By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
For the last two years, 1st October has been an exciting day for me. It is the day when I release my 20 To Watch.
Planning for each season’s list starts in January. I have a ‘note’ on my phone titled ‘Horses To Watch Out For’ – not 20 To Watch just yet, it’s too early for that and my Grandad always advised never to change your mind when picking horses. Once they were in, it would’ve been bad luck to take them out. It was from him that my passion for this great sport stemmed. Sadly, we could never sit and discuss one of my 20 To Watch lists together but they are extremely important to me as I think they’re a written-down embodiment of my passion for National Hunt Racing.
There are two horses who have actually won grade ones in my list because my aim is to find horses who will win races, regardless of the class. A lot of these ‘horses to follow’ blogs have horses who have won good races already and I don’t want mine to have obvious choices.
This season, I have taken a bit of a different approach in hand-picking horses who will run in all different kinds of races. I’ve got more Northern-based yards represented and one very exciting horse off the flat. There are two unraced horses in the list, which I’ve never had before, and the two debutants from my Flat 10 To Follow have both won. If you couldn’t tell already, I have put a lot of thought into this!
I have made three targets for this season’s list – have a Cheltenham Festival winner, return a profit and have at least 20 winners.
So, I’ll stop rambling because here, in no particular order, is my 20 To Watch for the 2021/22 season.
NO1 – Do Your Job
7yo Bay Gelding (Fame And Glory x Full Of Birds (Epervier Bleu))
Trainer – Michael Scudamore
Owner – Mark Dunphy
Breeder – Mrs C J Berry
Do Your Job began his career in a three-mile point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan for Colin Bowe. His five-length win created a good impression as Mark Dunphy and Derek O’Connor purchased this son of Fame And Glory for £150,000 eighteen days later from the Goffs Autumn HIT Sale. He made his debut for Claire Dyson shortly after and finished fifth of seven. When he ran again, in February 2020, he was in the care of Michael Scudamore and put in a much better effort, finishing second. He won two races in October 2020, before running admirably in a Haydock listed race and finishing fourth in the Tolworth. Connections chose to give him a wind-op and he wore a tongue-strap when running a brilliant race to be second to My Drogo. They bypassed Cheltenham in favour of the two-mile Aintree grade one hurdle, where he was an excellent, staying-on second. Do Your Job’s future lies over fences and, hopefully, it’ll be a bright one.
Target – Manifesto Novices’ Chase
NO2 – Mighty Thunder
8yo Bay Gelding (Malinas x Cool Island (Turtle Island))
Trainer – Lucinda Russell
Owner -Allson Sparkle Ltd
Breeder – C and Mrs Wilson
Mighty Thunder was one of the first horses into my 20 To Watch when he absolutely romped home over four miles one and twenty-four fences at Musselburgh in February. I thought instantly that he was a ‘National horse’. He was agonisingly beaten a length by Time To Get Up in the Midlands Grand National on just his fifth start over fences. He came good in the Scottish Grand National with a thrilling win under Tom Scudamore as regular rider Blair Campbell was injured. He’s quite exposed having ran twenty-six times and won a total of eight races. His Scottish National win earned him a handicap mark of 151 (up 7lbs) and trainer Lucinda Russell won the Grand National in 2017 with One For Arthur off 148. Mighty Thunder should be another live contender for the Scottish-based trainer.
Target – Grand National
NO3 – Zinc White
3yo Grey Gelding (Vadamos x Chinese White (Dalakhani))
Trainer – Oliver Greenall
Owner – S Beetham
Breeder – Skymarc Farm
Zinc White was an extremely expensive (£300,000) purchase from the Goffs London Sale. After racing three times as a two-year-old for Ralph Beckett with no success, he was gelded over the winter and reappeared with a ready win at Wetherby in May. He has a really nice way of moving and he appreciated the soft ground again at Sandown, winning by an eased down seven and a half lengths. He looks like he’ll relish a juvenile hurdle campaign and there’s so much quality in his pedigree. He’s a half-brother to multiple winners Misty Grey, The Trader and Best Effort. Their dam, Chinese White, won the Pretty Polly Stakes amongst six class-one victories. Her dam Chiang Mai won a group three and is a half-sister to the dam of Invincible Spirit, Kodiac and the granddam of Mishriff. Vadamos is having his first National Hunt runners this season and Zinc White should be one of the flag-bearers for the sire and Oliver Greenall’s yard, who had Evander in my list last season.
