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.
Frero Banbou took a nice step forward in winning the two-mile handicap chase at Lingfield last Friday. Held up early on by Charlie Deutsch, he went wide down the far side, and he made good ground around the outside as they raced to the end of the back straight. He and the early leader Eclair D'Ainay had it between them from the top of the home straight, and it was a good battle between the pair of them over the last three fences, but you always felt that Frero Banbou was travelling the better, and he duly prevailed, forging clear on the run-in to win by a length in a good time, with the first two miles clear of their rivals.
Winner of a handicap chase at Sandown last March off a mark of 124, Venetia Williams' horse had run well in two competitive two-mile handicap chases this season, at Newbury and at Cheltenham. He seemed to enjoy the heavy ground last Friday, and he seemed to enjoy being held up in behind horses and making his ground. The handicapper raised him by 6lb to a mark of 140, but he has just turned seven and there could still be more to come from him off that mark, ideally held up off a fast pace over two miles on soft ground.
Banbridge battled on strongly to win the two-mile rated novices' hurdle that opened proceedings at Navan last Saturday. Settled in the middle of the seven-runner field early on by JJ Slevin behind a steady pace, he moved up on the outside close to the leaders as they raced to the end of the back straight. Squeezed along on the run to the third last flight, he came under a ride on the approach to the second last, but he responded well for pressure. He moved into second place on the run to the last, and he stayed on strongly up the run-in to catch Ardla, going on to win by over two lengths in the end from Au Fleuron, who kept on well too for second.
It was a good performance by Joseph O'Brien's horse, racing over a trip that is probably short of his best, and not helped by the sedate early pace. He was under pressure from a fair way out, but he showed a really willing attitude in battling up the hill, going on to win nicely in the end. Winner of his maiden hurdle over two miles last May, and winner a novices' hurdle over two miles and five furlongs on soft ground at Roscommon in July, nothing went right for him on his comeback run in a two-mile novices’ handicap hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, and it appears that there is plenty of scope for progression from him now when he moves back up in trip. The handicapper raised him by 5lb to a mark of 133, but he is only six and he has raced just five times over hurdles, and there is room for improvement in his jumping, so he has the potential to go beyond that mark, especially when he moved back up in trip.
Manisanda ran well for a long way in the first division of the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Navan on Saturday. Settled towards the outside early on by Conor Orr, Lorna Fowler's mare moved up threateningly around the outside as they raced around the home turn, and it looked like she was going to be a big player at that point. She came under a ride though as they landed over the third last flight in the front rank, and she started to fade from there. Even so, this was encouraging, her jumping was better than it had been on her hurdling bow at Thurles in November, and she should be able to build on this.
This was her first attempt at two and a half miles, and it looked like she just didn't get home. It looks like she could improve for a drop back down to two miles. That said, it was her first run since November, and she wasn't overly strong in the market, so it may just be that lack of a recent run took its toll in the closing stages of the race. There is lots of stamina in her pedigree, her dam won over two and a half miles and she is from the family of top staying hurdler Marello, and she will be of interest wherever she goes next.
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Palace Rock did really well to finish second in the Grade B two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Navan last Saturday. Settled at the rear of the field early on by Paddy O'Hanlon, just about last of the 17 runners passing the winning post with a circuit to run, he made good ground down the back straight to close in on the leaders as they raced across the top of the track. Fifth jumping the third last flight, he came under a ride on the run to the second last, but he picked up well from there. About two lengths down jumping the last, he stayed on well up the run-in on the far side, his run just flattening out close home, and going down by just a length and a half to The Very Man, a short head in front of Bread And Butter with the three of them clear.
This was a race in which the pace held up well. The first, third, fifth and sixth were in the leading group of five from flagfall, while the fourth horse home was seventh with a circuit to run. Palace Rock was the only horse who was able to get into the race from the rear. Also, he raced towards the inside for most of the race, in a race in which it may have been an advantage to race away from the inside rail. The winner, third and fourth all raced wide for most of the race.
Francis Casey's horse is a free-going sort, it suits him to be held up, but he has taken a nice step forward this season, and he should continue to progress now. A winner over a mile and a half on the flat at Dundalk last February, he was impressive in winning his maiden hurdle at Navan last March on his first attempt, and his trainer thought enough of him to allow him take his chance in the Grade 1 Champion Four-Year-Old hurdle at Punchestown on his second. A fast pace and a big field suits him well, and he may be better back now over two miles than over this intermediate trip. But he has only just turned five, so there could be a fair bit more to come. The handicapper raised him to a mark of 125 for this run, but he has the potential to go beyond that mark now. He holds entries in both the two-mile Grade B handicap hurdle and the three-mile Grade B handicap hurdle at Leopardstown's Dublin Racing Festival.
Triple Trade appeared to appreciate the step up to two and a half miles when he got off the mark in the novices' handicap hurdle at Lingfield last Sunday. Settled at the back of the seven-runner field early on, by Brendan Powell and towards the outside, he moved up closer to the leaders on the outside as they raced to the end of the back straight. Still travelling well as they turned for home, he moved up into a share of the lead on the approach to the second last flight. He and Shearer moved on between the final two flights, but Triple Trade went to the front on the run to the last and, despite pricking his ears and slowing into the obstacle, he got out over it safely and he kept on well up the run-in, still running green and leaving the impression that he had a fair bit more left to give.
This was a really likeable performance from Colin Tizzard's horse, and it held the promise of more to come. A strong, strapping chasing type, this was his first run since he finished third in a two-mile novices' handicap hurdle at Sandown's Tingle Creek meeting in early December, and it was just his fifth run over hurdles. As well as that, it was the longest trip over which he had ever raced, and he saw it out well on the heavy ground. He should be able to progress again from this, his first win, as he gains in experience. He is a chaser in waiting, but he will still be of interest wherever he goes next over hurdles, especially if there is a premium on stamina.