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.
Dolcita put up a really nice performance under a superb ride from Paul Townend to win the listed mares' chase over two and a half miles at Clonmel last Thursday. Settled back in the field early on, her jumping was very good and she travelled well down the back straight final time. She jumped up into a share of third place behind Ballyshannon Rose and Elimay at the final fence in the back straight, but Townend was happy to allow Scarlet And Dove go back up on her outside as they raced down around the home turn. He was happy to allow his mare drift fully four lengths off the pace as they raced around the home turn, before asking her for her effort as they straightened up. A slight mistake at the second last fence didn't help, but it is a fair pull from the second last to the line at Clonmel. Dolcita flew the final fence and she had just enough real estate and enough energy left to allow her get up and beat the gallant Ballyshannon Rose by a half a length.
It was a really nice performance by Willie Mullins' mare, on her first run since last April. She just got up to beat a talented and race-fit mare, and she had two high-class mares in Elimay and Scarlet And Dove behind her in third and fourth places. She should progress from this run too, her first since she finished over 40 lengths behind Scarlet And Dove in the Glencarrig Lady Mares' Chase at the Punchestown Festival in April. She will be of interest wherever she goes next, but she goes well at Fairyhouse, she is two for two over fences there, and she will be of particular interest if and when she returns to the County Meath venue.
Your Darling was impressive in winning the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Ascot last Friday. Quickly into a nice prominent position for Kielan Woods just up on the outside of leader Elixir De Nutz, he made one or two little errors early on but, overall, his jumping was very good. He was accurate and straight and always within his comfort zone. He moved up nicely on the run down the side of the track, joined the leader over the fifth last, jumped to the front over the fourth last, and moved easily into a clear lead as they raced around the home turn. He popped the last two fences and ran out a facile winner, eased down close home and winning with much more in hand than the near-four-length winning margin.
It was a really good performance by Ben Pauling's horse. It was his first run since last April and, while he can go well fresh, this was just his sixth chase, so there is every chance that he will progress from it. The handicapper raised him by 10lb to a mark of 133, but he is progressive enough to take that type of hike in his stride. He obviously goes well right-handed, his two best runs before this were at Kempton and Huntingdon. He has a history of going well fresh, he has a good record after a break, but there is every chance that he can go on from this now as he matures. He obviously handles this good to soft ground well too, but he ran out a good winner of his bumper at Newbury on heavy ground, so he will remain of interest if he does run during the winter, but he will be of particular interest if he is given a break now and brought back to the track a fresh horse. His record after a break of 100 days or more reads 1-3-1-1-1.
Fontaine Collonges put up a nice performance to win the handicap chase run over almost three and a quarter miles at Haydock last Saturday. Her jumping was a little lacking in fluency early on, but she warmed to her task as the race developed. She made nice ground for Tom Scudamore on the outside as they raced down the back straight final time, and she moved up on the outside of the leader Good Boy Bobby as they left the back straight. She and The Big Breakaway moved on over the third last fence, and she battled on well to get the better of a good duel with that rival, getting home by a head in the end.
It was a gritty performance by Venetia Williams' mare. She had never gone beyond two and a half miles before but, out of a half-sister to Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, she is bred to appreciate this trip, and she stayed it well. There was a lot to like about the manner in which she warmed to her task, and about the willing attitude that she displayed. It was just her fifth chase and it was her first run since she won a mares' novices' handicap chase at Lingfield in January. Also, she was Venetia Williams' first winner since last April. The handicapper raised her by 5lb to a mark of 137, and that was fair. She remains unexposed as a staying chaser, she goes well on soft and heavy ground, and she will be of interest wherever she goes next.
Glimpse Of Gala was beaten when sent off as favourite for the mares' handicap hurdle run over almost three miles at Ascot last Saturday, but she did well to stay on as well as she did to take second place behind Coquelicot. Settled at the back of the five-runner field early on by Bradley Roberts, Charlie Longsdon's mare wasn’t suited by the sedate pace that Rex Dingle was allowed to set on the winner. She moved out and started to make progress as they raced down the side of the track, but she got outpaced when they quickened from the third last flight, dropping to last on the crown of the home turn as the winner travelled well in front, fully four lengths clear of her rivals. It never looked likely that Glimpse Of Gala would catch Coquelicot, but there was a lot to like about the manner in which she stayed on over the last two flights, getting to within just over three lengths of the winner and coming five lengths clear of her other three rivals.
Glimpse Of Gala appears to be all stamina, so she wouldn't have been suited by a sedate pace on good ground. We should see her to better effect when she gets a truer test; a faster pace and/or easier ground. We know that she stays three miles well, and we know that she handles soft ground. Her record on soft ground over two miles and five furlongs or more reads 131. She will be of interest now in a good three-mile handicap hurdle, and she should get a decent pace in a biggish-field handicap. The Pertemps qualifier at Sandown on Tingle Creek weekend might come up too quickly, but there is a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton on St Stephen's Day, and that is an option, and there is one in early January on Classic Chase day at Warwick, a track at which she has won before.
My Immortal was just caught by Shewearsitwell in the Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown last Sunday, but he ran a fine race in defeat. Settled nicely by Michael O'Sullivan just behind the leaders, he moved up on the outside of the leaders on the run to the second last flight, and jumped into the lead there. He travelled well in front around the home turn on the inside, and he picked up well when his rider asked him to. A length in front at the final flight, he kicked into a two-length lead on the run-in, but he was just run down close home by Willie Mullins' mare, going down by a neck in the end.
It was a fine run by Barry Connell's horse. He raced prominently in a race in which the hold-up horses came to the fore. The other six horses who, with My Immortal, filled the first seven places all raced in mid-division or worse early on, and the winner was 14th of the 15 runners with three flights to jump. This was just My Immortal's fifth run over hurdles too. A good winner of a three-mile handicap hurdle on soft ground at Punchestown last February, he was well beaten on his debut this season back at Punchestown, but the ground was faster than ideal for him that day, and this was a nice step forward from that. The handicapper raised him by just 3lb for that to a mark of 133, and that is more than fair. He is only six, he remains unexposed, and he will be of interest in another good three-mile handicap hurdle. The Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival would be an option, as would the three-mile handicap hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. Looking further ahead, he could be a horse for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March.