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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.
Indigo Breeze - Fairyhouse, 15th January 2022
Indigo Breeze put up a good performance to finish second behind Autumn Evening in a good two-mile hurdle at Fairyhouse last Saturday. He was settled nicely towards the rear of the five-runner field early on by Davy Russell, but they were all in a bunch as they rounded the home turn, and he got caught a little flat-footed when they quickened. He wasn't fast at the second-last flight just as the pace was increasing as, by contrast, the ultimate winner Autumn Evening flew that flight and quickly set up a race-winning advantage. Indigo Breeze kept on well from there, though. He moved into a clear second, away from Top Moon and Daly Tiger, and while it never really looked like he would get to Autumn Evening, he closed on him all the way to the line.
It was a wholly likeable performance by Gordon Elliott's horse, on just his fourth run over hurdles. Winner of his only point-to-point and of his only bumper, he got off the mark over hurdles on his previous run, when he stayed on well to get up and beat Deploy The Getaway over two miles at Gowran Park. That was back in November, and this was his first run since, and he probably got caught out by a lack of match practice and a lack of experience more than by a lack of pace when they quickened. Lartique Hurdle winner Autumn Evening is a talented, pacey and experienced horse who has a mark of 82 on the flat and who was racing for the 14th time on Saturday. Indigo Breeze should be able to step forward from this run; he should benefit from the experience, and he could progress for a stiffer test of stamina than that presented by two miles on the inside track at Fairyhouse.
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Hauturiere - Fairyhouse, 15th January 2022
Hauturiere did well to finish second behind My Design in the two-and-a-half-mile mares' maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse last Saturday. Settled nicely early on by Paul Townend in fourth place and along the inside, behind a decent pace that Ian Power set on My Design, she travelled well to the home turn. She had to switch on the run to the second-last flight to come outside Beth Horan, which wasn't ideal, and she made a mistake at the second-last flight, which halted her forward momentum. She recovered her equilibrium, though, and picked up again, but a similar mistake at the final flight, although not quite as significant, ended any realistic chance she had of winning the race. Even so, she kept on well to take second place, closing all the way to the line.
It was a good run by Willie Mullins' mare, on just her second run since joining the champion trainer from France. She was well beaten by Guily Billy on her Irish debut at Tramore in December, but this was a nice step forward from that, and she could improve significantly as she becomes more fluent over her hurdles, which she should do as she gains experience. By No Risk At All, sire of Epatante and Allaho, and out of a mare who won over two-and-a-quarter miles over fences, she saw out this intermediate trip well, and she could get further.
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Smarty Wild - Kempton, 15th January 2022
Smarty Wild did well to get as close as he got to Caribean Boy in the three-mile handicap chase at Kempton last Saturday. Held up early on by Tom O'Brien and racing towards the inside, he made nice ground down the back straight to move into fourth place as they raced around the home turn. He travelled well in behind Wishing And Hoping and Caribean Boy as they straightened up for home, and he jumped the second last fence in a share of the lead with those two. He and Caribean Boy moved on as they raced to the final fence, and he was probably a neck or a half a length in front on the approach to the obstacle, but he got in tight and landed flat-footed, as Caribean Boy flew it. He was beaten by two lengths in the end, but he would have been much closer had he jumped the last a little better.
As well as that, Smarty Wild was held up, and he raced towards the inside. It is usually difficult to make ground from the rear over fences at Kempton, unless they go very fast up front, and the winner and third here, Caribean Boy and Wishing And Hoping, were prominent from early. The better ground on the chase track on the day also may have been towards the outside. Caribean Boy raced wide throughout, and Falco Blitz, winner of the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, raced wide throughout. Smarty Wild did well, probably racing on the slowest ground from flagfall.
Philip Hobbs' horse still has scope to progress. He has just turned eight and this was just his 10th race over fences. The handicapper raised him by 3lb to a mark of 134, but that mark is well within range and is 3lb lower than his peak. Also, he was only just beaten on Saturday by a horse who, at his peak, was rated 9lb higher than the mark off which he raced on Saturday, and who had the potential to progress for a step up to three miles, with the pair of them nicely clear. He is effective over two-and-a-half miles, but he stays this three-mile trip well, and he is unexposed over the trip, so this is a good distance for him. He goes well at Kempton, three of the best runs over his career have been there, so he will be of particular interest if and when he returns to the Sunbury track. The Coral Chase, the old Racing Post Chase, at Kempton at the end of February could be an ideal race for him. He could sneak into that race on a low weight off his current mark of 134.
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Call Me Lord - Kempton, 15th January 2022
Call Me Lord is nine now and has raced 23 times over hurdles, but there could still be a big prize in him, based on the evidence of Saturday's run in finishing third in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. Settled in mid-division early on and along the inside, he travelled really well through his race for James Bowen. He moved up nicely around the home turn, travelling as well as any of his rivals, and although the leaders got away from him a little on the run to the second last flight, he stayed on well from there to take third place, just getting up to take that place from Gelino Bello close to home, and just a length-and-a-half behind the runner-up Highway One O Two.
This was a race in which the pace held up well. Three of the first four home raced prominently, with Call Me Lord doing best of the horses who raced in mid-division or worse. Also, this was his first run over hurdles since he finished third in a Grade 2 contest at Sandown last April. His first two runs this season were both over fences, but it wasn't really happening for him over the larger obstacles, so it was an astute move by Nicky Henderson to go back over hurdles. It is a move that could pay dividends now, too. He was racing off a handicap rating of 144 on Saturday, 16lb lower than his peak, and he will be of interest again now in another good handicap hurdle off that type of mark. His best runs have been at Sandown, and he also goes well at Ascot, so he will be of particular interest if and when he returns to one of those tracks.
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Up For Parol - Kempton, 15th January 2022
Up For Parol is the other horse to take out of the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton last Saturday. He ran better than the bare form of his run suggests. Slowly away and held up early on by Gavin Sheehan, and racing towards the outside, he made good progress on the outside going down the back straight, but he was wider than ideal around the home turn and had to cover a lot of ground as he made progress on the run into the home straight. His run flattened out after that, but he kept on to finish sixth. The winner, Cobblers Dream, won well, but Up For Parol was only beaten a length for third, and two-and-a-half lengths for second.
The pace held up well in the Lanzarote Hurdle this year, and it was difficult for the hold-up horses to make progress. Up For Parol continues to progress, though. He won his maiden hurdle over two miles at Wetherby last March and followed up over the same trip at Ffos Las in April. Third in the Grade 2 Persian War Hurdle at Chepstow on his debut this season, he didn't have a good experience on his chasing debut at Ffos Las in November, where he was being ridden when he was hampered by a faller at the third-last fence, and he came home without a shoe and with a wound to his pastern. He put that behind him next time, though. Returned to hurdles, he kept on well to get the better of the talented Stellar Magic in a good handicap hurdle run over two miles and three furlongs at Haydock in December, with the pair of them clear, on his last run before the Lanzarote.
The handicapper raised Jamie Snowden's horse by 6lb for that win to a mark of 133, and he left him on that mark after Saturday. That mark should be well within range. He usually races prominently, it wasn't ideal that he missed the break in the Lanzarote, and a return to more forward tactics could see him step forward again. A half-brother to Gavin Cromwell's talented bumper horse Letsbeclearaboutit, this intermediate trip looks like a good trip for him, ridden forward, although he would be interesting too stepped up to three miles. He is only six and has raced just six times over hurdles, so there should be more to come.