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.

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.

The Return of the Flat – 10 to Follow for 2015

The flat season is fast-approaching, and to celebrate I take a look at ten horses who could provide punters with plenty of success throughout the season.

Aktabantay

3-y-o bay colt

Oasis Dream (UK) – Splashdown (UK) (Falbrav (IRE))

Current Trainer: Hugo Palmer

Current Owner: V Araci

Hugo Palmer looks to have a real classy sort in the shape of Aktabantay, with all six visits to the track showing his tremendous amount of promise. He initially caught the eye on debut, when finishing strongly after dwelling in the rear, eventually going down a short-head to the well-thought-of Elite Gardens.

He was turned over at 1/4 on his next start when looking a tad one paced over six furlongs, but he made simple work of a decent field over the same distance next time out, despite hanging left. He chased the classy Estidhkaar home in the Superlative Stakes before showing a game nature when battling to success in the Solario Stakes, getting up in the final strides under a powerful Ryan Moore ride.

It was then he was sent to Paris, and this is where I realised how good a horse he has the potential to be. He travelled well towards the rear on the inside, but as the field turned for home he found himself behind a wall of horses. He had to come five horses wide, losing plenty of momentum in the process, but he finished extremely well to finish a never-nearer sixth, only a couple of lengths behind the well-backed 2000 Guineas favourite, Gleneagles.

He is sure to have been closer with a smoother run, and the step-up to a mile is seemingly set to bring the best out of the son of Oasis Dream. He has been found out over shorter trips when getting going too late, but he can use his mix of speed and stamina to go close in plenty of big prizes this year.

After picking up an injury when looking to have a real chance at the Breeders’ Cup, he has been nursed back to full health by Palmer, who clearly thinks the world of him. He is worth following at silly prices for the top races, but when he is dropped down to lesser echelons, he is sure to find success in plenty of Pattern races throughout the season.

Agnes Stewart

3-y-o grey filly

Lawman (FR) – Anice Stellato (IRE) (Dalakhani (IRE))

Current Trainer: E Lynam

Current Owner: Clipper Logistics Group Ltd

Another one for the shortlist also came with the help from a little trip across the Irish Sea, with Agnes Stewart looking a filly of the highest calibre. She was sent off fairly unfancied on debut as she strolled to a comfortable success at odds of 22/1, but the manner of the success suggested it was more than a fluke and her form since has proved that.

She stuck on gamely in a Group 2 over 7f at Leopardstown, passing rivals late on to snatch second spot behind the classy Jack Naylor. Then the real test came as she lined-up against top-class fillies in May Hill Stakes, but she passed with flying colours, landing a mini-gamble when coming home a shade cosily by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

She also made the most of another trip across to England, when finishing half-a-length behind the highly-rated Together Forever in the Fillies Mile. She looks open to bags of improvement and it would be no surprise to see her enjoy a big season, starting with a big run in the 1000 Guineas for which she still looks an attractive price.

There is no doubt she will appreciate the step up to 10f in time, but there are still plenty of prizes in her over a mile as she gets her three-year-old campaign underway at Newmarket.

Belle D’or

4-y-o bay filly

Medaglia d’Oro (USA) – Glatisant (UK) (Rainbow Quest (USA))

Current Trainer: J H M Gosden

Current Owner: Mr A E Oppenheimer

John Gosden makes his only appearance on the list with the classy Belle D’or, who looks set to finally fulfil her potential as a four-year-old. She has endured a rather stop-start career thus far, as after having never seen a racecourse as a two-year-old, she has only been sighted four times in her racing career. However there is no doubting the amount of potential she has to be a top-class filly, and all things are pointing to a big year, this year.

She went down by a neck when well-backed on debut before living up to the glowing gallop reports, as she comfortably ran away with a decent looking maiden at Salisbury. Her work at home ensured she was given a crack at a Listed feature, and she showed she had great battling qualities to go with her class, as she ground down Wee Jean to get up by the shortest of margins in the shadow of the post.

