Dream Of Dreams and Glen Shiel last time. He gets just 1lbs from those two horses. Starman is also three and has just three runs, which he won, to his name. He beat Dakota Gold last time in a listed race and that horse has won since.

Onassis and Happy Power were very good winners last weekend.  The former won on heavy on Sunday and, as a three-year-old, she gets a handy allowance. She’s yet to win over six furlongs and there isn’t much speed in her family. Happy Power has won his last three races, rising up from class two, to group three to group two level. He has done most of his winning over seven furlongs but his stamina will probably come in handy on this ground! It is also good to note that it is The Tin Man’s sixth appearance at the meeting and it would be great if he could run well!

Next up, the fillies take centre stage in the Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares (Group One). A really nice group of fillies take their chances here, like the two Oppenheimer horses, Dame Malliot and Frankly Darling. The former is a tough filly and she won at Newmarket in a group two, which was the trainer Ed Vaughan’s biggest winner. Vaughan has since announced he will stop training at the end of the season. She was third in her next two starts in Germany and France. Frankly Darling is a very hot filly and she was well beaten by Love on two occasions. Frankie Dettori has picked Mehdaayih instead. We haven’t seen this filly since Royal Ascot, when she was sixth of seven, but she’s classy on her day.

Even So was a taking winner of the Irish Oaks, beating three subsequent winners. Her sixth at Longchamp behind Dame Malliot, Laburnum and Wonderful Tonight was a bit of a disappointing performance. However, her Classic victory and official rating puts her in contention. Thundering Nights goes for the St Leger winning combination of Tom Marquand and Joseph O’Brien. She won on soft to heavy ground in the backend of last year and then in August on good ground, so she seems versatile. She won a group three on soft ground, beating the well-regarded Albigna in convincing style and was third to Cayenne Pepper and ahead of Gold Wand in the Blandsford Stakes last time.

I’m siding with the Arc Meeting winner WONDERFUL TONIGHT. This filly relishes soft going, which is really important for this meeting. She had Passion and Manuela De Vega in behind that day. Her last run in England was two places behind Cabaletta but Wonderful Tonight has improved past her I think. I’m hoping the in-form William Buick and steer her to victory for a deserving team in the David Menuisier Stable.

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored By Qipco) (Group One) acts as an appetiser for the big race of the day which comes next. Palace Pier will be about odds-on for this but, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of this horse. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. He’s won at Royal Ascot and in the Prix Jaques Le Marois. I’m not sure how strong both those races were though. His last start was on heavy ground and he handled it well though. Circus Maximus was third that day and he is such a good horse at this level. He always tries so hard, which was shown in the Queen Anne when he gamely won. He was second to Mohaather at Glorious Goodwood next time. Lancasster House also represents Aidan O’Brien too but he’s gone downhill since a good win over seven furlongs at the Curragh. Royal Dornoch completes the Ballydoyle trio at 66/1.

I’m with THE REVENANT. He only made his seasonal debut at the beginning of the month and I get the impression he’s quite delicate as he has only raced six times since March 2019. His reappearance was in a group two that he won well and he was second in this race last year to King Of Change. As well, Nazeef looks a huge price at about 11/1. She’s been brilliant in fillies’ races lately. She won the Falmouth Stakes on soft ground before struggling when trying to give weight away and then on bottomless ground. Last time out, she was a brilliant winner of the Sun Chariot Stakes by over a length and I don’t think she should be underestimated.

The feature race on the card is the Qipco British Champion Stakes (Group One). Eleven runners go to post and I’m really interested by SERPENTINE. I love this horse! He obviously won the Derby in June over one mile four so it makes him interesting dropped to one mile two. I don’t know what they were trying to achieve last time in all honesty so, I think that William Buick should ride him like he’s Ghaiyyath. His stablemate and last year’s winner Magical is one of the leading players. She has done nothing wrong in 2020 with three group one victories in the Pretty Polly, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Champion Stakes. Another Aidan O’Brien runner, Japan, has not shown his true colours this year sadly and I don’t think he handles this kind of ground.

Mishriff is likely to be the second favourite after a trio of victories, including the group one Prix du Jockey Club. He likes soft ground but I think it is a bit unfair that David Egan, retained rider for the owners, doesn’t get the ride but that’s a reality of racing, I guess. It was a bit of a surprise when Sottsass was beaten at the beginning of the year and he obviously went on to win the Arc. The horse that beat him was Skalleti. That was on heavy going and next time he won a group two at Longchamp by over a length to Patrick Sarsfield, who is a solid horse. He is having his first try in group one company but there’s no reason why he can’t feature at this level.

Lord North was a surprising winner of the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes and he made easy work of Addeybb in that race. He was last seen coming third to Ghaiyyath, who was later beaten by Magical, and if he returns to previous form he can run well. Addeybb was in great form in Australia and he is a classy horse when he’s at peak and goes on rain-softened ground. Pyledriver had a huge reputation before the St Leger and he ran really green for some reason. He drops in trip which may be better. Desert Encounter, Extra Elusive and San Donato are probably not up to this level.

The final race is a very competitive looking Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored by Qipco). I’ve whittled down my short list to three. Obviously, I’d like to see Raising Sand win for Nick Bradley Racing. He loves it here at Ascot and the soft ground will do him no harm. Top weight may make things a bit difficult for him. I like the chances of Tempus too. This horse is about third favourite and he was pushed along from a long way out in the Cambridgeshire. He’s ridiculously well-bred. David O’Meara has won two of the last three renewals and ORBAAN is his sole representative. He’s 3lbs higher than his last winning mark but ran well to be fourth last time out staying on at the end behind Tempus. He’s worth keeping an eye on at about 14/1 as David O’Meara knows how to get a horse ready for a big day.

Selections

Race One – Stradivarius

Race Two – Dream Of Dreams

Race Three – Wonderful Tonight

Race Four – The Revenant / Nazeef (EW)

Race Five – Serpentine

Race Six – Orbaan

Weekend Racing Round-Up

A drama filled weekend that had everything from jubilation to deflation, shock last minute withdrawals and much more. A couple attempts at immortality and duels galore! In this, I’ll review all the action from across the weekend from France, America and an impossible win in Japan. But first we shall start with the sole Group 1 in Britain.

Saturday

Britain:

Newmarket

Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1)

The Sun Chariot was a high-class renewal with 5 of the 12 runners being Group 1 winners and a further 3 being placed at the highest level. Matron Stakes winner Champers Elysees, now in the ownership of Teruya Yoshida, went off the 11/4 favourite. Like most of the meetings that took place over the weekend, the going was Heavy. The race was a closely run with the John Gosden trained Nazeef prevailing by 1 ½ lengths from the Henri-Alex Pantall trained Half Light in second and Richard Hannon’s Cloak of Spirits a neck behind in third. The favourite didn’t have a clear run and had to weave behind a wall of horses from the 2-furlong pole. The Irish 1000 Guineas winner Peaceful was said to have been unsuited by the ground but it seems she just didn’t fire as she has placed 2nd at Newmarket on Heavy ground before, granted against lesser company. Nazeef’s win means that she is now 6 from 6 over a mile so we could presume that she may run in the QE2 on Champions Day, for which she is a general 8/1 shot for.