Target – Triumph Hurdle
NO4 – Champagnesuperover
6yo Bay Gelding (Jeremy x Meldrum Hall (Saddler’s Hall))
Trainer – Olly Murphy
Owner – McNeill Family & Patrick & Scott Bryceland
Breeder – Thomas F Hannon
I had the pleasure of meeting Champagnesuperover at Olly Murphy’s yard in September. He’s a stunning horse, moves beautifully and has a lovely temperament. This horse won his first lifetime start and placed in a listed bumper. Last season, he was in my 20 To Watch and it took him three attempts and a wind-op to finally win over hurdles but he did so in pleasing style at Ayr over two and a half miles. Next time, he was second at Ffos Las after losing a shoe and I thought he ran an absolute blinder to be seventh in the Albert Bartlett. At Aintree, he ran an uncharacteristically poor race, pulling up behind Ahoy Senor (NO8). Champagnesuperover’s sire is the much-missed Jeremy, who sired talented horses like Our Conor, Mister Fisher, Appreciate It and Black Tears. Fences beckon Champagnesuperover and I can’t wait to see him fly over the larger obstacles.
Target – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
NO5 – Fishcake
4yo Chestnut Filly (Mahler x Martovic (Old Vic))
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Owner – ?
Breeder – ?
With Monkfish ruled out for the season, I absolutely had to include his little sister, Fishcake, by Mahler in my list. She was consigned by Ennel Bloodstock to the 2020 Land Rover Sale Part One and was purchased by Peel Bloodstock to race for them and, eventually, become a broodmare. With this being before Monkfish’s novice chasing campaign, she could be a bargain as they only spent €25,000 on her. Hopefully, this filly, who is very well-named, will be just as good as her brother. She’s by Mahler, the sire of some lovely mares like Ms Parfois, Annie Mc and If You Say Run. Her dam Martovic placed four times for Kim Bailey and she’s the daughter of grade two winning chaser Martomik. Fishcake is also a half-sister to Looks Like Power, who is five from forty-three in his career. A lot of pressure is often put on these siblings of top-class racehorse but I’m confident Fishcake can be very good.
Check out this link for more information about Fishcake – https://theracingstudent.godaddysites.com/f/fishpond-fishcake
Target – Mares’ Novice Hurdle (Cheltenham) or Mares’ Bumper (Aintree)
NO6 – Castlebawn West
8yo Bay Gelding (Westerner x Cooksgrave Lady (Anshan))
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Owner – Mrs R Boyd, Mrs M J Armstrong & Exors of the late J B Anderson
Breeder – Thomas Mahler
Castlebawn West split his pastern (the part of his leg between the fetlock and top of the hoof) last season so it’s not certain that we will see him this season. He’s lightly-raced for an eight-year-old with only eleven outings under his belt. He had won a bumper, one hurdle and a novice chase before going into last season. First time out, he probably needed the run and was unsuited to the two-mile three-and-a-half-furlong trip. Despite this, he was a good third behind subsequent winner Daly Tiger and grade one-placed Tornado Flyer. However, the strong form comes on his next start when he was an incredibly gutsy, front-running winner of a Grade B handicap chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He had six winners behind him, including Grand National winner Minella Times, who was carrying almost a stone less than Castlebawn West. It was an incredible weight-carrying performance and he’s in the best possible hands with Willie Mullins. He should be very competitive in the top staying chases.