Her seasonal finale ensured she warranted a place on the list, as she confirmed promise by running on gamely yet again despite being keen early on, finishing a clear second, closing on the winner all the way to the line. An extended trip make bring out further improvement, but she has the scope to grow and strengthen up which should make her a major player in lower grade Pattern races this year.

Big Orange

4-y-o bay gelding

Duke Of Marmalade (IRE) – Miss Brown To You (IRE) (Fasliyev (USA))

Current Trainer: M L W Bell

Current Owner: W J and T C O Gredley

After a rather underwhelming start to his racing career, Big Orange has improved leaps and bounds, suggesting he could certainly be a horse to follow this season. He finished second behind subsequent St Leger runner-up, Romsdal, in a maiden before going on to land an eye-catching pillar-to-post success at Lingfield.

He was clearly doing something well at home as he was given a difficult assignment in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, where he wasn’t disgraced when finishing a decent fourth. His upward curve continued as he made all in a competitive Listed Handicap at Chester, before running out a game winner in a Listed race at Ascot.

The Qipco Long Distance Cup was his final port of call for the year, and he ran well for a long way, finishing fifth behind the brilliant Forgotten Rules. The Gelding has calmed down a lot, and is less inclined to race keenly which is a real bonus and although he may fall short at the highest level, he should come into his own in staying handicaps and lower-grade Pattern races.

Island Remede

4-y-o bay filly

Medicean (UK) – Island Odyssey (UK) (Dansili (UK))

Current Trainer: E A L Dunlop

Current Owner: Mrs Janice Quy

After being sent off at 66/1, 50/1 and 40/1 on her first three visits to the track, it is safe to say there wasn’t too much market confidence behind Island Remede. Hwever during her fourteen-race career, she has shown enough promise to suggest she may be capable of surprising many and running into money at decent prices as a four-year-old.

She has only one once, but that came in a decent Nursery, where she finished seven-lengths ahead of her nearest pursuer, which happened to be subsequent Triumph Hurdle fourth, Devilment. After rounding off her two-year-old campaign with a decent effort in a Listed race, she was sent-off fairly fancied for the Lingfield Oaks trial, where a poor draw played havoc with her chances.

Following a number of racecourse gallops, she was given her chance in the Oaks, and she wasn’t disgraced but had to settle for eleventh after hanging badly left. A couple of decent efforts in Listed affairs suggested there was still more to come, and this was proven as she chased home the highly-rated Sky Hunter, with third placed Battalion coming out and winning subsequently.

Before signing off for the season, she was given an assignment at Saint-Cloud, where she travelled well for a long way before the heavy ground nullified her finishing kick, ensuring she had to settle for fourth – which was still a fair performance. On soft ground she looks worth following and given there is still room for improvement for Ed Dunlop’s filly, she may be underestimated during the early stages of the season.

Jamaica

3-y-o grey colt

Galileo (IRE) – Dialafara (FR) (Anabaa (USA))

Current Trainer: A P O’Brien

Current Owner: Mrs John Magnier, Mr M Tabor & Mr D Smith

I know Ballydoyle have plenty of firepower and they’re particularly fond of their three-year-olds, but I’ve resisted the opportunity to throw in Gleneages (ship has sailed) and Ol’ Man River (big-priced bagged before debut) and side with the likely improver, Jamaica, who seems to be sailing under many people’s radars.

He finished a staying-on third (only a nose off second) behind stablemate Gleneagles on debut, before making easy work of a decent field at Galway. He was given the nod to represent his powerful stable in the Acomb Stakes, but he failed to land a major blow after being slow away before using up energy to make up the distance, which meant he was one-paced in the final furlong. A step up in trip is sure to suit and the rangey colt looks an ideal Derby candidate, for which there is still 25/1 around.

It is likely he will be stepped up from the off, but he could still be underestimated if he is to line-up against some of his more fancied stablemates. Jamaica could be worth a follow throughout the early season while there is still plenty of value about him, but it would be no surprise to see him trimmed after his early efforts with value so hard to find among the Balllydoyle stars.