France:

Longchamp

The ground at ParisLongchamp was classed as Heavy. This was a severe disadvantage for many British raiders, as the soft ground in France is very different to that of the soft British turf. This is because ParisLongchamp is located beside the River Seine, which has an alluvial river bottom so the ground ends up deep and holding, as previously stated by John Gosden.

Qatar Prix Chaudenay (Group 2)

The first race of the Arc weekend went to the H H Aga Khan owned Valia, who stormed to victory down the outside of the field under a very confident ride by Christophe Soumillon for Alain de Royer-Dupre. Godolphin’s Nemean Lion was 2 lengths behind in second and Yann Barberot’s Step by Step a short neck behind in third. The race gave us the first look as just how bottomless the ground at ParisLongchamp was. Ralph Beckett’s Max Vega kept on at one pace to take fourth and Mykiss and Mythical weakened and dropped out.

Qatar Prix Dollar (Group 2)

This years renewal of the 1m 2f Group 2 went the way of last year’s winner Skalleti, even though with a couple of furlongs to go, you wouldn’t have thought it! Faced with a field of 7 rivals, including the old warrior Subway Dancer, Irish raider Patrick Sarsfield and the French charge! Most of the race was headed by the Czechoslovakian horse Raging Storm who came back to the field 2F out and hampered Skalleti. Whilst this was going on Frankie Dettori and Patrick Sarsfield had taken up the running but once Skalleti had found the gap it was game over. The Champion Stakes at Ascot might be on  the agenda for him.

Qatar Prix de Royallieu (Group 1)

One of the feel good stories from the weekend! Wonderful Tonight was a very popular winner for Tony Piccone, David Menuisier and all his team at Coombelands. Although she hanged left towards the end of the race, Wonderful Tonight still managed to keep the Joseph O’Brien trained Pista at bay. They both pulled 5 lengths clear of the third placed horse Ebaiyra. This race showed the effect that the Heavy ground had at Longchamp as 15 ½ lengths covered those still racing and 68 between the Wonderful Tonight and the twelfth placed horse Spirit of Appin.

Haras de Bouquetot- Critérium de la Vente d’Octobre

This race provided one of the most eye-catching winners of the whole meeting, for me, with Jadoomi absolutely hosing up by 7 lengths under Mickael Barzalona. He traveled very well throughout the race and he quickened up and went away from the field with ease. What I was most impressed with, was how he wasn’t for stopping! To do that in Heavy ground at Longchamp, was very striking. I spoke with connections, who told me that he had come out of the race in good condition and that there are currently no immediate plans for his next run, as the race at ParisLongchamp was the aim after his confidence-boosting win at Wolverhampton. They will wait a few days before they start to consider his options! I will be very interested to see where they go with him next, he seems to relish the heavy ground.  

Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein (Group 2)

The Revenant was one of the star performances from last year, winning this race last year then going on to place in a top class QE2. He hadn’t been seen since that race and after almost a year off, he made his largely anticipated return and he didn’t disappoint! Give a patient ride by Pierre-Charles Boudot, he contested the lead with a furlong to go and went clear to win by 2 lengths. He will go back for another bid at the QE2 and with the ground being just as bad at Ascot, he may stand a very good chance! He is a general 8/1 for the race.

Qatar Prix du Cadran (Group 1)

Another one of the feel good stories! Princess Zoe was rated 70 when her winning streak started and since then she has gone  from strength to strength! She faced tough opposition which included Freddy Head’s top French stayer Call The Wind. The race was a very slowly run race, as you would expect with the bottomless ground. The race was led by Frederic Rossi’s Alkuin, ridden by Eddy Hardouin. As they came around the bend, it became clear that Alkuin wasn’t coming back to the field! Joey Sheridan and Princess Zoe set their sights on the runway leader. Call The Wind just didn’t have the pace to go with Princess Zoe and was all out, which reinforced that it was very testing ground! What ensured was almost reminiscent of Red Rum v Crisp in the 1973 National, the slow motion finish up the straight leaving you wondering whether she’ll get there?! Had Hardouin stolen it? Many watched with bated breath as Princess Zoe relentlessly perused her opponent, none more so than her trainer Tony Mullins and her connections! A truly remarkable training feat, a ride of a champion by Joey Sheridan and an unbelievable race!

America:

Pimlico

Dinner Party Stakes (Turf- Grade 2)

On paper, this race may not seem that interesting. However, I was very taken with the winner, Factor This. Ever since joining Brad Cox’s barn he has looked imperious and wasn’t so far behind Digital Age in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. He was always in control of the race and stormed to a 3 length victory and was rewarded with a Timeform Speed Figure of 131, which is incredibly fast! He may not go to the Breeders’ Cup but he is definitely worth at least an each way shout if he does!

Geore E Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (Dirt-Grade 2)

One of the unofficial filly Triple Crown races, the Black-Eyed Susan seemed to be a walkover for Bonny South. Last seen 3½ lengths behind subsequent Kentucky Oaks second Swiss Skydiver (more on her in a minute!) in the Alabama Stakes, it was Bonny South’s to lose. Coming around the bend Bonny South was 4 wide and had a mountain to climb to catch the leader in Miss Marissa, trained by James Ryerson and ridden by Daniel Centeno, who had kept her lead stoutly and started to pull away. Bonny South gave a very gallant chase and was flying but was held by Miss Marissa by a neck! Miss Marissa earned a Beyer speed figure of 92, which suggests that it was quite a slowly run race.

Preakness Stakes (Dirt-Grade 1)

The final race of a completely jumbled up Triple Crown was poised to be a cracker! A field of 11 went to post including: Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, Alabama Stakes winner and Kentucky Oaks second, Swiss Skydiver, Blue Grass winner Art Collector, Bob Baffert’s Thousand Words and Ny Traffic, who had finished a nose behind Authentic in the Haskell Invitational. In the end, it just came down to two horses who put everything on the line which culminated in an epic stretch duel down the straight,  that drew comparisons to Easy Goer and Sunday Silence 31 years before! The filly, Swiss Skydiver, just prevailed from the Derby winner Authentic to become the first filly since the legendary Rachael Alexandria in  2009. They both finished 10 lengths in front of the third placed horse Jesus’ Team.  It was a truly thrilling race and a fitting end to the 2020 Triple Crown!