Target – Grand National
NO7 – Flooring Porter
6yo Bay Gelding (Yeats x Lilymile (Revoque))
Trainer – Gavin Cromwell
Owner – Flooring Porter Syndicate
Breeder – Sean Murphy
Flooring Porter is a wonderful little horse and seems to have a lot of character. He first came onto my radar after he won at Navan in early December, making most of the running and surviving a bad error at the last. Over the summer, he had been rising through handicap company up to graded level and he went right to the top with a bold, front-running display, absolutely romping home in the Christmas Hurdle, despite running around after the last. I sang his praises far and wide before the Stayers Hurdle and I was completely ecstatic when he won – he was completely the best horse in the race and still only six! Unfortunately, everything went wrong at Punchestown for the track’s Stayers Hurdle. He was keen to post; dwelt at the start; had to be rallied into the lead; hung badly left and pulled up. Something must’ve unsettled him. However, he’s better than this and has a big future ahead of him.
Target – Stayers Hurdle
NO8 – Ahoy Senor
6yo Bay Gelding (Dylan Thomas x Dara Supreme (Darazari))
Trainer – Lucinda Russell
Owner – Mrs C Wymer & Pjs Russell
Breeder – D P Constable
Ahoy Senor only joined Lucinda Russell’s yard relatively recently. He started out in point-to-points but he unseated on his first try in March 2020, and returned in the November with a thirty-length win at Kimble over two miles four. Five days later, he changed hands for £50,000 at the Yorton Sale. His first start for Russell was in January in a NH flat race, which he probably wasn’t suited to. Next time, he went up in trip by half a mile over hurdles and won well, making all. Three subsequent winners were in that race. Connections viewed Ahoy Senor good enough to compete in the grade one Sefton Novices Hurdle. It looked a strong race and he was 66/1, but Derek Fox rode him positively as if he was the best horse there. He travelled incredibly well and jumped fluently before putting the race to bed comfortably. I’m confident that this grade one victory wasn’t a fluke and he’s a promising novice chaser!
Target – Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Aintree)
NO9 – Swincombe Fleat
5yo Bay Mare (Yeats x Swincombe Flame (Exit To Nowhere))
Trainer – Anthony Honeyball
Owner – Yeo Racing Partnership
Breeder – M C And Mrs Yeo
Swincombe Fleat is a gorgeous mare and I’m very excited to see her over a hurdle. She’s by Yeats and out of Swincombe Flame, a listed bumper winner and three times winner over hurdles for the Yeo Racing Partnership. Her first foal was Master Debonair, a full sibling to Swincombe Fleat, and he’s a listed bumper winner and grade two-winning hurdler. Swincombe Fleat was fourth on debut when favourite and managed to get off the mark next time out at Fontwell. She showed a wonderful attitude and it earned her a spot in the listed bumper that her dam won in 2011. She led them along in tough conditions and finished a creditable fourth behind fillies who were further back in running. Last time, she ran at Aintree in the mares’ bumper but finished last. However, I think she would’ve run a better race if there was softer ground. She remains an interesting type and I’m sure she’s got a few races in her.
NO10 – Diamant Sur Canapé
3yo Bay Gelding (Diamond Boy x Belledonne (Ultimately Lucky))
Trainer – Mark Walford
Owner – URSA Major Racing
Some of you may not be too familiar with trainer Mark Walford but I have two of his horses in my list this year. I have seen a lot of behind-the-scenes from the stable through my involvement in URSA Major Racing. This racing club offers incredible transparency and the horses seem happy and loved. This is reflected in Mark’s stats for last season – 18 winners from 86 runners gave him a 21% strike rate and profit of £94.71 to a £1 stake. He has had a quiet summer but has a good team to go to war with this winter, including horse NO19 and Diamant Sur Canape. URSA Major Racing bought this horse from the Goffs Spring Store Sale in May for £18,000. He’s a well-bred sort and could be a bit of a bargain. He’s by Diamond Boy, who is unique in that he was a very smart flat horse but also a full-brother to three times grade one winning chaser Golden Silver. He’s made a good impression with progeny like Grand Sancy and Monsieur Lecoq. Diamant Sur Canape’s dam, Belledonne, is unraced but her four-year-old daughter placed over hurdles in France last year. Connections won’t be rushing this gelding so we might not see him until late in the season but he’s an exciting bumper horse.
