Five To Follow – National Hunt 16/17

It’s that time of the season, when the horses to follow lists come out and horses are jotted into trackers and notebooks across the land.

The National Hunt sphere sees old favourite come back year on year, so my particular five to follow are fairly young (majority are novices’), so that there may be value in following them progress.

Hopefully the sextet can see us build up to the big days with plenty of profit already banked!

EDWULF (7-y-o gelding – Joseph O’Brien – JP McManus)

Another to keep an eye on as the season progresses is the potentially useful Edwulf. He’s in the capable hands of fledgling trainer Joseph O’Brien after moving from father Aidan’s yard after his switch from Ben Pauling.

He ran three times for Aidan last season and there was three promising, yet very frustrating runs. Despite being sent off a big price on his chasing debut, he looked to have the race in the bag as he powered clear before the last only to come to grief at the final obstacle.

A drop down to hurdles followed after being purchased by JP McManus and despite sketchy jumping as the tempo increased, he battled on well to hold the very useful Haymount at bay. A Grade 2 beckoned next and again, he was running a big race before coming down at the third last.

Of course, jumping is clearly an issue but having spent a summer schooling with Joseph and his team, he is sure to have learned a lot. It looks as though the plan is to return to Novices’ Chases and he could progress into a very useful horse, should his jumping hold up.

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BATTLE OF SHILOH (7-y-o gelding – Tom George – Paul and Clare Rooney)

Tom George and Paddy Brennan have enjoyed a superb partnership over the years, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see the pair part ways, as Adrian Heskin arrives from Ireland to become retained rider for George.

They have started well and surprisingly and they look to have plenty of solid horses to go to war with this season, with one of the most interesting, the still unbeaten Battle Of Shiloh.

Having won twice in the P2P sphere, he scored gamely on both hurdles starts last season. He rallied strongly on both occasions and it appears he has tremendous courage to go with his eye-catching ability.

It looked as though his unbeaten run was going to come to an abrupt end after some shoddy jumping on his chasing debut earlier this season and after a mistake at the last seen him a fair few lengths behind Jimmy The Jetplane, it looked as though he was to succumb to defeat.

However after a couple of reminders he picked up smartly and in the end, went past Jimmy The Jetplane to win smartly going away in the shadows of the post.

He is sure to have learned plenty from that run and with many sure to take the run on its bare form, the manner of the win suggests he could be a fair few pounds ahead of the handicapper. He has improvement to come and he is one who could be worth keeping on side as the season progresses.

WESTEND STORY (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs – Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club)

Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson often team up with great success and one of their more likely types this season looks to be the exciting Westend Story.

He made a fairly innocuous start to racing life, falling twice in P2P’s, before a switch to bumpers – and the Phillip Hobbs stable – seemed to work some magic. He made his debut on Boxing Day at Huntingdon, in what looked a decent enough bumper, before being backed into odds-on, winning by a cosy six-lengths.

It was a very pleasing performance for connections and they wouldn’t have to wait too long before tasting success again, as he broke the heart of his rivals on Valentine’s Day (I’m sorry), winning a race at Exeter by 18l.

They didn’t turn out to be the strongest of races, which allowed him to be sent off at 20/1 in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He travelled nicely into the race before looking set to be outpaced over three furlongs out, as the tempo increased.

He was slightly tapped for toe but he responded well to his rider’s urgings, staying on well without ever having the pace to threaten the leaders. He picked up the pieces to finish fifth and over a longer trip this season, he could be a force to be reckoned with, if schooling at the Hobbs stable has worked.

Of course, that is a slight concern given his P2P efforts but Hobbs is often reliable at readying one for their novice hurdling campaign. He’s currently 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it will be interesting to see where he aimed.

NICHOLLS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARRACUDJA (5-y-o gelding – Paul Nicholls – Ditcheat Racing Club Marracudja)

It wouldn’t be a five (or ten) to follow over the jumps without a Paul Nicholls runner and this year, that coveted nod goes towards Marracudja. He made a rather disappointing start to live over hurdles, flopping behind the very impressive Peace And Co.

He was put away for the rest of the season and when returning fresh, he won two novices’ hurdles at Wincanton in fine style, suggesting he had plenty of ability. He contested a really competitive race at Kempton on Boxing Day, where he ran a fine race to be third behind subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Altior.

He returned for a Grade 2 at Kempton at the end of February and he battled on well, only just failing to get the better of the well-regarded Winter Escape. He was a no-show in a Grade 1 at Aintree but he showed no ill-effects of that race, as he embarked on a chasing career earlier this month.

It always looked as though he would develop into a chaser and if he progresses from his hurdles form, he will be a force to be a reckoned with in the novice division. He could hardly have been more impressive on debut, defying a drift, jumping boldly out in front before moving readily clear of subsequent winner Ballyboley.

He ticked all the boxes as an impressive novice and given his trainer is already nominating targets at Aintree and Punchestown (likely to skip Cheltenham), it suggests he rates him highly. He could be a very nice horse.

CONSUL DE THAIX (4-y-o gelding – Nicky Henderson – JP McManus)

The final member of the five to follow comes from the Nicky Henderson yard, in Consul De Thaix. The JP McManus-owned gelding ran twice in Britain last season for Henderson and it was evident they rated him highly, as he was thrown in at the deep end with a Grade 2 engagement at Cheltenham.

He travelled with enthusiasm for Barry Geraghty and looked to have every chance coming over the last. He battled bravely but couldn’t find what was required to get past the highly-rated Protek De Flos and Clan Des Obeaux.

Subsequently, he was put away until being aimed at the Triumph Hurdle, for which he was sent off at 33/1. He was kept towards the rear of the field and was outpaced when push came to shove but he stayed on once beaten to run a nice enough race.

Considering it was only his second start under rules in this country, it was a fair effort and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at graded races or maybe a top end handicap later in the season.

He has plenty of scope to improve under the handling of Nicky Henderson and he rates as an exciting prospect that perhaps may slip under the radar.

Enjoy A Sweet Selection In The Cesarewitch

Friday sends us into the weekend in buoyant mood, after Rhododendron scored impressively at HQ. She showed real class and is an exciting prospect to follow, if she heads over to the Breeders’s Cup.

Hopefully her performance will bode well for the weekend, where Sweet Selection is selection in the Cesarewitch. Hughie Morrison’s charge is well and truly on an upward curve this season, rattling up a hat-trick of wins before following up a decent effort at York, with a career-best fifth place in the Doncaster Cup.

