Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 13 to February 18

By Donn McClean
 |  6 mins
8E3DFB6F-93D4-478C-99D9-112C2BB6C04E  Fact Checked by Mark Fordham
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Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 13 to February 18

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.

Zoffany Bay - Ascot, February 18th 2023

Zoffany Bay ran a big race to finish second in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Ascot on Saturday on his first run back after exactly 700 days.

Settled in mid-division early on by Aidan Coleman and towards the inside, he was a little keen early on, which was fully understandable on his first run back after such a long absence. He travelled well into the home straight but was still well back in a well-bunched field. 

He picked up smartly, though, on the far side at the second-last flight and, while Irish Hill had hit the front and gone for home at that stage, he stayed on well on the far side to take second place behind him, just in front of Samarrive, with the three of them clear.

Zoffany Bay is nine now; he won on the flat as a three-year-old for George Peckham and as a four-year-old for Ali Stronge, and he won three of his seven hurdle races in France in 2020/21. He probably put up a career-best performance on his final run in France in March 2021, when he won a listed hurdle by four lengths from Super Alex, who won the Grade 2 Prix la Barka last June. 

The Zoffany gelding has since moved to Ireland, and it was a fine training performance by Peter Fahey to have him ready to run as well as he did after such a long absence. He was weak in the horse racing betting market, too, and there is every chance that he will come on appreciably for this. He holds an entry in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at Cheltenham, and his handicap rating of 122 is very workable.

Oscar Elite - Ascot, February 18th 2023

Oscar Elite ran out a good winner of the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday. It was a disappointing Reynoldstown on the face of it, with only three horses lining up. However, Bold Endeavour had a rating of 145 going into the race - he set a decent standard - and Oscar Elite won well. He travelled and jumped well in the main, in second place up on the outside of the favourite with horse racing betting apps

He got in tight to the third-last fence, the fence before they turned for home, which wasn't ideal, but he quickly recovered his equilibrium. He moved up on the outside of Bold Endeavour as they straightened up for home and joined him at the second-last fence. He wasn't great at that obstacle, but he travelled best between the final two fences, he was big and brave at the last, and he kept on powerfully up the run-in to win by over seven lengths.

This was Oscar Elite's first win over fences. He was a talented staying novice hurdler and finished second in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham, and he finished third behind Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame in the Sefton Hurdle at Aintree. He didn't win last season, his first season over fences, but he ran a big race again at the Cheltenham Festival in March to finish third in the Ultima off a handicap rating of 138. That race is again reportedly his target this season, and he goes there with a real chance now, a 4lb hike for Saturday's win taking him up to a mark of just 139. He appears to be a spring horse; his record in February, March and April reads 13233P1, and he goes well at Cheltenham with a second and third at the Festival.

Thomas Mor - Ascot, February 18th 2023

Thomas Mor stayed on well to win the three-mile handicap hurdle at Ascot last Saturday. Prominent from early, he moved into the lead at the third flight, and he didn’t see a rival after that. You wouldn’t have called him as the most likely winner on the run to the home turn - it looked like his three immediate pursuers were all travelling better - but he picked up again off the home turn. 

Loup De Maulde did mount a challenge between the final two flights, but Thomas Mor found more, and he stayed on well up the run-in to win by over four lengths, with the first two well clear.

This was a wholly likeable performance by David Pipe's horse. A point-to-point winner for Colin Bowe, this was his fourth run over hurdles for his current trainer, and it was his third win. His only defeat over hurdles was on his previous run in the Challow Hurdle, in Grade 1 company and racing on very soft ground, so you can easily allow him that.

This was his first handicap. He proved that he was more than up to a mark of 125, and an 8lb hike may not halt his progression. He does hold an entry in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, but he would be of greater interest if he ran in another staying handicap hurdle now off his new mark. He stays well and his best form is on good and good to soft ground.

Legacy Thor - Gowran Park, February 18th 2023

Legacy Thor only finished 11th in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Gowran Park last Saturday, but he ran much better than that. Prominent from early, he travelled well across the top of the track, but he made a slight mistake at the third-last flight, as a result of which he had to be niggled along a little by Rachael Blackmore in order to retain his inside berth as they raced to the home turn. 

He was quickly back on the bridle, though, and he picked up in a share of the lead at the second-last flight, but he made a bad mistake at that obstacle and his rider did remarkably well to remain on board, but that ended his chance, and he was eased thereafter. He came home in his own time, 11th of the 14 finishers.

There could be a similar contest in Stuart Crawford's horse now off his current mark of 116. Winner of his maiden hurdle at Navan in December 2020, he was off the track for almost two years after he finished eighth in a novices' handicap hurdle at Leopardstown's 2020 Christmas Festival, but he is getting there again now. 

He ran well in the handicap hurdle that HMS Seahorse won at Navan in January on his last run before Saturday and wasn't beaten far having raced prominently in a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore. He could be underestimated at betting sites now on the back of this run at Gowran Park. He can handle good ground as well as this soft ground, and while he has won and run well at Navan, he does tend to jump to his right, so he might be seen to best effect on right-handed tracks.

Slip Of The Tongue - Gowran Park, February 18th 2023

Slip Of The Tongue kept on well to finish third in the two-and-a-half-mile beginners' chase at Gowran Park last Saturday. Settled nicely by Simon Torrens just behind the leaders and towards the outside early on, he was a little ponderous at his fences, but he warmed up a little as the race developed. 

The leaders got away from him as they raced to the end of the back straight, but he made nice ground as they raced across the top of the track to move into third place at the top of the home straight, and he kept on from there to retain that position. The winner, Grandero Bello, won well; he travelled well in front from flag fall, and he ran out an impressive winner, but Slip Of The Tongue kept on well all the way to the line.

Padraig Roche's horse was a good novice hurdler last season. Third behind Teahupoo and Quilixios in the Grade 2 four-year-olds' hurdle at Limerick's Christmas Festival last season, he won a listed contest at Punchestown in February last year, and he wasn't beaten far by Highland Charge in a Grade 3 race at Naas in March. 

This was his best performance yet in his fourth run over fences, and he should be able to build on this now. It was his first attempt at two-and-a-half miles; he saw it out well, and, out of a half-sister to Tingle Creek winner Direct Route and Top Novices' Hurdle winner Joe Mac, he will be of interest on betting apps wherever he goes next.

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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