Target – Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race (Aintree)
NO11 – Mulcahys Hill
9yo Bay Gelding (Brian Boru x Belsalsa (Kingsalsa))
Trainer – Warren Greatrex
Owner – Jim And Claire Limited
Breeder – Ned Morris
Mulcahys Hill is my most favourite horse in training – I absolutely adore him! He suffered a nasty injury which ruled him out of last season, but he’s back in training and the yard have done an amazing job with him as he’s far from straight forward. He placed in a grade one novice hurdle, only beaten a nose, all the way back in December 2017. Then, he had a full season of chasing and the highlight was probably following in Defi Du Seuil, Lostintranslation and Vinndication in the Scilly Isles. He returned in the 2019/20 season with a wonderful win at Cheltenham’s opening meeting. He jumped incredibly well and battled on bravely to defy Wholestone by a neck. Next time, he was pulled up over national fences and didn’t seem to be enjoying it with the ground said to be to blame. He was beaten by Aye Right in a two-runner race and the form of that has worked out well with Aye Right placing in the Ladbrokes Trophy and at the Festival. I was there when Mully ran in the Ultima Handicap Chase in 2020 and did very well to be twelfth. He’s a very talented horse and I’m sure he’s got another win in him this season. The main thing is that he stays safe and sound.
Target – Ultima Handicap Chase
NO12 – Saint Dalina
7yo Bay Mare (Saint Des Saints x Dalina (Trempoline))
Trainer – Charlie Longsdon
Owner – Alan Halsall
Breeder – Mme Josette Lasseur
Saint Dalina is a really interesting mare. She’s by Saint Des Saints and out of Dalina, a three times winning mare. Her oldest foal is nine-year-old Mon Lino, who has won three hurdles and a chase. Saint Dalina can boast the same record over hurdles. She never had any success in NH Flat races and it took her five starts to win over hurdles, which was on her first try at two miles four. On her first start last season, she was unlucky to be beaten a neck when her jockey Tom Buckley lost his irons and did well to even stay on. Everything went right at Uttoxeter next time over three miles. She won by thirteen lengths and, apart from a blip at the third last, she was very professional. Next time, she was beaten three lengths by Mr Harp over the same course and distance, just on heavy ground. That form was confirmed at Warwick in a Pertemps qualifier when he was three- and three-quarter lengths ahead in second when Saint Dalina was fourth. She went to Ascot for a competitive handicap hurdle, where she was a good third. On Midlands National Day, she was a really gutsy winner, leading from three out and then holding on to win by a neck. Tom Buckley mentioned that day that she’d appreciate a fence and I look forward to seeing how she does this season.
Target – Mares’ Chase
NO13 – Butch
4yo Bay Gelding (Kayf Tara x Leading On (Presenting))
Trainer – Olly Murphy
Owner – McNeill Family
Breeder – Aiden Murphy
I saw a video of Butch, who is named after the late great The Butcher Said, on the McNeill Family’s Instagram and I decided I really liked the look of him. I fell in love with him when I met him at Olly Murphy’s and saw his gorgeous looks and gentle personality. I stood with him in the stable whilst he was eating his breakfast and he was only too happy to let me stroke his neck and face. He’s a full sibling to Eavesdropping, a winner for Olly in May. She had been second on her first start and looks a smart prospect. Follow That is their other sibling and he’s yet to win but has gone close on his last two starts, also for Olly. Their dam was unraced but she’s a half sibling to nine-times winner Princely Prayer, the talented Kings Temptation and three other winners. Butch is a very exciting horse and here’s what Olly had to say about him –
“He’s a lovely son of Kayf Tara, owned by Max McNeill. We’ll start of in a bumper this side of Christmas. Does everything very nicely, jumps really well and he’s a lovely horse for the future.”