She gets in the Cesarewitch off a mark of 87 and that is set to significantly rise in the coming weeks. Champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is riding well and he is a solid booking. The four-year-old will relish the trip, should have no issues with the ground and looks sure to go close off a generous weight. The current 9/1 is fair value and given most firms are offering five places (six at Sky Bet), then she deserves another look.

Elsewhere on a fantastic day of racing, Churchill looks set to cement his Classic status with a big performance in the Dewhurst. He should take all the beating but from a betting perspective, it may be worth taking a trip to York to sample some more value.

The Rockingham Stakes (3.10 York) looks a fair renewal but Sir Dancealot is a horse who could prove a cut above his rivals. He made a fairly inauspicious start to racing life in a hot Windsor maiden but that run was left well in the past, as he came out next time and hacked up at Kempton, landing a fairly serious gamble in the process.

He followed up in a decent Conditions race at the same track next (subsequent winner Fly At Dawn was back in third) and his final start to date confirmed all promise. It looked a solid Group 3 (though favourite Escobar clearly wasn’t right) and he looked a potential winner a furlong out.

He travelled nicely for Jim Crowley (has ridden him on all four occasions) and battled on well behind Larchmont Lad and Whitecliffsofdover, getting within a length at the line.

The form could prove to be very strong and given he wasn’t overly well placed during the race last time, it would be no surprise him improve on that performance.

The drop back to 6f is a slight concern given he has pulled hard on occasions but he settled well last time and if that is the case on Saturday, he can pounce off a strong pace from a favourable high draw. Shane Kelly is an able deputy to Crowley and the current 4/1 seems a very fair bet in what looks a winnable Listed race.

Selections:

1pt e/w: Sweet Selection (Cesarewitch) @ 9/1 Various

1.5pts win: Sir Dancealot (15.10 York) @ 4/1 Various

 

 

 

Side With Rhododendron At Newmarket

Racing returns to terrestrial TV this Friday, as the Channel 4 cameras pan to Newmarket and York.

The fillies take centre stage in the Fillies’ Mile, with plenty hoping the leading protagonists can follow last year’s winner Minding in taking a leading role in next year’s Classics.

Godolphin won the race on three consecutive occasions from 2010-2012, so it’s no surprise to see sufficient interest in current market leader Sobetsu. The filly showed plenty of promise when running behind the reappearing Spatial, before going on to a wide-margin victory at HQ.

She could potentially be anything and although there is a fair level of excitement surrounding her, it may be worth taking a chance with Rhododendron. Aidan O’Brien’s filly is already a Group 2 winner, after scoring in battling fashion, edging out her repappearing stablemate, Hydrangea.

O’Brien’s got his string in fine form, as shown by his 1-2-3 in the Arc last weekend, and the fact his filly Found fared best gives an extra, albeit small, boost of confidence ahead of the Fillies’ Mile.

Rhododenron landed a mini-gamble when winning her maiden at Glorious Goodwood and after back-to-back wins, she ran a nice enough race in defeat last time in the Moyglare. This looks a logical step and given her breeding suggests she will relish the step up to a mile, the current 4/1 looks more than fair.

Ryan Moore gets back on board (he is 1/1 on her) and she can announce herself as a possible Classic type and make it three in a row for Aidan O’Brien.

Elsewhere on the card, it is a shame Mark Johnston appears to be in poor form. His runners have struggled to reach the expected heights over the past week and there may well be some small issues plaguing his animals. However, this appears to have been factored into the price of three of his runners on Friday.

He saddles Yalta in the opener and the colt looks extremely interesting. After scoring twice in fine fashion, he disappointed in hot company. He slammed rivals with ease in the Molecomb and given The Last Lion – subsequent Middle Park winner – was back in second, the form looks solid.

Two disappoint efforts have ensued, though one of these was when sent off well-fancied for the Nunthorpe, and he has now acquired something of an all-or-nothing reputation. This may be the case tomorrow, though the 8/1 could prove to be a silly price now back in Group 3 company.

Another pair of Johnston runners are Lumiere and New Caledonia. Lumiere put a poor Guineas display behind her when bolting up over 6f at Newmarket next time out. A flat effort at Deauvile was followed with a nice enough third at Doncaster and if she has her own way of things in front, she could be hard to stop on a going day in the 14.05. The 11/1 is fair, though there has to be slight reservations given MJ’s form.

The same can be applied to New Caledonia, who benefited from the step up to 10f, when winning at Ascot last month. He was a credible third to Southdown Lad on softer than ideal ground last time and could be ahead of his current mark of 95, now returning to a strongly ran 10f on better ground in the 15.45.

He’s been notably strong in the market since the prices opened, which has to be taken as a positive given the MJ factor and he is of interest at a current 9/1. Yalta, Lumiere & New Caledonia could ensure Johnston returns to form in some style, all at nice prices.

Selection:

2pts win: Rhododendron (Fillies’ Mile) @ 4/1 (Various)

 

 

 

Erik The Red Can Answer Cambridgeshire Conundrum

The Cambridgeshire is often one of the most intriguing betting heats to take place on the Rowley Mile, as a large field spans right across the track.

As always, we’re in for a big price favourite, with last year’s winner Third Time Lucky heading the betting at 8/1. This appears to have been his aim for some time, so he should be readied to perfection but at a bigger price, it is Erik The Red that looks worth a second look.

Kevin Ryan is in fair form himself and after Erik The Red rattled up a quickfire hat-trick around this time last year, it could be argued the Cambridgeshire will have been suggested as a long-term goal.

He has hit the frame in four of his six handicap bows this season, including a fine third at York off this mark last time. He was given plenty to do that day and stayed on well, so now with Paul Mulrennan on board, it would be no surprise to see the rider make more use of him.

He’s drawn high, so should get a nice toe into the race and if he can improve, which isn’t out of the realms of possibility for the 4-y-o gelding, then he should go very close at a rather large 25/1. Sky Bet are currently joint-top price and are paying SIX PLACES, so it looks worth a small investment at this stage.

Elsewhere on Saturday’s Newmarket card, Best Of Days can make up for his close runner-up effort at York by getting his head in front in the Royal Lodge Stakes before Lady Aurelia shows her dazzling speed in the Cheveley Park Stakes.

The Middle Park Stakes looks fairly disappointing without the star turn of Caravaggio, yet Mehmas could be the answer against Blue Point. Richard Hannon JR’s colt got the better of the favourite when the pair met at Goodwood before his stamina was slightly stretched when runner-up to the classy Churchill in Ireland.