Keenland

First Lady Stakes presented by UK HealthCare (Turf- Grade 1)

Only a small number of horses in this race but still a high class renewal. It boasted last years Turf Mile winner Uni, the ever consistent Beau Recall and the seemingly rejuvenated Newspaperofrecord. The race quickly developed into a 3 horse race with Uni running down Newspaperofrecord in the dying stages, who was then nabbed for second by the fast finishing Beau Recall. It was good to see Uni back to her best after a below par run in the Fourstardave. The main aim for the three of them will probably be the Turf Mile.

Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)

The race had all the usual suspects including dual Grade 1 scorer, Raging Bull, former English trained Without Parole and the favourite, and Breeders’ Turf Mile fancy, Analyze It. However, there was a slight upset as the winner came in the form of, the 3 time Group 1 winner in Argentina, Ivar. He came charging down the centre of the track to book his ticket for the Breeder’s Cup Turf Mile. Raging Bull was a length behind in second and wouldn’t have caught Ivar. He was given a 126 Timeform Speed Figure which, in this class of opposition, is very interesting indeed. He is a general 16/1 shot for the race.

Belmont Park

Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)

The favourite for this race was the Chad Brown trained  Rockemperor, who I’m sure will get his Grade 1 at some point! The race also included the ever consistent Saddler’s Joy, who many will remember for placing 3rd behind Enable and Magical in the Turf Classic two years ago, and the equally as good Channel Maker, who looked to be back to his old best in his last Grade 1 winning run. The race was dominated by Channel Maker who went from gate to wire to secure a routing of the field. Saddler’s Joy lost second in the closing strides to the German trained Laccario. Rockemperor finished in 5th after not having the speed to go with the others.

Kelso Handicap (Dirt- Grade 2)

Named after one of the greats of American horse racing, the Kelso Handicap had quite a small field with only 4 going to post. Of those four,  it was safe to say it would be a two horse race between last year’s Travers Stakes winner Code of Honor and the Chad Brown trained Complexity, who was last seen just missing out on winning the Forego when collared by Win Win Win. As they came round the bend it was clear the two horse race was about to begin, as Endorsed started to weaken and Stan the Man was never closing. The big two pulled clear by 9 ½ lengths but it was Complexity who won by 2 lengths from Code of Honour, who was always held. However, Code of Honour was giving Complexity 5lbs so It would be a close matchup if they were both to meet on level weights.

Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)

A low key affair which centred around the favourite Gufo, who went off at 6/4 and won very readily from Todd Pletcher’s No Word, a length away in second. Gufo was very unlucky not to win at Saratoga the time before, when coming from the heavens to be a neck behind the winner in second. His best attribute is the late burst of speed that he has that enables him to fly past all his  opponents in the straight. With this win, he now qualifies for the Breeders’ Cup Turf (16/1) but connections also said that he may bypass this for the Hollywood Derby later on in the year. He certainly looks to be the next rising star of American Turf racing!

Sunday

 France:

Longchamp

A new strip of grass was laid to try and make the ground less heavy and it worked, to an extent. It was still nowhere near enough to have a real impact. The ground was marginally drier than the day before but it was still heavy and tacky.

Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère

From 150/1 shot winner at Royal Ascot to 3/5 favourite for one of the biggest juvenile races around, Nando Parrado is one of the most unlikely success stories of this year and full credit has to go to trainer Clive Cox. Many thought that it would be a close race between the five runners so nobody expected the absolute demolition job done by Sealiway who cantered clear on the bottomless ground to win by 8 lengths from Clive Cox’s horse. He traveled very well through the race under Mickael Barzalona. He’s now ranked 116 by Timeform and it will be interesting to see whether it was a case of him handling the ground, or if he is a genuine horse! He has a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf but it remains to be confirmed whether he will go!

Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac

Another of the incredible stories from over the weekend as Tiger Tanaka capitalised on a very messy race to win the Marcel Boussac under Jessica Marcialis, who made history by being the first female jockey to win a Group 1 in France. The story was also bolstered by the rise of Tiger Tanaka, who at the beginning of the the year was running in claiming races, so praise must be given for the trainer Charley Rossi. As I said, it was a very messy race and there are many hard luck stories, Harajuku, King’s Harlequin, but none so much as the favourite Fev Rover, who was impeded when starting to make her run and then was shunted from both sides. She gallantly ran on to finish 4th and would’ve definitely would’ve been up there if she had a clear run. I spoke with connections who confirmed to me that she was thankfully none the worse for the run and that a decision would be made in a couple of weeks on if she will run again this year. If she does then some possible targets include the Critérium International over one mile at Saint-Cloud, or the Breeders’ Cup.

Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

What could have been! All eyes were on the incomparable Enable as she bid to make history with an unprecedented third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sadly, a combination of very testing going and being bumped at the wrong time meant that our hearts were broke again! By no means did this take anything away from Sottsass’s well deserved win. Jean-Claude Rouget had planned the route out ever since Sottsass was 3rd in the race last year. He was always going well and just repelled the challenge of the 3 year old, In Swoop, to win by a neck, giving J-C Rouget and jockey Cristian Demuro their first Arc wins! Andre Fabre’s Persian King just held on to 3rd place from Gold Trip. Although there was the notable absentees of the Aidan O’Brien cavalry, it was still a top class renewal of the jewel of French racing, with 8 of the 11 runners having struck at the top level before. Sottsass has now been retired to stud, along with Persian King. There is currently no decision on whether Enable will run one last time. If some of the 3 year olds stay in training, it will be very interesting to see their paths for next year.

Prix de l’Opéra

The l’Opera saw the clash between the Prix Vermeille winner Tarnawa, the classy Alpine Star, the unbeaten Prix Saint-Alary winner Tawkeel and James Fanshawe’s Prix Jean Romanet winner Audarya. I was highly surprised to see Audarya at such a big price in the betting, considering she had won on the French soft ground before. The race was every bit the clash everyone expected. Tawkeel took up the running and with 100 meters to go they were all in a line! With about 50 yards to go, the battle became a ‘head-bobber’ between Tarnawa and Alpine Star, with Tarnawa just prevailing. One runner that did catch my eye was the Polish runner Inter Royal Lady, who was 78/1 and finished 8th, a short neck behind Grand Glory in 7th. She was virtually unbeaten in Poland, with her sole defeat coming when she was a close second to her stablemate in the Polish Derby. She had never ran on the ground before and was only 6 lengths behind the very best in the business!

Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp

Anyone will tell you that when it comes to the Abbaye, the draw is key. Wooded, ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, had the very inside draw and just narrowly prevailed by a neck from the  favourite Glass Slippers, who was closing with every stride. She had draw 10, which was nearly the outside draw, but in a small Abbaye, there was less of an effect. She also gained 4lbs off Wooded, having the filly allowance, so that definitely helped. Take nothing away from her though, she ran a very good race. Liberty Beach (Draw 4) just lost second to Glass Sippers and Lady in France ran a cracking race for Karl Burke in 4th at 30/1.

