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.
Marta Des Mottes almost got home in the mare' handicap chase run over an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on Friday. She did almost everything right. Kicked out of the gate by Ben Poste, she led at a good pace. It wasn't ideal that Dame Du Soir moved up in behind her, the pair of them moved on, clear of the main body of the field as they raced up the home straight first time. Marta Des Mottes continued to lead though, she moved into a clear lead as they raced down the back straight, jumping well, and it looked like she was going to take a lot of catching when she led over the third last fence, travelling well. She kicked again in front over the second last fence and she led over the last, which is probably around about the time at which she traded at 1.64 in-running, but Dame Du Soir just proved to be the stronger on the run up the hill, getting up to beat Marta Des Mottes by a neck, the pair of them clear.
It was still a game performance by Tom Symonds' horse in defeat. Second behind Saint Segal over two miles at Chepstow on her previous run, a return to that type of trip could see her progress again. The handicapper raised her by 5lb for this run to a mark of 113, but she is only five and this was just her fifth run over fences, she has the potential to go a fair way higher than her new mark, and a drop in trip could see her improve again.
Gentle Slopes shaped encouragingly in finishing third in the two-mile-one-furlong novices' hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday. Always prominent behind a decent pace that leader Attacca set, he moved into second place behind the clear leader at the top of the hill, but he wasn't great at the second last flight, and he came under a ride. He couldn't respond when Master Chewy moved up on his outside around the home turn, travelling better, and he dropped to a share of last place on the run to the final flight. He stayed on well up the run-in though. The first two kicked away, but he got up for third place just in front of Timeforatune on the line.
It was a decent performance by Milton Harris' horse on his hurdling debut, but he shaped as if he would do better with a stiffer stamina test, softer ground or a faster pace or a step up in trip, or a combination thereof. A point-to-point winner for Donnchadh Doyle, he won two of his three bumpers, the most recent a listed contest at Cheltenham's November meeting. He is a half-brother to On The Slopes, who was at his best over two and two and a quarter miles, but he is also a half-brother to Sauvignon, who won over almost three miles, and he is out of a mare who won over two miles and five furlongs. He should progress from this, his first run over hurdles, and he will be interesting again now, especially if and when he steps up in trip.
Hiddenvalley Lake stayed on strongly to win the Grade 3 three-mile novices' hurdle at Cork on Sunday. Weak in the market beforehand, he settled nicely early on for Rachael Blackmore, fourth of the five runners. He travelled well into the home straight, but a mistake at the third last flight just as the pace was quickening allowed Monbeg Park and Cool Survivor get away from him a little. He came under a ride after that, but he picked up well on the far side, and he jumped to the front over the second last flight. After that, he cleared away from his rivals impressively, putting eight lengths between himself and his rivals by the time he reached the winning line.
There was an awful lot to like about this performance from Henry de Bromhead's horse. It was a good race, as befits a Grade 3 contest, with Cool Survivor, Monbeg Park and Letsbeclearaboutit all bringing good form into the race. And the winning time was very good, just outside Racing Post par and faster per furlong than the other four hurdle races run on the day, and those four were all run over shorter distances. He saw out the three-mile trip really well too, which makes the performance that he put up in winning over two miles and three furlongs at Naas last month on his hurdling debut all the more commendable. That race is working out well too, with the second, fifth and 12th all winning since.
The Robcour gelding is bred for stamina, he looks like an Albert Bartlett Hurdle horse and, in that context, it was interesting that his trainer mentioned the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Hurdle at Clonmel in February as a next option. That is a race that Henry de Bromhead has won with Chris's Dream and Albert Bartlett Hurdle runner-up Monalee in the past, and it is a race in which Albert Bartlett Hurdle winner (and obviously Gold Cup winner) Minella Indo finished second to Allaho.
The other horse to take out of the Grade 3 three-mile novices' hurdle at Cork on Sunday is Senecia. The quality of the performance that Vincent Halley's horse put up in defeat may have gone a little under the radar.
Allowed go off at 33/1, he travelled well through his race early on, but he got out-paced when they picked up at the end of the back straight. About eight lengths behind the front four as they straightened up for home, he stayed on well from the third last flight, and he finished right on the heels of the placed horses. He only finished fifth in the end, and he was beaten a total of nine lengths by the winner, but he was only a total of a length behind the runner-up Monbeg Park, close up behind Cool Survivor and Letsbeclearaboutit.
It was a fine run by the Ask gelding, on his first run back since he fell at the fourth last flight in a novices' hurdle at the Listowel Festival in September. An impressive winner of his maiden hurdle over two and a half miles on soft ground at Wexford in July on his previous run, there could be more to come from him now. He is only five and he has raced just four times over hurdles and, out of a mare who won over three miles for John Hanlon, he stays this trip well. He could do even better on soft or heavy ground over this trip.
Light Parade kept on well from the rear to finish third in the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap hurdle at Cork on Sunday. Settled towards the back of the field early on, as she usually is, and towards the outside, she travelled well to the end of the back straight, and started to make her ground around the outside as they rounded the home turn. Wide into the home straight, she jumped into fifth place over the third last flight. She moved into third place over the second last, but the front two had too big a break on the field at that point, and she just couldn't bridge it. In the end, she just held on for third place.
It was a good performance by Liam Burke's mare, in a race in which the first two home were prominent from early, and racing off a handicap rating that was 7lb higher than the mark off which she won at Thurles six weeks earlier. That was over two miles, and a return to that trip might see her step forward again. A well-run two-mile hurdle on soft ground, in which she could drop out easily early on, could be ideal. She is still only five, and there could be a fair bit more to come.