Back over his favoured six furlongs, Mehmas, who will be retired to stud at the end of his 2-y-o career, can confirm form with the favourite and he certainly looks value at the prices.

Selections:

1pt ew – Erik The Red – Cambridgeshire – 25/1 (Sky Bet – 6 places)

1.5pt win – Mehmas – Middle Park – 5/1 (Various)

Forge Clear At Newmarket

Newmarket’s Cambridgeshire meeting takes centre stage tomorrow and there looks to be plenty of interesting sorts taking to the Rowley Mile.

We begin with a Listed contest at 1.50 and although wide-open, it isn’t the strongest renewal in terms of class. However there are a number of interesting runners, including Wilamina, who looks potentially useful before a disappointing effort last time out. If you’re willing to line through that performance, then she should be bang there at a nice double figure price. However, the nod goes towards Kevin Ryan’s charge, Ashadihan.

The filly burst onto the scene with a blistering turn of foot during a Haydock maiden victory, before running a huge race to finish second in the Albany. Something was clearly amiss as she flopped in the Albany but she bounced back in style, with a smooth success in a Lingfield Group 3 on her first start of the season.

She ran solid enough raves behind Alice Springs and Qemah on her last two starts at Group 1 level and now a return to tomorrow’s level should allow to go mightily close again. At 6/1, she looks a solid proposition.

It would be a surprise to see Journey turned over in the 2.30, as a reproduction of last year’s form puts her clear of rivals and her efforts this season have suggested she’s retained plenty of ability. She won this race by eight lengths last season and should take the beating yet again.

It’s hard to back against Fair Eva in the Rockfel Stakes, as she is sure to relish the step up to 7f for the first time. Her pedigree (daughter of the mighty Frankel) suggests she will enjoy further in time and although she was turned over by the very smart Queen Kindly at York, the winner had conditions perfect and may turn out to be more suited to a sharp six at this stage.

Her odds aren’t fantastic but it could be a performance to put forward her 1000 Guineas credentials. Exmouth has the potential to be extremely useful but the more experience Fair Eva should have enough to keep her at bay in what looks a safe enough forecast.

Nathra is a worthy favourite in the Shadwell Joel Stakes but it may be worth taking a chance on Forge. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge has ran well in defeat behind Nemoralia, Thikriyaat, Ribchester and Zonderland before he managed to get his head in front at Haydock last time out. He has a similar profile to Confront, who won this race for connections back in 2009. At 5/1, he should give the favourite plenty to think about.

For the rest of the card, Alfarris is an interesting and expensive purchase, who should go well for the in form William Haggas yard. Century Dream holds a Group 1 entry and should progress plenty from his nice Ascot sixth on debut. He looks value against a favourite that was rather flat last time out and could be worth a second glance at a nice enough price, with Simon Crisford’s horses in decent order.

The strong-travelling Dal Harraild is sure to have plenty of supporters in the penultimate race but the consistent Furia Cruzada could be one to stay on best from a gentle pace and with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, an extremely fine judge of pace, a chance can be taken at 5/1.

The ‘lucky last’ just to happens to be the Silver Cambridgeshire, so those who sample the ‘luck’ will be rewarded at a a healthy price. Dawn Mirage has come in for early support for Messrs Haggas and Moore but Freight Train catches the eye for Mark Johnston and Jamie Spencer.

Johnston’s charges are renowned for being extremely tough and this front-running sort could prove hard to pass if coming on for his run at Pontefract last time out. He had flirted with another big performance as he streaked clear before being collared late on, yet with Spencer now on board, he could of interest now fit from that effort.

Selections:

1pt win: 1:50 – Ashadihan @ 6/1 (Various)

1pt win: 3:40 – Forge @ 5/1 (Various)

1pt ew: 5:55 – Freight Train @ 20/1 (Various)

Harzand Looks The Early Arc Value

 

The first weekend in October is often greeted with mixed emotions from fans of flat racing. A magnificent two days often lay in prosper just across the Channel, though of course, it also draws a curtain over the flat season itself.

The Prix de l’Arc de Triumph, or the Arc as it is more commonly referred to, is the late-season centre-piece for many, often bringing together Derby winners from across Europe, as well as plenty of Asian interest.

The Asian angle this year looked set to arrive with A Shin Hikari after his blistering success at Chantilly earlier in the season, yet a bid looks unlikely after his trainer suggested 12f would be a step too far and he has also subsequently flopped at Ascot.

So, at the time of writing, Classic winners and an exciting older horse currently take their place towards the head of the market in what looks an extremely open renewal.

Postponed swerved a crack at the Arc last year, after a late trainer switch, yet after success in Dubai and more recently Epsom he looks a major player this season.

Minding was an ultra-impressive Oaks winner, who quashed any stamina doubts as she managed to negate her way out of trouble to stay on strongly down the Epsom camber to mow down her rivals with minimum fuss. She ranks as an interesting entrant, as does French Oaks winner, La Cressonnierre.

French Derby winner Almanzor has been slightly supported since his Chantilly win, while Jack Hobbs and Zawraq hold major question marks given their absences.

So, arguably the strongest form on offer to date, is the Epsom Derby form.

Harzand ran out a game winner that day, despite splitting a plate earlier in the day, and the sustained market support proved telling as he repelled all challengers down the straight.

He is bred for a trip, meaning conditions at Chantilly should be ideal. Of course, a potential crack at the St Leger may beckon given his stamina, yet it looks as though that is factored into his price as the current 10/1 on offer for the Arc looks too big. He surely doesn’t start near that, if he goes?

Golden Horn landed the Derby last year en route to Arc success and the manner in which Harzand has continued his upward curve means he must be respected for the rest of the season.

He was given an educational ride on his only start as a two-year-old, keeping on nicely down the straight without ever getting involved in the finish. Since then, he hasn’t been beaten.

A wide-margin maiden success was followed up with a battling victory over subsequent Derby third Idaho in the Ballysax Stakes. The pair pulled clear of the field and this was a similar story at Epsom, only with the highly-rated US Army Ranger splitting the pair.

US Army Ranger had every chance to win that day but he couldn’t find the extra gear to pass the gutsy Harzand and this could well be the case at Chantilly, should the ground turn up in it’s usual soft(ish) state.

Harzand will relish the trip (and probably further in time) while any cut in the ground is a bonus. We’ll possibly be relying on the weather to ensure Dermot Weld decides to send him to Chantilly instead of Doncaster (what a choice) but if that is the case, the 10/1 could be large.