Qatar Prix de la Forêt

Well… a mare did make history by winning 3 of the same Group 1, just not the one we all thought!! To make it even more impressive, One Master did them back-to-back as well. This seems to have slipped under the radar a bit, however, it’s some performance from Boudot and William Haggas to achieve this feat. Narrowly prevailing in a battle, as always, with the 3 year old Earthlight and the popular Safe Voyage a short head behind them. Tropbeau (remember her?) finished a 1 ½ lengths behind in 4th. It was the perfect way to cap off a very eventful Arc weekend with the incredibly gutsy mare battling to cement her place in history.

America:

Keenland

Bourbon Stakes (Turf- Grade 2)

For his debut race, Mutasaabeq earned an 84 Beyer speed rating for his win. Now for a two year old, that is razor sharp. This was on the final day of the Saratoga meeting, where there is normally a good two year old that always comes out of a maiden. For example, last year’s was Tiz the Law. He then went straight to contest a Grade 1 over 7F at Saratoga and was dropped by Chad Brown’s Reinvestment Risk and the current favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Jackie’s Warrior. He made his first start on turf and over a mile and a half  for this race. He dwelt from the start and was five horses wide going around the corner and 5 lengths off the lead coming into the home stretch. He quickened up very nicely and passed the other 10 horses in the field like they were stood still to win by 2 lengths. He punched his ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and is a 6/1 shot for the race.

Japan:

Nakayama

Sprinters Stakes (Turf- Grade 1)

The Sprinters Stakes is the second of the two big Grade 1 sprint races, with the other being the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in March. The field included the winner of the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Mozu Superflare, who was handed the race via the disqualification of Kurino Gaudi, who was also in the Sprinters. Multiple Graded winner Danon Smash, Diatonic who was 3rd that day and Gran Alegria, who was 2nd. Gran Alegria was the 6/5 favourite having been placed in multiple Grade 1 races, winning the Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) last year and last time out, she defeated the brilliant Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen, over a mile. Gran Alegria blew the start and was about 5 lengths off the pace and coming into the straight with around 1 ½ furlongs left, she was about 10-15 lengths off the lead, if not more. She then flew down the centre of the track, in a style that Chautauqua would be proud of, and won by 2 lengths from Danon Smash. She will next contest for the Mile Championship at Kyoto on the 22nd of November. It may have been overlooked by all the other racing on this weekend but she was highly impressive.

By Kieran McHugh

Preview of racing at Dundalk 2/10

By Luke Keena (@lukekeena1)

On the eve of Arc weekend Dundalk takes centre stage on Friday night with an exciting eight race card. Racing gets underway with the Crown Plaza Hotel Race over five furlongs. The Johnny Murtagh trained Urban Beat appears to have found a nice opportunity to get his head in front for the first time this season. He has finished second behind the talented Make A Challenge in Listed company twice this season. He was also second in a Listed contest at Doncaster early last month behind Tarboosh. On ratings he is the one to beat. He drops back to five furlongs after finishing fifth in a Group 3 at the Curragh last weekend over six furlongs, which should suit. The visor is applied and Shane Kelly takes off a valuable three pounds. If he runs up to his mark of 105 he will take a lot of beating.

The second on the card is the Irish Stallions Farms EBF Legacy Stakes over five furlongs for two year olds. Fourteen runners head to post, this the first of two Listed races on the card. The Johnny Murtagh trained Measure Of Magic is the favourite. The horse I think will run better than their odds suggest is the Jospeh O’Brien trained Dense Star. It took her seven runs to break her maiden but did bump into a few group performers like Miss Amulet and Elysium along the way. She made no mistake when winning her maiden by six lengths at Navan on her penultimate start. Last time out she was sent off 13/8 favourite in a Listed Race at Fairyhouse and ran below par. After the race jockey Declan McDonogh reported that she struggled on the slow ground. She has a few pounds to find on ratings but I think she will go close at a double figure price with Shane Crosse in the saddle.

Race three is the Crown Plaza Hotel Dundalk Apprentice Nursery Handicap over seven furlongs. Flight Zone is the warm favourite and I think he will be very hard to beat. He showed a great battling attitude last time out when he fended off Hype and Preamble at Naas over six furlongs.Preamble has since came out and won his maiden at Fairyhouse. He has the assistance of top apprentice Sam Ewing who claims four pounds. The step back up to seven will suit and I think he will take a lot of beating.

The second of the Listed Races is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Star Appeal Stakes over seven furlongs for two year olds. Admiral Nelson created a big impression when winning his maiden at the Curragh back in June. Eight days later he went off favourite in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished down the field. He then finished fourth at Goodwood behind subsequent Group 1 winner,Supremacy. Last time out he was well beaten by Lucky Vega at the Curragh. He looks to have had a break since that run in August. I think the step up to seven furlongs will suit and he can go close for Derby winning jockey Emmet McNamara.

Race six is the Michael Cooney Memorial Handicap over a mile with a maximum field of fourteen heading to post. Eddie Lynam has the favourite, Chagall but I like Sarah Lynam’s horse Irish Ambassador. He has been banging on the door his last three runs, not finishing out of the top four. He ran a very nice race last time out to be fourth to an improving horse of Andrew Kinirons, after an 196 day break. If he comes forward for the run I think he could go very close at 8/1 with Chris Hayes in the saddle.

The final race on the card is the Hollywood Bets Handicap over one mile and a half. War Diary showed a return to form last time out when finishing behind the well handicapped Springbank at Gowran Park, giving the winner one stone. Springbank since went on to finish fourth in a premier handicap at Leopardstown on Champions Weekend. Michael Halford and Ronan Whelan always go well over the winter months at Dundalk and I think he is a horse who could pick a few prizes over the coming months, he is relatively unexposed and hopefully he will finish the night with a winner.

Samantha’s 20 To Watch 2020/21

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

October is finally here, which means that I can share with you my ’20 To Watch’ for the 2020/21 National Hunt Season. I started a ‘note’ on my phone titled ‘Possible 20 To Watch’ on the 4th January so I’ve been waiting a really long time for this! Writing my ‘20 To Watch’ is always one of my highlights of the year (sad, I know!) and I’m really excited for this season as there looks to be some great races in store!

This will be my third ’20 To Watch’ article. In the first year, they won nineteen races between them from seventy-two outings and returned a profit of £20.57. At the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, Topofthegame won the RSA Chase and City Island won the Ballymore Novices Hurdle for the blog. Last season, they won a total of twenty races out of sixty-two runs and returned a profit of £2.09 to a £1 Stake – and that is with the season cut short due to Coronavirus! At the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, which I was lucky enough to go to on the Tuesday, Champ managed to get up in the nick of time to win the RSA Novices Chase. Eleven out of the nineteen horses who ran won a race.