Target – Champion Bumper
NO14 – Confirmation Bias
6yo Bay Gelding (Presenting x Bonnie Parker (Un Desperado))
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Owner -Colm Donlon
Breeder – Knocktartan House Stud
Confirmation Bias is one of my (many) cliff horses but I have a particular soft spot for this lad. He won a bumper on debut beating Sizable Sam, who won two races for the 20 To Watch last season, and, next time, was second, beaten fourteen lengths. On his first start over hurdles, he was beaten thirty-seven lengths by Do Your Job (NO1) and then he was only denied by a head at Taunton. He ran terribly at the same track in December and returned with a front-running second place in a race that has worked out brilliantly. Next, he went to Newbury in March and ran appallingly, but he got a lot of screen time because his rider and the winning jockey had a heated exchange after the race. Confirmation Bias received cheekpieces for his next start and they worked wonders, helping him to finally get his head in front. He was still green and carried more weight than all his rivals. They queued up to challenge but none could pass. Next time, he was second to the talented four-year-old Casa Loupi with the other runners extremely strung out. His family have a reputation for being quirky and difficult – he’s no exception. He’s built to enjoy chasing and I can’t wait to see him back out this season.
Target – Maghull Novices’ Chase (Aintree)
NO15 – Berkshire Royal
6yo Bay Gelding (Sir Percy x Forest Express (Kaaptive Edition))
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Owner – Andy Bell & Fergus Lyon
Breeder – Churchill Bloodstock Investments LTD
Berkshire Royal has fascinated me since his first start over hurdles in the Supreme off a 515-day break. He’s by Derby winner Sir Percy and his dam ran twice in Australia. As a foal, he went through the ring at Tattersalls for £27,000 and Andrew Balding bought him for £60,000 as a yearling. He never won as a two-year-old and was gelded during the following winter. He won three of his nine starts as a three-year-old. Then, he dropped off the radar until the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, running for Willie Mullins. In the Supreme, he couldn’t land a blow but didn’t disgrace himself. I get the impression he’s difficult to keep sound because he didn’t run again for 430 days. (In the meantime, he was entered in the novice hurdles at Cheltenham.) On 14th May, he went to Kilbeggan over two miles three and a half and he was keen but dominated for a clear victory. I assume he’ll stay over hurdles this season and there are some good prizes in him.
Target – Coral Cup
NO16 – Phoenix Way
8yo Bay Gelding (Stowaway x Arcuate (Arch))
Trainer – Harry Fry
Owner – J P McManus
Breeder – Eugene McDermott
Even though Phoenix Way is an eight-year-old, he has only raced seven times under rules after winning a point to point in January 2018. For Harry Fry, he finished fifth over two miles, and, next time out, he was second, beaten five lengths, in a race that contained Hold The Note, Greaneteen and Zanza. Next time, he relished being upped half a mile in trip and beat grade two winner Third Wind. He had a wind-op before the 2019/20 season when he ran once, winning by a head. He won first time out over fences, but he then burst a blood vessel in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and we didn’t see him again for 124 days. In the Manifesto Novices Chase, he was detached as they turned for home, but he made eye-catching headway before a shuddering mistake. He was a non-runner at Galway over the summer due to the ground. This is Phoenix Way’s second season over fences and he doesn’t look like he has reached his full potential yet.
