Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: August 31st to September 4th

By Donn McClean
 |  5 mins
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Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: August 31st to September 4th

Before we dive in, some basic rules for a horses to follow list is to keep them in a tracker and on your radar for the next three runs, bearing in mind ideal conditions across variables like venue, ground, opposition and price are satisfactory to you as a punter. This column should help you build up a list that proves profitable under those circumstances, provides timely reminders to reduce repeated form study and assist with your enjoyment of a season be it National Hunt or Flat racing in the UK and Ireland and sometimes beyond.

If you want to see previous editions check out Donn McClean's library of past horses to follow here.

Bell Rock - Haydock, 4th September 2021

Bell Rock put up a good performance to finish second to Artistic Rifles in the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock recently. Smartly away and settled nicely in second place behind the ultimate winner, he got a little outpaced when Andrea Atzeni on Artistic Rifles increased the pace a little at the three-furlong marker. It looked like he was going to fade out of it as My Oberon moved up on his inside and Maydanny challenged on his outside, and he actually ceded second place to the former as they raced to the furlong marker, but he stayed on well from there. He got back past My Oberon into second place, and he closed on Artistic Rifles all the way to the line, going down by just over a length in the end.

It was another good run by Andrew Balding's horse, a step forward from his good run in the Group 3 Strensall Stakes at York's Ebor meeting. A mile is probably not a stiff enough test for him, for all that he has won over the trip, and he should be worth another go over 10 furlongs. He ran well on his only run over that distance in finishing third behind Maydanny in a handicap at Goodwood last year. He holds an entry in a listed race over a mile at Sandown on Wednesday, and he holds an entry in the Group 2 Joel Stakes at Newmarket on Cambridgeshire weekend, but he also holds an entry in the Cambridgeshire itself, and he will be of greatest interest if he takes up that one. A strongly-run nine furlongs could be ideal for him, and he goes particularly well on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, as evidenced by form figures of 1-1-3-1.

Noble Masquerade - Haydock, 4th September 2021

Noble Masquerade ran better than his finishing position suggests in the Old Borough Cup at Haydock recently. He travelled well through his race in third place along the inside, just behind the leader Island Brave, he travelled best of all into the home straight and he was the only horse still on the bridle as they raced to the three-furlong marker. He looked set for victory when he moved easily into the lead on the run to the two-furlong marker. He didn't come away from his rivals though when Hollie Doyle asked him for his effort, and he tired close home. Still just in front as they raced inside the furlong marker, he was swamped by the closers as he tired, and he finished only fifth in the end.

This was Noble Masquerade's second attempt at a mile and six furlongs, and he just didn't get home. Eve Johnson Houghton's horse tired late on too on his only other attempt at the distance, over the same course and distance, last September. He will be of interest again now when he drops back down to a mile and a half, the distance over which he won a handicap at Windsor last month. The handicapper raised him by 6lb for that win, to a mark of 82, but his recent run suggests that he is more than capable off that mark. He has progressed nicely this season, and he should be able to continue his progression now, dropped back down a little in trip.

Happy Romance - Haydock, 4th September 2021

Happy Romance ran a big race to finish fourth in the Group 1 Sprint Cup. Slowly away, she was squeezed out of it a little at the start, with the result that she was second last after they had gone a furlong. Still well back in the field passing the two-furlong marker, Sean Levey had to wait for a few strides for the traffic to clear before he could ask her for her effort. She picked up well once in the clear at the furlong marker and, moved toward the far side in order to secure a clear run, she finished off her race well, probably not on the best part of the track, to take fourth place, beaten just a head by Chill Chill for third and just a length behind the winner Emaraaty Ana.

This was a career-best performance by Richard Hannon's filly, and it is a performance on which she may be able to improve now as we move into the autumn. She is only three and she has a nice progressive profile. A well-run six furlongs suits her well and, while she is probably at her best on fast ground, she does have good form on easy ground too.

Druid's Altar - Wexford, 4th September 2021

Druid's Altar could not have been more impressive than he was in winning the two-and-a-half-mile novices' chase at Wexford last Saturday. He settled nicely into his race in second place behind Effernock Fizz, and his jumping was exemplary. He got in a little tight to the second fence but, after that, he didn't miss a beat. He was very good when he was long and Donagh Meyler gave him a squeeze, and he was safe and sharp when he was short. He moved up on the outside of the leader as they left the back straight, he travelled easily into the home straight and he just cleared away from his rivals. He was fast and fluent over the last two fences and, ears pricked, he coasted up the run-in to come home 15 lengths clear of Jungle Junction in second.

This was just Druid's Altar's fifth race over fences, and he has won three of them. He was good in beating Jungle Junction on his previous run at Killarney, but he was better here and he beat his old rival more easily. Joseph O'Brien's horse was a good juvenile hurdler last season, he ran in the good graded juvenile hurdles in the early part of the season, and he beat Zaffonien in a rated novices' hurdle at Naas in February, but he is already a better chaser than hurdler. The handicapper raised him by 7lb for Saturday's win to a mark of 142, but he is only four, and he has the potential to go beyond that rating. This two-and-a-half-mile trip is a good trip for him for now but, a half-brother to Sands Of Fortune, who won over two and a half miles on the flat, he could step up in trip in time. He is an exciting young chaser, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Candleford - Ascot, 4th September 2021

Candleford put up a good performance to finish second to his stable companion Chalk Stream in the one-and-a-half-mile handicap at Ascot last Saturday, although he was subsequently disqualified as he raced without his weight cloth and, consequently, his rider weighed in 5lb light. A little keen early on and along the inside, William Haggas' horse was well back in the field when they reached the home turn, and he was along the inside, in traffic. Rider Adam Farragher had to sit still for a few strides passing the two-furlong marker, at which point his stable companion got a gap and burst through into the lead. Candleford was playing catch-up from that point, but he was brave in going through a narrow gap into second place and, while it never looked like he would get to his stable companion, he stayed on all the way to the line to get to finish a good second.

Chalk Stream was impressive in winning, but Candleford did well to finish second, given that he was drawn low and that he was keen and that he didn't have a clear run through the race. It was just his fourth run too, he had done well to win a 12-furlong novice stakes at Windsor on his previous run, when he was forced wide around the home turn and stumbled after clipping heels. The handicapper left him on his mark of 85 after Saturday's race, which made sense, given that he was carrying 5lb less than he should have been carrying, but that is a mark that he has the potential to surpass now. He stays a mile and a half well, and he should progress as he gains more experience.

Donn McClean, for many, is the face of horse racing in Ireland. He is the chief horse racing writer for The Irish Sunday Times and appears regularly on RTE's horse racing coverage as well as Racing TV. An accomplished author, Donn recently added Champion, written with the late Pat Smullen, to his list of horse racing books. You'll find Donn's musings across the world of Horse Racing here at

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