It looks as though the Irish Derby may be the next port of call for Harzand and if he can put in an authoritative performance at the Curragh, then expect him to shorten up for October’s main event.

He ticks plenty of boxes and looks as though he will have even more to offer in time. The Aga Khan hasn’t tasted Arc success since his star filly Zarkava won the race back in 2008, so he’ll love the chance to head into it with a live chance yet again.

The 10/1 for Harzand seems more than fair and come October, he could well be a whole lot shorter.

Selection: Harzand to win the Arc @ 10/1 (Various)

Idaho Can Land Epsom Derby Success

Aidan O’Brien is no stranger to saddling well-fancied runners in Classics on both sides of the Irish Sea. So much so, that a lot of his 2-y-o progeny head the markets before even gracing the racecourse, such is their impeccable breeding.

It’s more of the same this year, as although things haven’t exactly gone smoothly during many Classic preparations, the well-regarded US Army Ranger arrives unbeaten and is likely to go off close to favourite along with Dante winner Wings of Desire.

The vibes have been strong about US Army Ranger and he was still rather green when just seeing off a rather carefully-ridden Port Douglas last time out. He is sure to improve for that run but he is short enough given any greenness will be punished on the unique undulations at Epsom.

O’Brien also had the option – well, he still does – of saddling recent French 2000 Guineas winner, The Gurkha. The manner in which he strode away in the French Classic was visually very impressive, yet he looks to be swerving Epsom where he will head to Royal Ascot.

On a side note, The Gurkha v Galileo Gold v Atwaad will be some race in the St James’ Palace.

Back to Epsom and O’Brien’s string. Beacon Rock landed a Group 3 last week but looks set to swerve Epsom (probably as he’s carrying my ante-post money from last year), while the consistent Deauville ran a nice enough race at York to suggest he could mount a challenge.

This in turn means Idaho may go into the race as AOB’s ‘third-string’.

There was plenty of confidence about the colt as he reappeared in the Derrinstown Derby Trial, a race in which AOB has sent out the winner on nine of the last 16 occasions, with subsequent Derby winners Galileo and High Chaparral among those on the illustrious roll of honour.

Ryan Moore didn’t ride the colt at Leopardstown as connections felt Shogun would have had a better chance had the ground remained on the quicker side, yet it may have been a case of given potential Derby rider Seamie Heffernan a chance to get a feel of riding the colt.

He certainly will have learned a lot as he gave the three-year-old too much to do that day, coming round the bend five-wide before staying on eye-catchingly well close home. He finished third behind Moonlight Magic and Shogun, yet if you ran that race again, it would be fair to suggest he would have solid claims of reversing the form with the winner, who had the run of the race.

Moonlight Magic, incidently, has been given very bullish reviews by Jim Bolger at Breakfast With The Stars, saying he wouldn’t swap his Derby charge with anything. A good sign for those perhaps unlucky in behind?

Four different jockeys have ridden Idaho in his four races, so a return to the plate for Heffernan would be a boost to his chances given he knows his style of running.

He is a son of Galileo out of a Danehill mare, so stamina is no issue and he has ran well on ground ranging from good to heavy, so conditions shouldn’t affect his chances too much.

After scoring on debut, which is somewhat of a surprising rarity for many of O’Brien’s major stars, he could only manage fourth on bottomless ground in a Group 1 at Saint-Cloud. He was subsequently put away for a break and made a nice enough reappearance behind the already race-fit Harzard in the Ballysax Stakes.

It was a nice performance given how uneasy he was at the start and after picking up the running a furlong and a half out, he looked set to stay there until the stamina-proven Harzand (who reappears at Epsom but could be more of a St Leger horse) ran him down close home. The pair pulled clear of the field and it suggested Idaho had retained plenty of ability.

He will stay better than most at Epsom and although he can get a little edgy at the start, he showed signs of maturity on his last racecourse visit.

Given his form figures of 1423, he may not strike as a typical O’Brien Derby horse but at a current 28/1, he is a big enough price to appear each-way value.

He should be finishing best of all down the straight and if he finds his rhythm early enough, he may well do more than run into a place.

Top Selection – Epsom Derby:

Idaho @ 28/1 (Betway, 25/1 Various)

 

 

The Secret Punter Returns…

After a short break on the punting front, I couldn’t help but be lured back in after reading Steve Palmer’s book, ‘Born To Punt’, brought back to my attention by his recent appearance on Britain at the Bookies.

His diary extract, of which I have been a regular reader (in fact, it’s the main reason I purchase the RP on a Sunday), is filled with the honest highs and lows of a gambler who has to maintain a regular role to fund his passion.

Knowledge, confidence and a drive to succeed is needed to pursue the dream of making it big in any form of life, and it is no different with gambling. After a rather quiet summer, devoid of much quality football, the season is fast approaching so now seems a perfect time to get back on the proverbial horse.

I’ve been in contact with the original runner of this Betting Blog and with his permission I have been given free rein to express my weekly highs-and-lows to his already solid following, so to him I have to thank.

Hopefully you will be join me on what should be a rollercoaster season on the football, with regular trips to my beloved horses, golfing venues and plenty of bookies tied in with managing a regular 9-5. It’s alright this life, isn’t it?

As a treat, I’ve noted down my punting action from Tuesday afternoon onwards to give you a taster of what is set to come. Although be warned, my stakes may not reach the highs of Palmer’s given my financial situation and lack of confidence after a rather sluggish 2015 on the punting front…

Tuesday;

After watching another episode of Britain at the Bookies, it got me thinking – how many different types of punter are there? I could relate to a large amount of those involved in the show, with pretty much all bases covered. I had been reckless, over-confident and pretty much sought after as many thrills as possible in my younger days and my mind back to those dark days with the sad tales on show.

I lacked the clear head needed to gamble coherently, with the chasing stage the worst of all. Fortunately, after forcing a sabbatical on myself a couple of times during rather skint stages of university, I managed to learn a lot. Visits to the bookmakers to just watch the racing, make notes about certain aspects I’d pick up, and try and put those into action without betting a single penny taught me a huge amount of restraint.

Of course there was plenty of urge to punt, and when those I had noted down went on to win, it did hurt, but the pain was invaluable when it comes to developing knowledge of racing without losing a penny. The importance of form, ground, trainers, jockeys, draw and track bias were all jotted down into a book of my own punting pointers and it is something I treasure even to this day.

They are regularly updated with the latest trends and important messages which could help in future ventures, including jockeys worth following. Tom Marquand earned his place in the lost a fair few months ago and he is still worth following even now, with his claim invaluable. He is such good value for the five-pound and it is only a matter of time before he rides it out, with a big future beckoning.