Target – Ryanair Chase
NO17 – Blue Lord
6yo Bay Gelding (Blue Bresil x Lorette (Cachet Noir))
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Owner – Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
Breeder – Mrs Joelle Morruzzi & Mrs Raymonde Demai
Blue Lord raced three times in France as a four-year-old, winning one race before moving to Willie Mullins. He showed a great will-to-win at Punchestown on stable debut and made a good impression. Next time, he was upped in trip to two miles four and was second to Bob Olinger in a grade one. He was third to Appreciate It and Ballyadam at Leopardstown before contesting the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Disaster struck when Blue Lord was running a mighty race for second but crumbled on landing after the last. It was a nasty fall but he showed no ill-effects when running prominently at Punchestown next time. Arguably, he got too high at the last, which emphasised Echoes In Rain’s advantage, and he looked tired when Colonel Mustard nabbed second. Blue Lord could stay over hurdles or join the likes of Appreciate It and Bob Olinger for a novice chase campaign. It will be interesting to see what Willie Mullins choses to do with this admirably consistent horse.
Target – Champion Hurdle / Marsh Novices Chase
NO18 – Nube Negra
7yo Brown Gelding (Dink x Manly Dream (Highest Honor))
Trainer – Dan Skelton
Owner – T Spraggett
Breeder – Cuadra Intermorte
Nube Negra is a fascinating horse. By French-bred stallion Dink, who was third in the Spanish Derby, and out of French-bred mare Manly Dream, whose sole race threw up two group one winners, Nube Negra is officially a Spanish-bred racehorse and, along with his parents, lives in Warwickshire with Dan Skelton. He was relatively successful as a hurdler but chasing is where he has flourished. He won at Warwick and Fakenham in October 2019 before finishing second in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and the Kingmaker. We didn’t see him again for 323 days until he won the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, beating Altior. He travelled insanely well and jumped boldly throughout, bar a chancy jump at the last. It was after this that I really delved into his pedigree. In the Champion Chase, Nube Negra was then a close second and he would, arguably, have won if not carrying more weight than Put The Kettle On. At Punchestown, he was beaten over twenty lengths by Chacun Pour Soi and Allaho. He’ll no doubt face them again this year but he’s an excellent two-miler.
Target – Champion Chase
NO19 – Orkan
7yo Bay Gelding (Shirocco x Zefooha (Lomitas))
Trainer – Mark Walford
Owner – C J Grindal & J A Scarrow
Breeder – Mrs G B Walford
Orkan is the second of the two Mark Walford runners and I’ve heard positive things from the yard. I was extremely taken with this son of Shirocco after he won at Warwick in February. He took a while to actually win a race and it happened in March 2020 at Newcastle, where he raced freely and grabbed the lead in the closing stages. He was a well-beaten fourth of nineteen in October at Carlisle before he finished second, beaten by the capable Dancewiththewind. At Wetherby over Christmas, Orkan won in gutsy style and, then, he was really impressive to make most of the running and win by six lengths at Warwick. He went to Kelso for the class two Morebattle Hurdle, where he finished ninth, but the form is very strong and the ground was probably not ideal. The same can be said for last time out when he was fifth, but only beaten four lengths. I can wait to see Orkan over a fence this season.
Target – Red Rum Handicap Chase (Aintree)
NO20 – Limestone Rock
5yo Bay Gelding (Leading Light x Accordian Royale (Accordian))
Trainer – Mouse Morris
Owner – Michael O’Flynn & John F O’Flynn
Breeder – J F Mernagh
Limestone Rock concludes the list and I was very keen on this horse at the start of the year. He was second on debut in a NH Flat race, but Mouse Morris quickly put him over hurdles and, on his first start over obstacles, he was third to a subsequent grade three winner and one of my cliff horses Captain Kangaroo. The trip was probably on the short side for Limestone Rock as he managed to win at Naas on heavy ground over two miles three in really taking style. Next time, he went to Thurles for a grade three but ran no race and pulled up coughing, before four out. This horse looks to have a bright future and Morris knows how to handle these good horses. Limestone Rock has an interesting pedigree: he’s one of Leading Light’s first crop and he’s the second-best progeny of the sire. His dam was unraced but she’s a full sister to grade one winner Accordian Etoile and multiple graded winner French Accordian. I’m hoping Limestone Rock can win some of those kind of races like his uncles!
Target – Flogas Novices Chase (Leopardstown, February)