Going into this season, I really hope this group of horses can continue the upward trajectory of the blog. The overall aim is to have horses that win races as, for me, a good strike rate is important and I would like for it to return a profit. There is a huge range of horses in this – novice hurdlers, novice chasers, two milers and stayers. I think a few of these could be winning grade ones this season and the idea is that these horses aren’t cropping up in everyone else’s blogs. I put an awful lot of thought into this every year to pick horses that will go under the radar.

Something new for 2020/21 I’m going to do is a jockey, trainer, owner and stallion to follow to kick things off. So, here they are…

Jockey: Kielan Woods – Since jump racing recommenced in July, I’ve been really impressed with Kielan Woods. One example of this was when he rode Hiconic on the three-year-old filly’s first outing. He gave her a brilliant, educational ride and she has since won three more races. So far, he has been riding a lot for Alex Hales, Graeme McPearson and David Jeffreys. He won the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival on the late Croco Bay and, if he keeps getting good opportunities, a few more big-race successes won’t be unsurprising.

Trainer: Olly Murphy – Olly Murphy is a young trainer going places. Before training, he worked for Gordon Elliott and, now going into his fourth season, he already has a grade one win to his name with Itchy Feet in the Scilly Isles Novices Chase. He has some really nice horses to go to war with this time around, like Brewin’upastorm, Thomas Darby, Skandiburg, The Butcher Said, Enemy Coast Ahead and two more on this list.

Owners: Kate & Andrew Brooks – Kate & Andrew Brooks have some lovely horses this season with a variety of trainers including Olly Murphy and Harry Whittington. In particular, I expect Simply The Betts, Rouge Vif, Itchy Feet and Saint Calvados to be winning lots of races. Someone shared this article with me on Twitter about the horses the Brooks’ buy and I find it really fascinating – https://t.co/PSSUBbR5BG?amp=1

Stallion: Nathaniel – You may be thinking what?  because this horse is obviously Enable’s sire. At the Cheltenham Festival, this horse sired Concertista, who won the Mares’ Novices Hurdle, and Burning Victory, who won the Triumph Hurdle. Keep an eye out for Nathaniel fillies going over obstacles.

I’m excited to share with you my 20 To Watch. I will be posting updates when horses are declared to run with the hashtag #20ToWatchBySam on my Twitter account (@sam_angelina22). If you would like to tell me what you think of my list or any horses you think will do well this season please feel free to ‘tweet’ me!

I’d like to thank Tom & Jack Williams for the wonderful photos. Please go and follow them on Twitter @JTWEquineImag

UPDATE – Sadly, two of these horses have been ruled out for the season, which is really gutting news. I wish them both a speedy recovery and two new horses are in at 21 and 22 to make up the numbers.

Now, thank you for reading and here’s My 20 To Watch for 2020/21!

My 20 To Watch 2020/21

Beakstown at Cheltenham in March

No1 – Beakstown

7yo Bay/Chestnut Gelding (Stowaway x Midnight Reel (Accordian))

Trainer – Dan Skelton

Owner – Bryan Drew

Breeder – Geoffrey Thompson

UPDATE – I have been informed that Beakstown has been ruled out for the season. I’m sad to hear this news and I wish him a really speedy recovery! A replacement has been put in at the bottom at number 21.

No2 – Confirmation Bias

5yo Bay Gelding (Presenting x Bonnie Parker (Un Desperado))

Confirmation Bias and I go back a long way to the 2018 Goffs Land Rover Sale, not that I have actually met him! I picked this horse out as one to follow from the sale, based on his pedigree, and have followed him ever since. He’s by Presenting, sire of horses like Denman, War Of Attrition and First Lieutenant, and out of Bonnie Parker, a one time winner. She had five foals run before this horse and they have all won at least one race. The most notable are Persian War winner El Bandit and five-time winner Rogue Trader. This horse ran at Wincanton on debut and managed to win by a short head to Sizable Sam (No3) Next time, once again at Wincanton, he was very keen and beaten fourteen lengths on heavy ground, which might not have been ideal. I read an article by Harry Derham, Paul Nicholls’ assistant, and he mentioned this horse. To sum it up, this horse is a trouble-maker. Harry wrote that Will Biddick, a really talented rider, was pretraining him and his weekly update was often “Yeah behaving at the moment”. He also said that Harry Cobden told him, “I’ve been riding for Paul for a while now and never has he said sit tight”. But, he was foot-perfect for Harry on his debut though and I am confident he could win some good races over hurdles this year.

Target – Betfair Hurdle (Newbury, February)

Sizable Sam wins at Warwick (Photo By JTW Equine Images)

No3- Sizable Sam

5yo Chestnut Gelding (Black Sam Bellamy x Halo Flora (Alflora))

Trainer – Jeremy Scott

 Owner – The Hopefuls & Kelvin-Hughes

Breeder – Shade Oak Stud

Sizable Sam is, as his name suggests, a big horse. This son of Black Sam Bellamy ran front-rank at 20/1 on his debut, wide around Wincanton. He travelled very well for a long way but just hung right a bit when push came to shove. It was a novicey thing to do and not at all surprising as he’s such a big horse. On his second start in NH flat races, he ran enthusiastically and got pushed back to mid-div at one point. It was a hard-fought victory but he asserted very smartly to win in the end by just over a length. I saw a video of this horse schooling over hurdles on Jeremy Scott Racing’s Instagram (see below) and it was apparently his first time jumping on grass and he was so impressive, jumping very well. Back in 2013 and 2014, Scott had the smart, grade one winner Melodic Rendezvous and he has been waiting for a class one performer ever since. I’m excited to see Sizable Sam over a hurdle and his flashy white face will be easy to spot in his races!

Target – Top Novices Hurdle (Aintree Grand National Meeting)

No4 – Monkfish

6yo Chestnut Gelding (Stowaway x Martovic (Old Vic))

Trainer – Willie Mullins

Owner – Mrs Susanna Ricci

Breeder – Cyril O’Hara

Monkfish won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March and it was such an impressive win. I watched it back to remind myself of the race and I had forgotten how good the performance was! He was front rank most of the way and was one of four horse going neck-and-neck from a furlong and a half out. He looked beaten when Fury Road and Latest Exhibition passed him but he showed a brilliant attitude to win by a neck. I think this horse has been campaigned with fences as the target. He pulled up in a PTP but then won a four-year-old maiden over three miles. On debut at Punchestown, he followed in grade one paced Longhouse Poet and finished ahead of Politesse (No5). He was second in his first hurdle race but then won by eleven lengths when stepped up to two miles seven furlongs. He followed that up with a twenty length victory at Thurles before his win at Cheltenham. I think he’ll make a very good chaser and has even been talked about as a ‘Gold Cup Horse’. The novice chasing division looks really hot this year but I think he can make his presence felt.

