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.
Royal Fleet did well to win the one-mile three-year-old handicap at Newmarket on Saturday, given how keen he was through the early stages of the race. Free through the first couple of furlongs, William Buick then allowed him roll along instead of fighting against him, and allowed him to drift over towards the far rail. Up with the leaders Qaader and Darvel, he travelled well on the far side. William Buick didn't really go for him until they raced to the furlong pole and, when he did, he kept on well. He was always holding Latest Generation who finished off his race well down the near side, with the pair of them nicely clear.
This was just Royal Fleet's third run, and it was his first since he won a novice stakes at Yarmouth in April. He still hasn't been beaten, he is three for three, and he should continue to improve as he gains experience and hopefully learns to settle better. A half-brother to Royal Crusade, who won a Group 3 race over six furlongs in France, in which he beat Glen Shiel into second place. Charlie Appleby's colt does stay this mile but he could be even better over seven furlongs. He is an unexposed and lightly-raced colt and will be of interest wherever he goes next.
Creative Force was really well-backed for the July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday, but it was always possible that a fast six furlongs on fast ground would be sharper than ideal for him, and that is probably how things panned out. He did adopt a good position, close to the stands rail, and he didn't have a lot of room when they quickened, but it appeared that he just didn't have the speed that the proven sprinters had. He just got a little outpaced before keeping on well to take fifth place behind Starman.
The Godolphin colt did win his first three races this season over six furlongs, but he put up the best performance of his life when he stepped up in trip to seven furlongs and won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. He did really well to win that day too. He had to do a lot of running on his own out in the centre of the track but he dug deep and got the better of his stable companion Naval Crown, who raced on the near side. Ascot's seven furlongs is a stiff seven furlongs and the ground was soft on Jersey Stakes day. Creative Force saw it out well. You have to think that he will be seen to better effect when he steps back up to seven furlongs. The Lennox Stakes at Goodwood would be an ideal short-term target and it wouldn't be surprising if connections had one eye on the Prix de la Foret already.
Dawaam did well to get as close as he got in the John Smith's Cup at York on Saturday. Dropped in behind runners early on from his outside draw, he wasn't helped by the sedate early pace. He was one of several horses who wanted to go faster than they were going though the first few furlongs, and it wasn't ideal that he was fourth last of the 17 runners as they left the back straight. He travelled well around the home turn though and he made good ground towards the far side early in the home straight. Still on the bridle as they raced to the two-furlong marker, he wasn't helped by Winter Reprise's move to the right in front of him. It meant that he had to check and then move to his left over close to the inside rail, which probably wasn't the fastest part of the track. Even so, he stayed on well from there all the way to the line to get up and take fourth place, beaten by a total of just over two lengths.
Owen Burrows' horse is generally better on all-weather than he is on turf but he did run well for a long way in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot on his previous run. His turf mark was raised to 105 after that, equal to his all-weather mark, but he raced off his old turf mark of 97 on Saturday. Things will be more difficult for him now on turf but he has been dropped back down to 102, so not as difficult as they might have been, but he will still be interesting now wherever he goes next. He will be of particular interest back on all-weather or back at Ascot, a track at which all-weather form can often be replicated. While his best form is over 10 furlongs now, he has pace, he travels well through his races and he is effective over a mile. A strong handicap over Ascot's straight mile, on Ascot's sand-based straight track, could be ideal. The Balmoral Handicap on British Champions' Day at Ascot would be an interesting mid-range target.
Dakota Gold only finished fifth in the City Walls Stakes at York on Saturday, but it was a fine performance by Michael Dods' horse on his seasonal debut. He showed lots of early pace, and he travelled up well on the near side to move to within about a length or a length and a half of the winner Winter Power at the two-furlong marker. He couldn't match the filly's speed and he was starting to tire when he was sandwiched a little between Moss Gill and Urban Beat inside the final furlong. He was then just caught by Snazzy Jazzy for fourth place.
Dakota Gold was weak in the market before Saturday's race and he invariably comes on for his seasonal debut. His record on his seasonal debut since he started racing reads 317555. His record on his second run of the season, by contrast, reads 12316. He was in tremendous form at the end of last season, winning his last three races, two listed races and the Group 3 Bengough Stakes at York in October. He is a horse who comes into his own late in the season, in September and October when the autumn ground comes, and he is worth keeping in mind for now.
The Cairn Rouge Stakes at Killarney on Wednesday was all about Mehnah. It was a fine performance by Kevin Prendergast's filly, to keep on as well as she did to win the race from stall 16 on her first run since last April, and her Group 1 aspirations are legitimate. She could be a filly for the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions' Weekend. But because Mehnah commanded the headlines, the performance that Neptune Rock put up in finishing fourth behind her may have gone under the radar. Well away from stall one and quickly into a nice position on the inside and just behind the leaders, she lost her position as they raced out of the back straight. Queen's Speech dropped back into her lap a little along the inside and that appeared to force Neptune Rock back in the field. No better than ninth or 10th as they left the back straight, she travelled well into the home straight, but she had to make her ground among traffic, and she never really got a clear shot at it. She wasn't impeded or anything, but she still had to chart a path through. She didn't really get out into the clear until they raced inside the final furlong, after Mehnah had swooped past, but, once she did have clear sailing, she finished off her race well to take fourth place, beaten a total of just over two lengths and closest at the finish.
Winner of her maiden at Leopardstown last month on her debut this season, Joseph O'Brien's filly did well to finish second behind Let's at Limerick on her previous run. Again, she made good ground from the rear that day despite not having a lot of room along the inside rail. She got to within a neck of Ken Condon's filly at the winning line and she was in front at the pull-up. Out of a half-sister to Yellow Rosebud, who won the Guineas Trial over a mile, and to Seeharn, who was at her best over seven furlongs, Neptune Rock races as if she could step up in trip beyond a mile, but a fast-run mile at a galloping track should suit her well too. It is interesting that her trainer thinks highly enough of her to have given her an entry in the Matron Stakes but, in the shorter term, she will be of interest in a fillies' listed race or Group 3 race over a mile or nine or 10 furlongs. The Hurry Harriet Stakes over nine and a half furlongs at Gowran Park next month could be a good target for her.