Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: January 27th to February 3rd

Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: January 27th to February 3rd

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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.

Coko Beach - Gowran Park, 27th January 2022

Coko Beach ran well for a long way in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last Thursday. Prominent from early along the inside, he jumped to the front over the seventh last fence, and he travelled and jumped well in front for Davy Russell, until he was joined by Longhouse Poet and Mister Fogpatches at the top of the home straight on the run to the third last fence. He was still only about a length behind the ultimate winner at the second last fence, but he made a tired mistake at that obstacle and he faded from there, eventually finishing sixth, almost 20 lengths behind the winner.

Gordon Elliott's horse ran better than the bare form of the run suggests. And he did well to last in front for as long as he did, given that he raced prominently in a race in which they went fast from early. The handicapper dropped him by just 1lb for this, which still leaves him on a mark of 146, 8lb higher than the mark off which he won the Thyestes last year, but that mark is more than workable on this evidence, and he is still only seven. He holds an entry in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown next Sunday, and he will be of interest if he lines up in that. The step up to three and a half miles could suit him well.

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Escaria Ten - Gowran Park, 27th January 2022

The other horse to take out of the Thyestes Chase was Coko Beach's stable companion Escaria Ten. He made a bad mistake at the first fence, which left him further back in the field than ideal. He travelled well through his race though, towards the rear of the field and wide. He was a little slow at the fifth last fence, the last in the back straight, and he came under a ride, but he came back on the bridle over the fourth last fence, and he made good ground to move in behind the leaders and travelling well at the top of the home straight along the inside. He came under a ride at the third last, he was one of six horses who broke away from the rest of the field at that point, and he looked a real threat, but a slow jump at the second last fence ended any chance he had of winning the race, and he weakened from there, eventually finishing only eighth in the end, 24 lengths behind the winner Longhouse Poet.

This was Escaria Ten's seasonal debut, it was his first run since he was pulled up in the Irish Grand National last April, so he was entitled to tire late on. But he ran really well, much better than his finishing position suggests. It was just his sixth chase too, he still has scope for progression as a staying chaser, and this mark of 151 could be well within range. A close-up third behind Galvin and Next Destination in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last March, he has a touch of class, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

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Torn And Frayed - Cheltenham, 29th January 2022

Torn And Frayed was impressive in winning the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham last Saturday. Prominent from early, he settled back along the inside, in the slipstream of the leader Coole Cody. His jumping wasn't overly fluent, it never really looked like he was going to come down, but he didn't make ground at his fences, which makes his performance all the more meritorious. As well as that, Coole Cody jumped to his right in front of him, but then moved back to his left on landing, so it was always going to be difficult for Torn And Frayed to get past.

He didn't have a lot of room on the run around the home turn as Coole Cody came under a ride in front of him. But Sam Twiston-Davies was patient, he bided his time, waited until Coole Cody moved a little to his right on straightening up for the second last fence and, when he did, asked his horse to move into the gap. He had the horse to get him there too, Torn And Frayed picked up well and got through the gap just before they got to the second last fence. Galahad Quest challenged on the outside and he looked a big danger, but Torn And Frayed picked up impressive on the run to the final fence, jumped that fence well and cleared away up the run-in to win by six lengths.

It was an impressive performance by Nigel Twiston-Davies' horse. He won with lots in hand despite not jumping with a lot of fluency throughout, and the fact that he was always in behind Coole Cody, who jumped to his right and then came back to his left, didn't help. It was just his fourth run over fences though, he is still a novice, and the fact that his trainer was happy to allow him run in the open handicap instead of in the novices' race is a measure of the regard in which he is held. The handicapper raised him by 8lb for this win to a mark of 139, but he won well, and he still has lots of scope for progression, especially if he can become more fluent over his fences. He does jump to his left, so he will probably always be at his best on a left-handed track, and he goes particularly well at Cheltenham, four of his best performances now have come on the four occasions on which he has raced at Cheltenham. He will be a big player in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival if that is where he goes next.

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Egality Mans - Fairyhouse, 29th January 2022

Egality Mans only finished fourth in the beginners' chase that opened proceedings at Fairyhouse last Saturday, but he travelled like the best horse in the race most of the way, and he should be able to step forward from this. Prominent from flagfall, he led until Frontal Assault took it off him on the run away from the stands, but he travelled well for Danny Mullins from there. He jumped to the front again at the second fence down the back straight, and he led from there to the home turn, where he travelled best. If anything, he travelled too well, he was probably doing a little more than his rider wanted, and that may have told in the end as, after travelling best into the home straight, he came under pressure on the run to the second last fence, and he faded from there to finish fourth behind the three Gordon Elliott-trained horses.

This was just Egality Mans' second chase, and it was his first time to complete over fences. Winner of his maiden hurdle over two miles at Naas last February, he was travelling well in front in the Grade 2 two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle at Fairyhouse in April when he came down at the third last flight. He wasn't travelling as well as his stable companion En Beton in a beginners' chase at Punchestown on his debut this season when he came down at the second last fence over two miles and seven furlongs, but the winner was probably an under-rated horse going into that race, and that two-mile-seven-furlong trip probably stretched Egality Mans' stamina anyway, especially on his seasonal return. There is stamina in his pedigree, his half-brother Coquin Mans won that Grade 2 novices' hurdle at Fairyhouse at Easter, and he won twice over three miles over hurdles, but their dam won a 10-furlong bumper in France and, given how well Egality Mans travels through his race, it might be worthwhile dropping him back down to two miles.

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Frontal Assault - Fairyhouse, 29th January 2022

Noted here after he finished fourth behind Ciel De Neige over an inadequate two and a half miles in a novices' chase at Navan in December, Frontal Assault is worth noting again now after he finished second behind his stable companion Floueur - in a Gordon Elliott 1-2-3 - and two places in front of Egality Mans, in that beginners' chase at Fairyhouse last Saturday. Prominent from early, he dropped to fourth place when they quickened on the run to the home turn, and he came under a ride shortly thereafter, but he stayed on well for Bryan Cooper over the last two fences, getting back past the weakening Egality Mans and one stable companion Grand Paradis, and getting to within a half a length of his other stable companion Floueur, closing all the way to the line.

Even this two-mile-five-and-a-half-furlong trip appeared to be on the sharp side for Gordon Elliott's horse, but there was a lot to like about the way that he stayed on after he dropped a few lengths behind the leaders on the run to the second last fence. He is from the family of Champion Chaser Special Tiara, but he stayed on well to win a Grade 3 novices' hurdle over three miles on heavy ground at Navan last February, so it is probable that he will progress for stepping up to staying trips over fences. The handicapper gave him a mark of 138 after this, and that is a mark that should be well within range when he steps up in trip. He is high in the betting for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham, and that looks like a viable option for him, a race that the Cullentra team have won three times in the last six years.