Master Carpenter

4-y-o chestnut colt

Mastercraftsman (IRE) – Fringe (UK) (In The Wings (UK))

Current Trainer: B R Millman

Current Owner: Links Partnership/Cheveley Park Stud

Master Carpenter has had a busy career so far, with fifteen start during his first two years on the track. He has been kept busy by connections, and to good effect with four wins, two seconds and five thirds out of his visits to the track.

He is extremely versatile when it comes to ground conditions and he has ran respectably in plenty of top-class races. He was sent-off well-fancied for the Chesham, where he disappointed slightly, but he showed he wasn’t out of his depth, as he finished a solid third to the imperious Kingman in the Greenham Stakes, before twice ending up in the same position behind the classy Western Hymn.

Following a mini-break from July, he slightly disappointed when finishing last in his final two starts, but he was entitled to it, after a long season of running against top opponents. The last two runs are easy to put a line through but they should ensure he goes off a bigger price than he should for his first few starts this season – and he could easily reward followers with a big year.

Muthmir

5-y-o bay gelding

Invincible Spirit (IRE) – Fairy Of The Night (IRE) (Danehill (USA))

Current Trainer: W J Haggas

Current Owner: Mr Hamdan Al Maktoum

After taking a while to really warm up to the racing game, Muthmir shone in the latter part of the season to suggest he has the makings of a top-class sprinter. He has visited the track eight times, and has been sent off favourite on six of those occasions, and second-favourite in the other true – often being subject to decent gambles.

He only just went down on his seasonal reappearance at Newcastle, which ensured he was well-punted into 4/1 for the Dash up at York, where he was caught short of room at the start before making smooth headway and eventually pulling clear in impressive fashion. He was backed as if defeat was out of the question in the Stewards Cup, but he could only manage fifth after looking set to steal the show when travelling strongly two furlongs out.

He came in for further support as he lined up in the Portland and punters got their money back, as he broke the track record despite stumbling early on. He travelled menacingly before putting the race to bed in fine style as he burst to the front before staying on all the way to the line. He oozed class that day and was even installed as a short-price for the Prix l’Abbaye, before William Haggas decided to put him away for a break instead. He looks set to be a top-class animal and he can announce himself as a big star this season.

Wheat Sheaf

3-y-o bay colt

Iffraaj (UK) – Harvest Queen (IRE) (Spinning World (USA))

Current Trainer: R Charlton

Current Owner: Lady Rothschild

The only maiden in the ten to follow this year, is the exciting Wheat Sheaf, who went extremely close on his only racecourse visit. He was given the nod to start off his career in an above-average maiden at HQ, where he travelled eye-catchingly well under George Baker. He is a lovely looking colt, and he showed he had plenty of ability when moving stylishly into the lead up the stands rail.

He breezed to the front before pulling clear alongside Rare Rhythm, and although he was defeated in a battle, he lost little in defeat. The benefit of race experience clearly aided the classy Godolphin colt, but Wheat Sheaf looks set to improve massively for the run and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at some of the big ten-furlong races this season, with plenty of options lying in store for Roger Charlton’s three-year-old.

He is sure to come out and get some confidence in lesser events, so it could be worth following him on his journey to bigger and better things, keeping an eye on the prices as he progresses.

Words

3-y-o bay filly

Dansili (UK) – Moonstone (UK) (Dalakhani (IRE))

Current Trainer: A P O’Brien

Current Owner: Mr D Smith, Mrs J Magnier, Mr M Tabor

Sometimes actions speak louder than words, but there was a magnificent mixture of both as Words ran out a ready winner on her only start to date at the Curragh last June. Aidan O’Brien sorts often need a run or two to really be seen at their best, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a well-thought-of mare show tremendous promise, after dwelling towards the rear before making swift headway to pull well clear, despite Joseph O’Brien putting up overweight.

She has a really interesting pedigree, and looks set to have plenty of options with speed and stamina aplenty. It would be no surprise to see her turn up in the Classic races open to her, and she is already strongly fancied for the Oaks. She is a likeable type, and the form of her only start has worked out tremendously well, which suggests there may be something special about the Ballydoyle mare. There is plenty of scope about the daughter of Dansili and it would be no surprise to see her make a real name for herself in her three-year-old season.