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.
Galahad Quest put up an eye-catching performance in finishing third behind Good Boy Bobby and Cracking Destiny in the two-and-a-half-mile listed handicap chase at Wetherby last Friday. Settled back in the field and towards the inside early on by David Noonan, he travelled well through his race and into the home straight. He made good progress from the fourth last fence, and he moved up nicely towards the far side over the third last and second last fences. He got in a little tight to the second last, and he came under pressure from there as Good Boy Bobby went for home. He landed a little flat-footed over the last as well, and he appeared to tire from there, but he kept on well enough to finish third, just missing out on second place by a half a length.
It was a really encouraging seasonal debut by Nick Williams' horse. The ground was almost certainly faster than ideal for him, so it wasn't surprising that he was really weak in the market, racing for the first time since February. Still only five, he could come on appreciably for this run, and he will be of particular interest when he can get back on softer ground. He holds an entry in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, and he will be of interest if he lines up in that, off his handicap rating of 135. He might be better on a flatter track, his best runs have been at Haydock and Wetherby, but he did win the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham's January meeting in 2020, so he will be of interest if he goes to Cheltenham, especially if the ground comes up soft.
There was a lot to like about the performance that Soaring Glory put up in winning the listed two-mile handicap hurdle at Ascot last Saturday. Things didn't go very smoothly for him early on, he was well back in the field early on and his jumping wasn't overly fluent. Tom Scudamore briefly explored a run up the inside on the run up the side of the track, but that option was closed off by Fergus Gillard on Leoncavallo, with the result that Soaring Glory had to come outside in order to make his ground. He made it quite quickly though on the run to the home turn, and he was quickly back on the bridle, his rider obviously keen not to go to the front too early. He found lots though when his rider asked him to pick up, and he came away from Leoncavallo and Boothill nicely from the final flight.
This was a really nice start to the season by Jonjo O'Neill's horse. A little weak in the pre-raced market, it was a really nice start to his second season, and he probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin. The handicapper raised him by 7lb to a mark of 150 but, a six-year-old who has now raced just seven times over hurdles, he has the potential to go beyond that mark. He is in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham recently, but he would be of even greater interest if he waited for the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury, a race that was mentioned by his trainer in post-race musings, back at the track at which he won the Betfair Hurdle.
Eskylane was impressive in winning the two-mile-one-furlong handicap hurdle at Down Royal last Saturday. Settled in mid-division early on by Jack Kennedy and racing wide, he travelled and jumped well, and he moved up into fifth place just behind the leaders after the fourth last flight. There were plenty there with chances over the third last, but Eskylane travelled really well to that point. He moved up on the outside of Light Brigade on the run to the second last, jumped to the front over that obstacle, and picked up well from there. He jumped the last well, ears pricked, and he cleared away impressively on the run-in.
Fifth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2020, Gordon Elliott's horse looked like a horse with a future when he won his maiden hurdle at Punchestown on his seasonal return last year. He didn't win again last season, but he shaped encouragingly on his debut this term in a good handicap hurdle at Listowel in September. This was a good step forward from that, and there is every chance that he can go forward again. The handicapper raised him by 10lb for his Down Royal win to a mark of 144, but he has raced just seven times over hurdles, and he has the potential to go beyond that mark now.
Zambella ran better in listed mares' hurdle at Wetherby last Saturday than the bare form of her run suggests. Keen enough through the early stages of the race, and racing towards the inside, probably on the worst of the ground, Nigel Twiston-Davies' mare jumped to her right a little throughout, as she had in the past, but she travelled well into the home straight before Molly Ollys Wishes went for home on the run to the third last flight. Zambella tired from there, as lack of a recent run probably took its toll on the ground, and she just kept on to finish fourth.
Zambella was racing over hurdles for the first time since September 2020. Winner of three of her five completed chases in the meantime, and second in the other two, it wasn't hugely surprising that she was a little big over her first few flights here. While she did warm to her task, it is probable that she will be better now when she goes back over fences. It is also probable that she will come forward with this run under her belt, her first run since April. Still only six and with just six runs over fences on her CV, she will be of interest when she goes over fences again now, and she should do better back on a right-handed track.
Dublin Four put up a good performance to win the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Newbury on Thursday. Settled back in the field early on by Kielan Woods, he moved up nicely on the inside over the cross fence and into the home straight. He moved up on the far side in the home straight over the third last and fourth last fences and, despite getting in tight to the second last, he moved up to challenge leader Buster Thomas at the last. He had to be brave, there wasn't a lot of room between the leader and the rail as they ran up the run-in, past the water jump, but Dublin Four was strong all the way to the line, going on to win by a length and a half in the end.
It was a fine performance by the Arakan gelding, racing for Fergal O'Brien for the first time since he and his former trainer Graeme McPherson teamed up. It was his first run too since last April, when he did well to finish fourth in a three-mile novices' handicap chase at Ayr after making bad mistakes at the second last and last fences on the first circuit. He proved here that he has the pace for two and a half miles, but it may be that he will do even better stepped back up to three miles. He is only seven and he has raced just seven times over fences, so there could be a fair bit more to come from him. He goes well on flat tracks, and his two chase wins have been gained at Newbury, so he will be of particular interest if and when he goes back there.