Anyway, after a lengthy break where I was fortunate enough to find full-time work, I have slowly eased myself back into the gambling scene and the new and improved patience appears to be working wonders. Going from somewhere in the range of 10-15 bets a day, to one big bet, or maybe no bets at all has ensured a higher success-rate and no horrible evenings trying to claw back losses at Wolverhampton or Dundalk.

(I’ve had some dark Friday’s there…)

Tuesday was one of those days where I didn’t fancy anything strongly but I still had some money floating in my Betfair account after a successful stab on a Lucky 15 on the previous Saturday (three winners and a place seen a nice three-figure return off a £5 stake), and I decided to begin an ante-post punt that I had been planning for some time.

Darts is a particular punting favourite of mine, with every arrow ensuring adrenaline (both the good and bad kind) is pumping through your veins at a rate of knots. After spending two-years living with a darts fanatic I was subjected to plenty of action and after a while, I began to really enjoy the thrills and spills of the sport, even before the possibility of punting crossed my mind.

Then I came to realise there was so many ways of making money on the darts, with plenty of interesting markets. It is not rare to see odds of 1/20, 1/16 and 1/12 etc in the match market of big tournaments, but the ‘trebles’ section are nearly always odds against. This means a player to hit the most 180’s, the highest checkout and win the match.

Of course, the highest checkout is a tough one to call, as all it means is a 170 from the underdog to completely ruin the bet but you’ll be surprised how often the favourite obliges with all three. Dave Chisnall is a king of delivering the goods, as is Raymond van Barneveld (when he hits a nice streak) but I’ll never forget when I was waiting on Barney for a £16.8k payout off a £6 four-fold during the Premier League, and he hit the most 180’s and won the match, but missed out on the highest checkout.

He had a shot at a 164 and missed by a centimetre. That hurt.

But anyway, I’m getting off topic here, back to the ante-post certainty. Michael van Gerwen to win the 2016 World Championship.

I’ve missed the 9/4, 2/1 and 15/8 and although he is unlikely to shorten too much from his current 7/4, he looks a worthy investment as opposed to frittering away funds. He shortened after his impressive World Matchplay crown and he looks unbeatable on his day.

Gary Anderson has caused him problems with his unique style getting in the head of MvG but he showed he is developing a steely nerve when destroying the Scotsman with a scintillating display at the German Masters.

I’ve had £40 on the Dutchman so far and the dream is to have somewhere in the region of a grand on him by the time December comes, so I can celebrate the start of 2016 with a nice MvG fund.

Wednesday;

Fancied Kachy to confirm his promise at Goodwood but for some reason couldn’t help but be drawn in by a Highland Reel (7/4), Solow (4/6) and King of Rooks (EVS) treble.

That hurt.

It’s always the last one isn’t it? £15 down the drain but I was confident for a return from Galway that evening.

After seeing Alelchi Inois frustratingly finish out of the placing’s following a £20 each-way investment at 11/1, I decided that Marshall Jennings was set to save the day, so I wasn’t too worried.

The colt had solid juvenile form for Richard Hannon and had previously ran an eye-catching race for Jessica Harrington, failing to get a run both times. If he settled nicely early on and was kept prominent I fancied him to run the leaders close, so had £10 each-way at a rather inflated 12/1.

He had to be reshod before the start, then he took a keen hold under Kevin Manning before chasing the leaders. He was hampered (yet again) approaching the final furlong and faded late on. He is likely to be breezed over again next time but I’m adamant he will have his day soon, with a fast run 7f looking perfect after efforts over 10f and a mile previously. He’ll come good at a big price soon.

Thursday;

I was rather surprised to see Trip To Paris fighting for favouritism in the Goodwood Gold Cup and despite having to shoulder a four-pound penalty, he looked the class act in the field who should be out on his own at the top of the market. I opted for a £10 each-way punt at 9/2 as my only bet at Goodwood with my real investment over at Galway in the afternoon.

Diakali would have to be Champion Hurdle standard to shoulder top-weight in the Galway Hurdle and with Quick Jack arriving fit, fresh and in good order, he looked to be the value. He doesn’t know how to run a bad race and after showing he had retained his ability behind the aforementioned Trip To Paris when second in the Chester Cup, he looked too big to resist, especially off an exceedingly generous weight.

Trip to Paris gave me big hope when shooting down the inside rail but that joy was short-lived as Big Orange was as game as a pebble in front and not for passing, with Quest For More even pipping Ed Dunlop’s charge for second. Still, a place wasn’t the worst result, especially with a slight drift to 5/1.

I pressed up on Quick Jack on the Exchange, having £20 on Quick Jack to win at 7.2 (6.2/1) and I was pleased to see the price continue to tumble in the build-up to the off. I bottled it slightly and put a lay order in for £20 at 3.0, cutting my loss should he come there travelling (you’ll see how proficient I am at backing 1.01 losers in time) and as Denis O’Regan got the gelding up the inside two from home, I glanced at the screen to see I had been matched.

Mixed emotions. I knew I had my stake back and I looked likely to win more money, but I was soon kicking myself. He went on to win a shade cosily in the end and I pocketed a tidy sum, but it could have been more, couldn’t it? Sometimes even when you win, you lose. Strange game.

Friday;

I headed up to Edgbaston to watch the cricket with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. I was just happy to be able to see a bit of action after the Aussies looked set to succumb in tame fashion on Thursday afternoon.

Nonetheless we got our money’s worth and after a dig-in effort from the tail, England were set a nice 121 to win. Ian Bell and Joe Root decided to take their time to see out the target, ensuring we forked out more on £4.20 pints whilst succumbing to intense sunburn after foolishly opting against sun tan lotion.

Lovely fellas.

Still… ROOOOOOOOT.

Saturday;

I woke up with the world’s driest mouth and could barely remember my name after an evening consisting of the dogs (first time visit, managed to only lose £20 which isn’t too shoddy in my book), was followed by more pints, whiskey and apple juice, vodka and coke and some kind of watermelon based alcoholic beverage.

I couldn’t force myself to focus long enough to study the form so I just popped in the Hill’s next to New Street Station to unload £40 (all I had left after a rather expensive couple of days) on Legatissimo to gain compensation in the Nassau Stakes.

She had done me for two decent three-figure sums when getting nailed in the Oaks (rather large double with Arod) and in the Irish equivalent (even loftier double with Jack Hobbs), so I had decided to give her one last chance to glue back the heart she had broken.

