Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 19th to February 27th

Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 19th to February 27th

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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.

Kraqueline - Ascot, 19th February 2022

Kraqueline did well to finish second in the Mares' Bumper that brought the curtain down on Ascot's card last Saturday. Well backed beforehand, she travelled well through her race, but they didn’t go a great pace, which wasn't ideal. She raced in third place, up on the outside of a well-bunched-up field, and she moved up into a share of the lead as they rounded the home turn. She got tapped for toe, though. As they quickened at the top of the home straight, she dropped back to fourth place. But she dug deep inside the final furlong-and-a-half and stayed on again into second place, and she was past the winner Roc Of Dundee five strides past the winning line.

It was a good performance by Kerry Lee's mare, who was racing for just the second time in her life, and for the first time since she made her racecourse debut at Warwick in November. The sedate early pace was all against her, and there was a lot to like about the manner in which she kept on again after she had been passed. By Martaline, sire of Dynaste, Diol Ker, Disko and Agrapart, there is plenty of stamina in her pedigree, and she raced here as if she would appreciate a stiffer test, with a step up in trip, a faster pace or both. She will be of interest in another bumper now, and she could be interesting over hurdles next season as she steps up in trip.


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Crystal Glory - Haydock, 19th February 2022

It was correct that Hillcrest captured all the attention after winning the Grade 2 Prestige Hurdle at Haydock last Saturday, but Crystal Glory put up a really good performance to chase him home. Settled in mid-division and along the inside early on by Sean Quinlan, Crystal Glory moved into third place behind the two breakaway front-runners Hillcrest and Green Book as they started down the back straight for the final time. He moved into second place as Green Book weakened on the run around the home turn, and it appeared as if he was travelling at least as well as Hillcrest as they landed over the third-last flight, at which neither of them was overly fluent. It was at the second last, though, that Hillcrest's engine kicked in, and he stayed on powerfully to win well, but Crystal Glory kept on admirably to get to within eight lengths of him.

It may be that Crystal Glory was slightly flattered by this, as Green Book faded only because he attempted to match strides with Hillcrest early on. However, Crystal Glory had to do a lot of running to bridge the gap, and, while Hillcrest proved to be more powerful in the end, he still kept on well. Nicky Richards' horse was stepping up markedly in class, from Class 4 contests into a Grade 2, but he acquitted himself well in the heavy ground and over the longest distance over which he had ever raced under rules. A dual point-to-point winner, he will be of interest in another staying hurdle now before the end of the season, and a handicap mark of 131 looks more than fair should connections choose to go down that route, but he could be an exciting staying novice chaser for next season.

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Beacon Edge - Navan, 22nd February 2022

Beacon Edge ran a big race to finish second to Farouk D'Alene in the rescheduled Grade 2 Ten Up Chase at Navan last Tuesday. He was fourth best of the four runners over the first fence, but his jumping warmed up as the race developed, and he and Farouk D'Alene moved on from their two rivals as they left the back straight. It was a good battle between the two Gigginstown House horses from there. Beacon Edge out-jumped his rival at the fourth-last fence, the last before the home turn, and he travelled marginally better into the home straight. They jumped the second last as one, but, when Beacon Edge moved on between the final two fences, he looked the most likely winner, trading at 1.41 in-running. He just gave best on the run-in, going down by three-quarters of a length in the end in a race that was run in a good time, just faster than Racing Post par and almost nine seconds faster than the handicap chase run over the same course and distance 35 minutes later.

It was a really good run by Noel Meade's horse, conceding 7lb to the winner, a 151-rated performer who was beaten a short head by Master McShee in the Grade 1 Faugheen Chase at Limerick at Christmas. As well as that, Beacon Edge is just re-gathering his momentum this season. He won the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in November, in which he had Gabynako and Fury Road behind him, but a slight setback ruled him out of the Christmas festivals, and he fell at the sixth fence in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. This was his first run since and was his first completion since November, giving 7lb to a talented and race-fit rival. It was a big performance, and there is every chance that he will come on again for the experience. Winner of the Boyne Hurdle last February and fourth in the Stayers' Hurdle last March, he could be a lively outsider for the Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham. He could be an underrated novice chaser.


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Kitty's Light - Kempton, 26th February 2022

Kitty's Light put up a big performance to finish second to his stable companion Cap Du Nord in the valuable Coral Trophy at Kempton on Saturday. Held up early on by Brian Hughes, towards the rear of the field and wide, he couldn't go the early pace. He was being ridden along after two fences, and he was left in last place when Phoenix Way departed at the third fence. Still stone last of the 12 remaining runners as they raced down the side of the track, he made progress on that part of the track, and he travelled well around the outside into the home straight, just about five lengths behind the leaders. He stayed on well too over the last three fences, and while he couldn't get to his stable companion, he ran all the way to the line to get to within three lengths of the winner, coming over five lengths clear of the rest of his rivals.

This was a solid run by Christian Williams' horse in a test that wasn't as stiff as ideal. He goes well on this good to soft ground - he goes well on better ground too - but he is a real stayer for whom three miles on goodish ground probably isn't far enough. He put up the best performance of his life in the Bet365 Gold Cup last year, over three miles and five furlongs on good ground, when he was probably coming to win the race before he was hampered. In the end, he was promoted to second place, but he almost certainly would have won without the interference. That race is surely his target again this year. The handicapper raised him by 3lb for Saturday's run to a mark of 143, which is just 4lb higher than the mark off which he ran at Sandown last year as a mere five-year-old, and it is 6lb lower than his peak. He will be of big interest now in the good staying handicap chases as we move into the spring. He holds an entry in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter on the Saturday after Cheltenham, but the ground may be softer than ideal for him there, and he will be of greater interest back in the Bet365 Gold Cup.

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Palace Rock - Naas, 27th February 2022

Noted before, after he finished second behind The Very Man in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Navan in January, Palace Rock is worth noting again after he won a two-mile handicap hurdle at Naas on Saturday. Racing keenly up on the outside of runners early on, he moved into second place behind breakaway leader Prospectus as they passed the winning post with a circuit to run. He moved to the front ahead of Prospectus over the fourth last flight, which is far enough from home over two miles on soft ground at Naas, but rider Denis O'Regan always looked confident. Francis Casey's horse travelled well into the home straight as his rivals came under pressure behind him, he jumped the second-last flight well and quickened into a clear lead. He got the last all wrong after putting in a short stride and hitting the top of the flight to lose momentum, but he had enough in reserve to get going again up the hill, keeping on well enough to get home by a half a length from the fast-finishing Take All.

It was a nice step forward by Francis Casey's horse, racing off a handicap mark of 125, 5lb higher than the mark off which he raced at Navan. He is a free-going sort, and he obviously appreciated the drop back down to two miles. He was still keen, and he didn't have a lot of cover early on, and he ended up closer to the pace than may have been the plan initially, but he still did it nicely. The handicapper raised him by 7lb for this to a mark of 132, but he probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the bare winning margin. He should do better too in a better race, in which a faster pace will help him settle better and should facilitate more patient tactics. He does hold an entry at Leopardstown on Sunday, and he will be of interest if he lines up there, but he has such a high cruising speed, you can see him travelling well into his race in one of those good big-field two-mile handicap hurdles at Fairyhouse or Punchestown, before being delivered late. He is only five and remains an exciting prospect.