Target – RSA Novices’ Chase (Cheltenham Festival)

No5- Politesse

6yo Bay Mare (Beat Hollow x Dalamine (Sillery))

Trainer – Mrs Lorna Fowler

Owner – P G Davies & Mrs A Frost & R H Fowler

Breeder – Harry Fowler & Alex Frost

When racing stopped in England due to Coronavirus, ITV showed racing from Thurles and one of those races was a maiden hurdle. This was won by Politesse, a bay mare with a lovely white blaze. She led after four out and jumped slightly left but that is excusable as it was her first run over hurdles. She asserted to win well and I was impressed. On her first lifetime start, she was a 66/1 shot but was only beaten six and a quarter lengths by Longhouse Poet and grade one winner Monkfish (No4). Her first run this season was in early February when second in a grade two to Darling Daughter. Next time, she won easily by six lengths on soft ground in a national hunt flat race. After her win on ITV, she was entered in the grade one mares’ novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival but that obviously never happened. She’s a half-sister to Lexus Chase winner Don Poli and grade one placed Debece so she’s bred for the job. I think she could win a few races this season in class one mares’ races. The yard deserves a nice horse and Lorna’s runners often pop up at big prices.

Target – David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No6 – Commander Of Fleet

6yo Bay Gelding (Fame And Glory x Coonagh Cross (Saddlers’ Hall))

Trainer – Gordon Elliott

Owner – Gigginstown House Stud

Breeder – Patricia Coghlan

Commander Of Fleet’s Land Rover Bumper victory remains to this day one of the best bumper victories that I have ever seen. I was completely taken by this horse. He was sent for home as they turned in under Barry O’Neill and he put easy daylight between him and his rivals. That performance and his Point To Point win previously earned him a spot in my ‘20 To Watch’ for 2018/19. He made an ideal start in his maiden hurdle by six lengths over two miles and four and a half furlongs. Next time, he was last of four, beaten eight and a quarter lengths. It was won by Quick Grabim; Triplicate was second and Aramon was third – he has won a grade one and grade three subsequently. In February, Commander Of Fleet was a half-length winner of a grade one at Leopardstown. At Cheltenham, he came second to Minella Indo in the Albert bartlett, which was a great run. At the Punchestown Festival, he pulled up lame and has had the past year off with injury. I’m unsure as to what his target will be this season and whether he’ll stay over hurdles or go chasing. Gordon Elliott has some smart novice chasers and the division looks so hot so it may be that he stays over hurdles and goes for the Stayers’ Hurdle or a similar race. I just hope he can get back to winning ways.

Target – RSA Novices Chase (Cheltenham Festival) 

Real Steel at Down Royal (By JTW Equine Images)

No7- Real Steel

7yo Bay Gelding (Loup Breton x Kalimina (Monsun))
Trainer – Paul Nicholls

Owner – Sullivan Bloodstock Limited

Breeder – Haras De Plasence & Mme V Saint-Palais

This season, Real Steel has joined Paul Nicholls’ battalion, alongside Laurina, Stormy Ireland and a few more classy horses, from Willie Mullins’ yard. This horse can be described as a bit ‘hit-and-miss’. He wasn’t an exceptional hurdler but won on his second and third lifetime chase starts in extremely taking style. He finished sixth in the JLT and was then second in a Fairyhouse grade one. At Punchestown, he won a ‘Grade A’ handicap chase but it was last season when he properly hit his stride. He started out by winning in a Down Royal grade two impressively before finishing behind Min, Hardline and Presenting Percy in the John Durkan. Next time, he easily won a grade two at Thurles but pulled up at Gowran. In the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was stone last on the first circuit but Brian Hughes switched him out and he was absolutely ‘swinging’ along as they turned for home. He looked like the winner at one point but messed about a bit under pressure and couldn’t quite last home. He’s only seven and has a big future ahead. Now in England, I think he’s going to be seen to good effect at courses like Kempton and Ascot before the Gold Cup. There was a theory that he doesn’t go left-handed but I’m not sure how true that is. Regardless, he is a lively outsider for the King George.

Target – Cheltenham Gold Cup (Cheltenham Festival)

No8- Champagnesuperover

5yo Bay Gelding (Jeremy x Meldrum Hall (Saddlers’ Hall))

Trainer – Olly Murphy

Owner – McNeill Family & Patrick & Scott Bryceland

Breeder – Thomas F Hannon

First off, can we just appreciate how stunning these photos of Champagnesuperover are and how beautiful he is?! I hope this horse runs a lot this season because I’ve got so many photos to use in articles taken by the brilliant Tom & Jack Williams from JTW Equine Images. He runs in the colours of the lovely McNeill Family, who have been so kind to me and have had a lot of deserved success over the summer, and Patrick & Scott Bryceland. This horse was named after the dramatic Cricket World Cup finals. (I know nothing about cricket so I’m not sure exactly what but I love the way this name sounds!) He made his debut at Ayr and he ‘cantered’ in by sixteen lengths. It was such an impressive performance. Next time, he headed to Newbury for a listed bumper. It was won by Ocean Wind, who has subsequently come sixth in the Champion Bumper and won two flat races since. The form is strong and his third against more experienced horses was really good. Below is a little clip of him schooling and I’m so excited to see this horse over a hurdle and hopefully he can be a superstar for his owners.

Target – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No9 – Le Richebourg

7yo Bay Gelding (Network x Fee Magic (Phantom Breeze))

Trainer – Joseph O’Brien

Owner – J P McManus

Breeder – Jean Marie Prost Alamartine

Joseph O’Brien has had a brilliant flat season, winning the St Leger and multiple other class one races, but he isn’t just a talented trainer of flat horses – he is a multiple grade one winning trainer of National Hunt horses too. Le Richebourg has had fifteen races, won £205,000 in prizemoney and has two grade one wins to his name. He won on his third start in bumpers and then won his first three hurdle races. He ran in three grade one novice hurdles in quick succession before finishing way down the field in the County Hurdle. He was fifth in the Galway Hurdle before starting to jump fences, when he truly flourished. I was delighted to have this horse in my ’20 To Watch’ as he was a winning machine in the 2018/19 season. He won well at Listowel and then was a seven length winner in a Tipperary grade three. He was second to Delta Work in December and came good in the grade one Racing Post Novice Chase and the Irish Arkle. Shortly after this, he got injured so hasn’t been seen since the 2nd February 2019. I really like this horse and I fully expect him to have won the Arkle if he’d ran. This season, the Champion Chase looks a good target.