It appeared I was the only person in the betting shop (and probably the world) who was happy that Wayne Lordan took the ride.

He works closely with David Wachman and is sure to have sat on the filly at home as well as during the early stages of her career. Moore is no doubt a top rider, but he hasn’t seemed to have the best of luck on the filly for one reason or another so the simple tactics Lordan likes to employ just fits.

Seeing him motionless, cruising up next to the leaders on Saturday went some way to curing my hangover and as he pressed the button and Legatissimo shot clear, I let out of a relieved sigh which seemed to relax the pressure on my brain. £120 entered my wallet and I headed back home via a two-hour train filled with excitable hen dos and eager teens excited for their first big-city visit.

It turned out my hangover wasn’t over…

Sunday;

No punting Sunday’s are fun. I woke up, had a dominos, watched a film, had a sleep and then went to play darts for a few hours. Long live no punting Sunday’s.

Ten to Follow: National Hunt Season

 

The National Hunt season is fast approaching (though large parts of Twitter will damn you for admitting this) and this signifies that wonderful window of opportunity where one and all can unleash their ‘horses to follow’ for the year.

As old favourites are returning, exciting hurdlers and chasers are switching hands and those who have looked set to fulfil tremendous promise are set to be given the chance over the coming months.

It is always an exciting time of the season, with so much anticipation and a wonderful feeling that you could be getting some tremendous early value, with long-term projects around Cheltenham and Aintree followed with great scrutiny.

I’ve narrowed the list down to ten to follow this year and to set it apart from the usual group of animals that appear throughout the masses of lists that have been released and are set to be released, I’ve limited my ten to one per trainer.

This means there is more chance of variety and also stops me from naming 10 Willie Mullins machines that will mop up everything. Oh, and I’ve neglected to take the opportunity to mention Aux Ptits Soins and Yorkhill, not because I don’t rate them, but for the likelihood that they will appear in EVERY horses to follow list this year.

Chap (5-y-o gelding – Gabe Mahon)

First up is the exciting Chap, who created quite an impression on those who risked the rain to enjoy a Summer Nights – Sounds of the 80s evening at Aintree in May. Many could be forgiven for heading over to the stage ahead of an ordinary looking bumper to round off a tricky card, but those who stayed were treated to a performance to remember.

Chap was held up towards the rear by the talented Leo Mahon and it looked a reasonable pace by those up ahead, showed by the pair that raced prominently finished a solid third and fourth behind two that crept into the race. Chap was one of those who crept into the race stylishly, yet with twenty-runners there were still plenty in with a chance entering the final two furlongs.

The five-year-old caught the eye still firmly on the bit and he continued to improve to swoop past the field, taking up the running entering the final furlong up the long Aintree straight. He quickly put the race to bed, scooting clear when asked the question and he hit the line hard, suggesting there was still plenty in the tank.

There will be plenty of opportunity to get to the bottom of the gelding this year and he has the scope to improve when he sees a hurdle. He looks to have huge promise and he is one who may sneak under the radar on his first couple of starts.

Anibale Fly (5-y-o gelding – Tony Martin)

After finishing a close second to Jetstream Jack in a bumper that seen the field massively spread out, Anibale Fly was swiftly purchased by JP McManus to run in the famous green and gold silks. As he was sent-off 25/1 on debut it is fair to say the performance may have been somewhat of a surprise, yet he proved it was no fluke by getting off the mark at the second time of asking, comfortably seeing off six rivals.

He stayed on all the way to the line that day and this meant that he was given his chance in a hit-looking bumper at Fairyhouse on his final start of the season, coming up against a number of highly-rated animals including Au Quart De Tour, Space Cadet and Livelaughlove. It was the latter that gave Tony Martin’s charge most to think about but again, we seen the gelding’s fighting spirit as he nettled gamely all the way to the line to pick up the eventual runner-up, fifty yards from the line.

He crossed the line a length-and-a-quarter ahead of Willie Mullins’ charge and with Tony Martin likely to utilise his gameness over the hurdles this season, he could be in for a big year. He is a rangy gelding who looks suited to the obstacles and the strong-travelling battler could enjoy a stellar season for respected connections.

Limini (4-y-o filly – Willie Mullins)

It was hard to narrow down Willie Mullins’ legions of exciting novices’ to just one, yet after plenty of deliberation I’ve decided to let Limini fly the flag for the yard this year. The French import ran two nice races in defeat over 10f at Chantilly and then Longchamp before making the move across to Willie Mullins’ yard, where he created quite the impression on his sole start for the master handler.

Despite enjoying a lengthy break, the filly was sent off a warm favourite for her first start suggesting there may have been a level of confidence exuding from the stable. She tracked the leaders in fourth under Paul Townend before moving into the race in typical Townend fashion, creeping closer rather stylishly.

She made a mistake two out but was allowed time to find her stride again before she moved third entering the straight, edging into second ahead of the last and then finally edging ahead under hands and heels close home. She beat the battle-hardened Sandymount Duke who had race-fitness on his side and this was an effort that screamed promise.

The Rich Ricci-owned filly may not be allowed to go off too overpriced given her connections but she may well prove worth a close eye in the long-term ante-post markets before she makes her belated reappearance. She could well be the next in a long line of high-class hurdlers heralding from the stable.

Twelve Roses (7-y-o gelding – Kim Bailey)

Kim Bailey has assembled an enviable string for this season and it was hard to narrow it down to just one horse to follow for the year. The selected horse is Twelve Roses, who has become somewhat of a forgotten horse after spending over a year off the track.

The now 7-y-o enjoyed a stellar 2013/14, improving on a nice runner-up effort on debut to finish within a length of subsequent World Hurdle winner More Of That at Wetherby. It was a performance that looks even better in retrospect and he wasn’t disgraced when taking his place in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, a series qualifier, at Newbury, where he finished a nice fourth off a high weight.

He hated the ground when floundering as favourite on Boxing Day at Kempton but after being given a break before an engagement at the Cheltenham Festival, he appeared to grow steadily and appreciate the return to a better surface. He was sent off 66/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but he massively outrun his odds, staying on bravely to take a never nearer fifth behind Faugheen.

It looks as though a step up to three miles on good ground could be perfect and although he may well need his first run after such a lengthy break, he is worth keeping onside over the course of the season.

Bailey also has the exciting Charbel who has changed hands for a big fee following two victories and a nice fourth in the Punchestown Champion Bumper. He has a lofty reputation and he has scope to improve over a hurdle, so he could be in for a big year.

