Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: May 10 to May 17

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: May 10 to May 17

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.

Esculenta - Gowran Park, May 10

Esculenta battled on gamely to get off the mark in the one-mile fillies' handicap at Gowran Park on Wednesday, May 10. Sharply away, she showed nice early pace to bag the lead and the rail, and she quickly settled into a good racing rhythm for Dylan Browne McMonagle. 

Still on the bridle as they turned for home, she was challenged by Miramis on the run to the two-furlong marker. However, she saw off that rival inside the final furlong, and she still had enough in reserve to just withstand the late lunge of Fools Glory.

It was a good performance by Ray Cody's mare in the circumstances because she didn't have it all to herself. She had to use her early pace to get out and across to the rail in front from stall five, and she was challenged early enough in the home straight by Miramis. She showed a really willing attitude. 

This was her first win, but she ran some fine races in defeat when she was with Johnny Murtagh, and with this win under her belt now, she could kick on from this. She has run over all distances from six-and-a-half to nine furlongs, but this one-mile trip is obviously a good trip for her, and she could do even better back at seven furlongs on this evidence. 

She is not obviously unexposed, but this was probably a career-best performance, and she could kick on from this. A 5lb hike was fine. She will be of interest on horse racing betting sites if she runs next over a mile, but she will be of even greater interest back over seven furlongs.

Surely Not - Chester, May 11

Surely Not did well to win the seven-and-a-half-furlong three-year-olds' handicap at Chester on Thursday, and he probably won with at least a little more in hand than the bare winning margin.

Dropped in nicely by William Buick initially just behind the leaders, what could have been a perfect position morphed into a difficult position as the horse that he was tracking on the rail, Vetiver, dropped back to the second tier as Urban Sprawl moved across in front of her into the lead and onto the rail. The net result was that Surely Not was shuffled back into fifth place and in the third tier, as opposed to third place and in the second tier. To compound matters, Franny Norton steadied things down on the leader once he got to the front, which made it difficult for the hold-up horses to get into it. 

Still only fifth as they entered Chester's short home straight, Buick angled Surely Not out early in the home straight, engineered a gap for himself and asked his horse for his effort. Once into the clear, it took Surely Not a couple of strides to hit top gear but, once he did, he finished off his race strongly, getting up to beat Self Aclaim by a neck.

It was a good performance by Dominic Ffrench Davis' horse, coming from behind horses off a sedate pace. It was a race in which it was probably an advantage to be on the pace from early, with the two horses who finished second and third behind him, the 28/1 shot Self Aclaim and the 13/2 shot Urban Sprawl, occupying the first two places from early. 

Surely Not had looked good in winning a one-mile handicap at Newmarket at the Craven meeting on his debut this season. He may have been helped by being held up that day in a race in which the hold-up horses were probably advantaged, but he won with lots in hand and was in front from a fair way out before appearing to idle in front. 

Raised by 7lb for that, he made light of his new rating of 86 here. He was raised by another 6lb for this performance to a mark of 92, but he is progressive enough now to take that hike in his stride. He could be a horse for the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, he should get a fast pace in the Britannia, but he will be of interest on horse racing betting apps wherever he goes next.

Promoter - Chester, May 11

Promoter did well to get as close as he did in the three-year-olds' seven-and-a-half-furlong handicap at Chester on Wednesday that was won by Surely Not. He missed the break and had to be ridden along by Rossa Ryan through the first furlong, which negated the advantage of his good draw in stall one. He was a little keen in behind horses then in an unpromising position, last of the seven runners and along the inside. 

Still last as they raced around the home turn, he switched towards the inside with a furlong to run. It took him a little while to pick up as they leaders quickened, it never really looked like he was going to trouble the leaders, but he stayed on well through the final 150 yards to take fifth place, closest at the finish.

It all appeared to happen too quickly for Ralph Beckett's horse, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which he stayed on late once he got into the straight and got rolling. A winner over seven furlongs on soft ground as a juvenile, he is a grandson of Oaks winner Look Here, and his dam won over a mile and six furlongs on soft ground. 

He is bred for further, and this performance suggests that he could do much better for a step up in trip. He may be at his best on easy ground, but the handicapper dropped him by 1lb for this run to a mark of 89, and he could leave that mark well behind if and when he steps up in trip.

Law Of The Sea - Chester, May 12 2023

Law Of The Sea was unlucky not to finish closer than he did in the Chester Cup on Friday. Keen early on and short of room on the inside as they raced up past the winning post first time, he raced in mid-division and along the inside through the early part of the race. He was keen for most of the race and still straining the reins as they raced down the back straight for the final time. 

One of the only horses who was still on the bridle as they started around the home turn, he picked up well as they passed the two-furlong marker. Moved towards the outside and into clear air, he stayed on well towards the stands side, but he ran into a little bit of a cul-de-sac as the winner Metier swooped down the outside, and Franny Norton had to stop riding through the final 25 yards.

It was a big run by the Golden Horn gelding on his first run for Ian Williams. A dual winner for Godolphin and John & Thady Gosden, those two wins were gained on all-weather and on good-to-firm turf, but he handled this soft ground well. He is obviously versatile in terms of conditions. 

He didn't wear blinkers here, and this was the longest trip over which he has ever raced, and all of that opens up options for him. He holds an entry in the Northumberland Plate, and that would be an interesting project for those of you inclined to take a look on betting sites for the race.

Belhaven - Ascot, May 13 2023

Belhaven did well to keep on as well as she did to finish second in the one-mile fillies' handicap at Ascot on Saturday. Smartly away from stall 10, she quickly adopted a position up with the pace and towards the stands side. She was keener than ideal early on and always appeared that she was doing more than rider Pierre-Louis Jamin wanted her to do. She moved easily into the lead with fully four furlongs to run, and she found plenty in front when she came under a ride at the two-furlong marker. 

In the end, she couldn't contain Farhh To Shy, who travelled into her race really easily on the far side and who picked up well, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which she battled all the way to the line, going down by just a neck at the line.

It was another step forward by Harry Eustace's filly, despite the fact that she couldn't confirm places with the winner, who had finished almost four lengths behind her on her previous run at Nottingham. Farhh To Shy obviously improved from that run, but Belhaven improved too, and put up a noteworthy performance in a race in which she didn't have things in her favour. She was keener than ideal, and Ascot's straight track is not ideally suited to her forward-going tactics. 

The handicapper raised her by 3lb for this run, but that brings her up to a mark of just 90, so she can remain in this 0-90 grade. She goes well on this easy ground, and she will do better back at a track at which early pace is rewarded. She is one for one at Nottingham, and she has won two of her three races at Redcar. She is also one for one at Sandown; she won there last summer despite racing keenly early on in behind horses, and she will be of particular interest on betting apps if and when she goes back there.

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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