Target – Queen Mother Champion Chase (Cheltenham Festival)

Your Darling at Warwick (By JTW Equine Images)

No10- Your Darling

5yo Bay Gelding (Shirocco x Carries Darling (Flemensfirth))

Trainer – Ben Pauling

Owner – Lord and Lady Vestey

Breeder – William Mangan

Your Darling’s debut victory was somewhat overshadowed by the encouraging first attempt by Sprinter Sacre’s younger brother Flinteur Sacre making his debut. Your Darling beat him convincingly though and looks an exciting horse for this season, less obviously than Flinteur Sacre. Next time, at Warwick, he pulled up, which was shocking as he was 4/6 favourite. After this, it came to light that he had a lung infection, which caused him not to finish his race. This horse is thought highly of by none other than Henrietta Knight! In a Q&A in the Racing Post lately, she said about this horse, “He’ll go novice hurdling in the autumn and will be suited by longer distances. We schooled him before we turned him out to grass and he’s just a phenomenal jumper. […] I’m excited by this horse; to me he has everything and a wonderful temperament.” I completely agree with Henrietta – he’s stunning; his debut was phenomenal and I really think he can make a mark in the novice hurdling division this year. Ben Pauling is a very good trainer and it would be great for him to have another grade one performer in his stable after Barters Hill and Willoughby Court.

Target – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No11- Topofthegame

8yo Chestnut Gelding (Flemensfirth x Derry Vale (Mister Lord))

Trainer – Paul Nicholls

Owner – Chris Giles & Mr&Mrs PK Barber

Breeder – Patrick Kavanagh

I think Topofthegame will be on many people’s ‘horses to follow’ lists and he was mine in 2018/19. That season, he began his chasing career after winning a grade three at Sandown and came second to Bleu Berry in the Coral Cup. He started over fences in early December and came second in a very good novice chase at Exeter. Defi Du Seuil won and Black Op was third. Next, he ran at Kempton on Boxing Day and was second to La Bague Au Roi in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. He didn’t race again until the RSA Novices Chase when he won by half a length. It was a really impressive run and he jumped superbly. At Aintree, he was beaten six lengths by Lostintranslation, who went on to win the Betfair Chase. That was the last time we saw him as he was injured since. He missed the entirety of last season and I’m really excited to see what he does this season. He’s a huge, rangy chestnut, so, as a youngster, you can appreciate why he got injured and is a bit delicate. The rumours are that he will start out in the Ladbrokes Trophy. Inevitably, he will have top weight so it would be a momentous training performance for Paul Nicholls to get him to the year. His future lies in the Gold Cup though.

Target – Cheltenham Gold Cup (Cheltenham Festival)

Making friends with O Connell Street in 2018.

No12 – O Connell Street

6yo Bay Gelding (Fame And Glory x Victorine (Un Desperado))

Trainer – Gordon Elliott

Owner – Vincent Caldwell & Mrs Kathleen Caldwell (possibly)

Breeder – Kenneth Parkhill

I met this horse at Nicky Henderson’s yard at the 2018 Lambourn Open Day. He was an absolute sweetheart and, at that time, he had never run in a race. He started his career at Market Rasen in a bumper and was very keen and green but finished second, beaten one and a quarter lengths by a consistent horse. He went to Warwick and managed fourth. He flashed his tail and hung left, finishing fourth of eight, but he had a wind operation afterwards. After a 272-day break, he made his debut over hurdles at Catterick and probably just needed the run as he ran very well and was just beaten by a fitter rival. That was his sole start of the season and, on the 29th July, he was sold for £22,000 to Gordon Elliott. He’s a half-brother to City Island, who won the Ballymore. I really like this horse. He’s a winner in waiting and I think he’ll pop up in a few Irish handicaps in the near future.

Target – County Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No13 – Belle De Manech

4yo Grey Filly (Vision D’Etat x Noor Forever (Highest Honour))

Trainer – Anthony Honeyball

Owner – Martyn Chapman

Breeder – S C E A Haras De Manneville

The combination of Martyn Chapman and Anthony Honeyball teamed up to great success with Ms Parfois before she retired in 2019 and I guess they’ll be hoping Belle De Manech will prove to be just as good. This daughter of Vision D’Etat got off the mark on the first attempt when contesting a national hunt flat race at Warwick on soft ground. She was quite green but ran on well. Her stablemate Coquelicot was in second and she has since won three races, including a listed race. Next time, she contested a smart bumper on New Years’ Day and the form is extremely strong with four subsequent winners. She hung left this time. She went to Ascot next and just weakened out of first place when Sabrina passed her. At Kempton, she finished one place ahead of Sabrina, coming seventh, and the winner was Coquelicot, who she beat on debut. I don’t think we saw her true running on her last three bumper starts and I think she’ll be a much better hurdler. Anthony Honeyball tweeted me and said she’s a brilliant jumper, which is encouraging.

Target – Mares’ Novices Hurdle

No14 – Mulcahys Hill

8yo Bay Gelding (Brian Boru x Belsalsa (Kingsalsa)

Trainer – Warren Greatrex

Owner- Jim and Claire Bryce

Breeder – Ned Morris

UPDATE – I’m gutted to say Mulcahys Hill won’t be running this season. He’s got an injury and I wish him a speedy recovery. I can’t wait to see him race next season and hopefully see him soon!

No15 – Captain Kangaroo

5yo Chestnut Gelding (Mastercraftsman x We Can Say It Now (Starcraft))

Trainer – Willie Mullins

Owner – Kanga Racing & Brett Graham Syndicate

Breeder – Paulyn Limited

On the day this horse made his debut, myself and the Rein It In team were recording a Dundalk preview and we started talking about who would win the last at Clonmel and I said Captain Kangaroo, who looked overpriced at 10/1. Sure enough, he won by four lengths, staying on well. That ended up being the last national hunt race in Britain and Ireland before the Coronavirus Lockdown. He looks a lovely big chestnut who will be well-suited to hurdles. His pedigree doesn’t necessarily suggest that though. He’s by Mastercraftsman, sire of top flat horses The Grey Gatsby, Alpha Centauri and Kingston Hill. He is out of We Can Say It Now, dam of group three winner Sky Kingdom and smart filly Dancing Vega. I think they wanted him to be a flat horse at first as he was a non-runner in three flat races in France in 2018. I heard somewhere that he didn’t like stalls so a National Hunt career looks perfect for him and I think he could be very good.

Target – Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No16 – Gallyhill

5yo Bay Gelding (Getaway x Tanit (Xaar))

Trainer – Nicky Henderson

Owner – Michael Grech

Breeder – Sean Gorman

There is very little known about this horse and he very much comes under the ‘could be anything banner’ as he has only ran in one point to point. This son of Getaway is out of Tanit, who is the dam of eight-time winner Nortonthorpelegend. Gallyhill’s sole point to point was at Kirkistown and he managed to win commandingly. The form of the race isn’t exceptional but it got a lot of people talking – especially when Henrietta Knight shelled out £450,000 for him at the Cheltenham December Sale! She said that she’d known about the horse for a long time and described him as “a big horse but he’s so athletic, so light on his feet. He’s a very good jumper too” in a Racing Post article. It was a great story for Jamie Sloan, this horse’s point to point trainer, who’s first runner was this horse when he won at Kirkistown. He goes into training with Nicky Henderson and will run in the colours of Michael Grech (ex Grech and Parkin). A lot of people will be keeping a close eye on this horse this season.