Moon Racer (6-y-o gelding – David Pipe)

I’ve tried to avoid the obvious choices for this year’s ten to follow but Moon Racer was impossible to leave off, having impressed massively over the course of last season. After springing a 50/1 surprise on debut at Fairyhouse, he was switched stables to David Pipe where he delivered a jaw-dropping performance at Cheltenham last October.

He led under Tom Scudamore and he moved nicely through the race before moving clear in the final couple of furlongs, hitting top gear to put real distance between himself the field. It was an impressive time and connections were extremely bullish in the aftermath, with the view of keeping their start at home until the Festival.

The form of that race worked out nicely with the second and third both going on to win impressively and as he arrived for the Cheltenham bumper, it was no surprise to see the money come. He was sent off 9/2 favourite and somewhat rescued punters with a scintillating success, making up plenty of ground to power clear, crossing the line one-and-a-half lengths ahead of Modus.

He has a real gear change and has plenty of speed to go with his reserves of stamina, so he should enjoy a big season in the novice hurdling ranks. He is well-built and should enjoy the challenge of the obstacles, so with his long-term aim undoubtedly the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he could be worth following all the way up the hill in March!

Penglai Pavilion (5-y-o gelding – John Ferguson)

John Ferguson has a plethora of unruly flat talent at his disposal this year with plenty of ex-Godolphin animals making the switch to the National Hunt sphere under his tutelage. There are plenty of eye-catchers in the impressive Bloomfields operation but one who is of real interest is the exciting Penglai Pavilion.

Having been trained by Andre Fabre in France during his early years, the son of Monsun fulfilled lofty potential on the level, taking fifth behind Treve in the 2013 Arc. He ran well out in Dubai before failing to land a blow when transferring to Charlie Appleby, although he was still competing at the highest level in extremely competitive group races.

It is interesting that they kept the faith for so long and didn’t attempt to drop him in grade, so the fact the was sent to John Ferguson must mean they have either lost faith in him, or they think he will better equipped over a longer distance and with a hurdle in front of him. I’m backing it’s the latter.

He scored with consummate ease on debut, making steady headway on the sound surface before pulling clear with plenty in hand. It was a performance to take note of and he was given one more outing before being put away for a break and again, he won with tons in hand, pulling clear from a long way out to score at a canter.

The form of those races leave a lot to be desired but he is yet to be tested and clearly has plenty more in the locker. He has valuable experience and the confidence boost of getting back to winning ways will mean he is ready to come out firing this season. His best flat form came on a softer surface but he has shown he can handle good or better over obstacles, so ground is no issue for him. He should mop up plenty of races and although it looks as though he would love the flat track at Aintree, he may well have enough about him to make his presence felt at Prestbury Park.

Cyrus Darius (6-y-o gelding – Malcolm Jefferson)

After a solid enough start when fourth in a Wetherby bumper on debut it was somewhat of a surprise to see what Cyrus Darius would go on to achieve last season. He switched to Malcolm Jefferson’s yard and after a nice enough third in a bumper last November, he was given a short-break before reappearing to tackle some hurdles.

He caused quite the impression on his hurdling bow, lowering the colours of odds-on favourite Course Dismissed at Newcastle, travelling into the race smoothly before pulling clear on the bit. He was heavily eased down and this ensured he was sent off 2/7 for his next start, where he landed the spoils unextended, with 23l, 28l and 16l separating the first four home.

The form of the races didn’t look anything special but the manner in which he had dismissed the field was eye-catching in itself.  He was sent to Aintree for a grade two Novices’ Hurdle and he wasn’t without support, as he was sent off 8/1 in a competitive looiong field.

Despite a mistake at the first (does have one in him, so hopefully Malcolm has sharpened him up) he travelled into the race in typical smooth fashion. With the leaders getting to work pretty seriously from a long way out, Brian Hughes eased the gelding into the race from three out, taking up second, travelling much the best.

He breezed into the lead approaching the last before being given a kick in the belly, moving clear of the field with plenty in hand. He beat some useful rivals, including Vago Collonges, Qewy and Glingerburn, all of whom are well-regarded and look to be horses who warrant their place in graded races.

The manner in which Cyrus Darius cantered past with ease means he can’t be taken likely and given the size and scope of the horse, it would be no surprise to see him make a real high-class chaser. I believe plans haven’t been confirmed as to whether he stays over hurdles or begins a career over fences, but wherever he heads, he is certainly worth following.

Drumlee Sunset (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs)

There a number of nice novices in the Phillip Hobbs stable this year and there is one of real interest in Drumlee Sunset. The son of Royal Anthem has only been seen once, when running out a ready winner of a competitive bumper, despite hanging left in the straight.

He wrestles for the lead early on in the contest and picked up it over seven furlongs out, with Richard Johnson allowing the gelding to stride on in front. He hung left when asked to assert but he still managed to stay on strongly, powering clear in the final hundred yards to claim a four-and-a-half length success over previous winner O O Seven.

He looked a strong, rangy gelding who will appreciate the test of a hurdle to keep his mind on the task and after performing credibly in the p2p sphere, he should know his job by the time he jumps a hurdle in public. He showcased plenty of talent when stretching out on debut under rules and after being given a lengthy break by the Hobbs team, he should be fit and raring to go this year.

Inner Drive (7-y-o gelding – Alan King)

Alan King didn’t have the greatest of seasons last year but he has a number of animals to keep him excited as we head into this National Hunt season, including the lightly-raced Inner Drive. After finishing a nice second on debut he moved across to the Alan King yard where he didn’t look completely wound-up on his stable debut, finishing second behind Vodka ‘n Tonic.

He was put away for a lengthy break before being brought back for a maiden hurdle at Huntingdon in March this year. He was well-backed and ended up going off favourite, scoring impressively against a field that ended up spread out by some distance.

He lowered the colours of the consistent Thedrinkymeister in a nice enough looking race before being sent to Newbury for a hot looking Novices’’ Hurdle. He took a keen hold after being help up towards the rear, before he made smooth headway into contention approaching three out.

After being urged to close approaching the last, he moved upsides the leader and began to battle it out up the straight. It was his first real eye-to-eye battle and to be fair to him, he held his own very well, only going down by a nose from the respected Rock The Kasbah.

He should come on massively from that effort and on a softer surface, he should enjoy plenty of success in the mid-range hurdling division.