Target – Supreme Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

No17 – Domaine De L’Isle

7yo Bay Gelding (Network x Gratiene de l’Isle (Altayan))

Trainer – Sean Curran

Owner – 12 Oaks Racing

Breeder – Mme Veronique Sayet

Domaine De L’Isle really should be no1 on this list as he was first into it on 4th January, when I saw him winning at Newcastle. He started his career over in France and he won on his fifth attempt in a chase at Paray-Le-Monial and he backed that up with a win at Cluny. He ran with no success on his next four starts before moving to Sean Curran’s Somerset yard. On his first start for them, he was third over hurdles in May 2019. After a break, he was sixth at Newbury. Then, he went to Chepstow on soft ground and hacked up by ten lengths, with both the second and fourth winning since. He ran at Newcastle next and this five and a half length victory over three miles is what earned him a spot in this. He did it very well and the second horse has won since. Next time, he went to Ascot and battled on so well to win by a neck, beating some smart horses. He returned to Ascot in a hot listed race and Ballyoptic, Valtor, Regal Encore and Jepeck were ahead of him. I wasn’t too disheartened about that. Sean Curran won the 2008 Welsh Grand National with 66/1 shot Iris De Balme and Domaine De L’Isle could have a similar target!

Target – Welsh Grand National (Chepstow, December)

No18 – Hand In My Pocket

5yo Bay Mare (Mahler x Galzig (King’s Theatre))

Trainer – John McConnell

Owner – Ms Caroline Ahearn

Breeder – Edmund Cogan

I interviewed John McConnell at the end of January this year and he gave me Hand In My Pocket as a horse to follow. They brought her for £50,000 out of the Cheltenham Sale after coming second in a Dromahane point to point in November 2019. The mare who beat her has since won and bumper and come third in the Champion Bumper for Gordon Elliot. Only two lengths split them in the point to point. Hand In My Pocket started her career, at Musselburgh, shortly after I spoke to John. It was over one mile seven and a half furlongs and she led for most of the way. Her attitude was admirable but she was just headed by Kearney Hill, who has won since. She had a 157-day break over lockdown and reappeared with a fabulous, six and a half length victory at Bellewstown, and the third has won since. She tries hurdles next, finishing third twice and then second, inching up in trip with every start. Last time, she won very impressively by five lengths and it was quite and easy win. three miles appears to be her trip and her half-sister Winter Getaway is a dual winner over this trip in point to points. I think she’s a smart filly and I think she’ll be winning a few more races. Keep an eye on her stablemate Pearl Of The West in novices chases in early next year – she’s a brilliant mare and one of my favourites.

Target – Pertemps Final (Cheltenham Festival)

Keppage (By JTW Equine Images)

No19 – Kepagge

6yo Bay Gelding (Getaway x Miracle Lady (Bob’s Return))

Trainer – David Pipe

Owner – Mrs Sarah Ling

Breeder – Gareth Adair

Kepagge is a really exciting recruit to fences this season. This son of Getaway started out in a maiden point to point at Tallow in Ireland but fell, in February 2019. By November 2019, Kepagge made all to win commandingly at Chepstow in a national hunt flat race. It was a really impressive performance and he went straight into my tracker. A month later, he went to my local track, Leicester, for a novice hurdle on heavy ground. He had an eventful start to the race with a slow jump at the first; then he nearly got rid of Tom Scudamore after swerving at the second. He managed to get round and win by one and a quarter lengths. He was next seen in February at Doncaster in a three-runner race. He was conservatively ridden to go clear after the last. He hung left badly and I get the impression he’s a quirky horse. There was talk of him going chasing after that so we’ll have to see. Lockdown probably came at a bad time for this horse as the penny was just starting to drop. He’s related to three winners – Catching On won over three miles six; Streets of Promise won over three miles and Ponmewood over two miles six. There is a lot of stamina in the pedigree and there’s a lot to come from him.

Target – Coral Cup (Cheltenham Festival)

Here Comes McCoy at Warwick (By JTW Equine Images)

No20 – Here Comes McCoy

5yo Bay Gelding (Dylan Thomas x Is It Her (Arctic Lord))

Trainer – Olly Murphy

Owner – C J Haughey

Breeder – Mrs Mary Mangan

Going to Warwick Races in early January each year for the Classic Chase Meeting is becoming something of a tradition for me and my family. We have been for the past two renewals and, in 2019, I saw Beakstown win and, in 2020, it was Here Comes McCoy who caught my eye. First off, this horse’s name has nothing to do with the legendary A P McCoy! He is owned by McCoy Contractors, who sponsor the Classic Chase, so it was excellent they had a winner on the day. He was successful in the bumper when the sun was dropping right down. The prelims were carnage but he managed to get to post in one piece and cross the finish line in first place. From what I saw, it was an impressive win – he was very professional and the horse who came third has won since. He’s in training with Olly Murphy, who knows how to prepare this kind of horse and get them to win races.

Target – Supreme Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham Festival)

Evander and Ross Turner (By JTW Equine Images)

No21- Evander

5yo Brown Gelding (Arcadio x Blazing Belle (Presenting))

Trainer – Oliver Greenall

Owner – Highclere Tbracing Henry Moore & Partner

Breeder – Frank McGuinness

Number 21 is Evander, who joins the list after Beakstown has been ruled out for the season. But, Evander is a capable replacement. Tom Williams from JTW Equine Images has been raving about this horse! He started out in a point to point at Taylorstown in Ireland, where he won nicely, beating a subsequent winner. On rules debut, he finished second at Ludlow and then second again at Huntingdon. He finally came good at Sedgefield, where he made all impressively. Next up, he unseated in a race when O Connell Street (No12) was second. He put that behind him, once again at Sedgefield, when making all to win, unchallenged. He’s a really exciting recruit to fences and should win a lot of races up north for his talented trainer.

Target- RSA Novices Chase (Cheltenham Festival)

No22 – The Big Breakaway

5yo Chestnut Gelding (Getaway x Princess Mairead (Blueprint))

Trainer – Colin Tizzard

Owner – Eric Jones, Geoff Nicholas, John Romans

Breeder – William Mangan

The Big Breakaway joins the list after Mulcahys Hill has been ruled out for the season. He was part of my list for the 2019/20 Season and I have always sung his praises about how he’ll be a great ‘chaser in the making’. He’s a really huge horse and anything he did over hurdles would always be a bonus. He won a point to point in April 2019 by ten lengths before moving to Colin Tizzard’s yard for a cost of 360,000 Euro. He made his chase debut under rules in the November at Chepstow and he was an easy winner. Less than a month later, he won by seven lengths at Newbury. We didn’t see him again until Cheltenham, where he ran in the Ballymore. He got beat just over fourteen lengths when fourth behind Envoi Allen, Easywork and The Big Getaway. It was a good run and I’m so excited to see him jump a fence.

Target – Marsh Novices Chase