Legend Lady (4-y-o bay filly – Oliver Sherwood)

The final member of the ten to follow for this year is Legend Lady, who may have slipped under the radar despite to excellent runs at the back end of last season. She was given her debut in a fairly average looking Taunton bumper but she managed to turn the race into a procession, travelling beautifully with a bit of cut underfoot before moving clear with a simple shake of the reins from Leighton Aspell.

She must have done enough to impress connections as her next and final engagement of the season came in the Listed Aintree Bumper which rounds off Grand National day. She was sent off at 40/1 but outran her odds to great effect, travelling nicely towards the rear before making nice headway from two furlongs out to run into sixth of nineteen runners.

It was a nice staying-on effort that suggests she may be more suited to further, with two and a half miles looking ideal for a first port of call this season. She has the opportunity to take in another bumper for a rather patient trainer in Oliver Sherwood but she looks to have the scope to progress over hurdles when given the nod later on in the year.

Sherwood is brilliant at placing his horses and it would be no surprise to see her mop up a couple of prizes before progressing to a decent level. She is an exciting filly who could have a touch of star quality about her.

Golden Horn – A Golden Horse?

As Golden Horse strode majestically down the camber at Epsom, eating up the ground on the classy Jack Hobbs – those who were fortunate to have a space in the packed grandstand knew they were witnessing something special.

Doubts were diminishing, pressure was being eased and a date with destiny (part two) was answered as Frankie Dettori saluted the crowd with Golden Horn lengthening a few lengths clear underneath him.

This was the crowning glory of the animal who had crept under the radar since his sole two-year-old start and with the horse racing fraternity searching for a superstar among the ranks, Golden Horn has done nothing but answer graciously.

His only visit to the track as a two-year-old ensured he created a rather understated impression that looks more and more impressive the more you revisit it. He was slow away, looked set to be outpaced over three-furlongs out before making smooth headway under pressure, to pick it up and gallop relentlessly to the line.

He was always keeping Storm the Stars at bay and eventually crossed the line a head to the good, with seven lengths back to the third. It was the type of performance that brought a ‘wow’ reaction without too much thought being given to the actual strength of the race.

Still, it was enough to ensure he returned to the track as a warm favourite, as he took his place in the Listed Fielden Stakes (9f) at Newmarket. Again, he was held up before making smooth headway through the race under new rider, Frankie Dettori, taking the lead when edging left in the final furlong before going on to a clever length and a half success.

At this stage it was evident a mile may not be sufficient and a step up in trip was likely to bring out even more improvement from the colt.

So, with the long-term plan being the French Derby, he was sent to York to contest the Dante Stakes over 10f. It was a race that many thought would be a mini-Derby, with many of the leading candidates turning up on the Knavesmire.

However with connections feeling Golden Horn was a real 10f horse, there were very few Epsom murmurs, until William Buick manoeuvred the colt out to track the leaders, swooped upside Jack Hobbs and then kicked on to win a shade cosily.

The manner in which he galloped past rivals with a hint of ease suggested he may well get further and the commotion after the event surrounded future decisions. Would Mr Oppenheimer opt to swerve Cahntilly for a crack at the prestigious Epsom Derby?

Trainer John Gosden was certainly vocal with his feelings but he left it completely to the owner and it mustn’t have taken too long for a decision to be made, as he was swiftly chartering a different course, heading straight at Epsom.

The tracing fraternity finally had a horse to latch onto, an improving, unbeaten colt who had done no wrong. Golden Horn.

Another major pull was the renaissance of popular rider Frankie Dettori, as the Italian fought back from the brink of obsuciroty to secure himself the top rides with the in-form John Gosden. With William Buick’s Godolphin links it was highly likely he would be needed elsewhere and in a bizarre twist of fate, the jockey’s switched horses as Godolphin purchased Dante runner-up and Derby second-favourite, Jack Hobbs.

This meant Buick got on-board Jack Hobbs while Dettori gleefully took the reins on Golden Horn as he bid for his second date with destiny up the famous Epsom camber.

He was settled towards the rear as the leaders went hell-for-leather up front and as he swung around Tattenham Corner, Dettori began to ease the colt through the pack, while stablemate Jack Hobbs got first run and took up the running.

He took a few strides to really hit top gear, but Golden Horn was merely teasing backers, and the flat spot was no more as he picked up the bit and galloped after his big, stocky, stablemate. Then came the sense of inevitability.

The nervous expression of backers suddenly changed to confidence, with “Go on Frankie!” bellowed from all parts of the racecourse. The horse at this stage had just loomed upsides and then gone past Jack Hobbs, delivering a crushing blow as he sauntered across his barn buddy before running on strongly up the rail to coast home an impressive winner.

He then reappeared in the Eclipse, bidding to join the greats such as Sea The Stars and Nashwan in the elite group of animals to do the Derby/Eclipse double and it was here he cemented himself as a top-class horse.

After the field understandably cut up with many swerving the chance to face a red hot Derby winner, Golden Horn faced four rivals, including the consistent horse from the Kevin Ryan stable, The Grey Gatsby.

It was a new scenario with a distinct lack of pace likely, so it came as no surprise to see Dettori bounce out and ease his charge to the front, where he could dictate the tempo. He set steady early fractions and wound it up in the straight, but there was a real worry for Golden Horn backers as The Grey Gatbsy loomed up large under a patient Jamie Spencer ride, eye-balling the favourite for good measure.

Dettori was urging the colt for more up the rail and as the grey beast next to him was urged for more, it appeared John Gosden’s colt was in for a battle. However he did what champions do, and dug deep to find reserves many questioned were there as he picked up the tempo to forge on for strong pressure.

The crowd responded with cheers and urgings of their own and as he careered away down the Sandown straight, finding his balance with ease to come home a shade cosily in the end, with some distance back to the third, belief had grown.

Golden Horn could be a member of the elite.

After looking as though the 3yo ranks were set for a disappointing return, it is nice to see we have a number of potential top-class animals to pad out the remainder of the year. Golden Horn looks a genuine good ground horse who wouldn’t want it on the soft side, yet he should have the chance to add to his ever growing reputation over the course of the season.

A trip to the King George for which his owner has plenty of sentimental attachment seemed the likely port of call, before a potential crack at the Juddmonte International at York. However rain-softened ground put paid to the former, so the Irish Champion Stakes, the Arc and potentially even the Breeders Cup are all logical options at present and it will be interesting to see which way the colt goes.

At present he looks to have plenty of talent and a whole host of opportunities ahead of him. Hopefully the ground will come good on the Knavesmire and he can put in a big performance for racing fans to latch onto.

Can Golden Horn prove himself as the Golden horse?