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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.
Hacker Des Places - Sandown, 12th March 2022
Hacker Des Places did well to finish third in the Imperial Cup at Sandown on the Saturday before Cheltenham. Prominent from early, he raced toward the inside the whole way, and he was keener than ideal early on. Just behind the front rank as they straightened up for home, Angus Cheleda just gave him a squeeze on the run to the second last flight, and he picked up nicely, jumped that flight in third place and moved into second on the landing side. He was quickly passed by Suprise Package on the near side, but he kept on well up the hill on the far side to retain third place.
It was a good run by Paul Nicholls' horse, racing handily and towards the inside in a race in which it was probably an advantage to be held up and to race wide. It was a nice step forward from his previous run at Chepstow, when he made all the running to win a five-runner handicap off a mark of 129. He raced off a mark of 133 on Saturday, he is up to a mark of 136 now, but that is a mark that should be well within range. He is only five, and this was just his eighth run over hurdles, so he has the potential to improve again. He proved here that he is able to cope with the rough and tumble of a big-field handicap. He holds an entry in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr on Saturday, and he would be of interest if he lined up in that.
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Brazil - Cheltenham, 15th March 2022
Brazil did well to win the Fred Winter Hurdle on Tuesday. Starting off in the front rank, he was fairly badly hampered at the second flight. Padraig Roche's horse was squeezed out of it as Gaelic Warrior jumped to his right along the inside, and he was shuffled back to seventh or eighth, losing momentum and losing a nice position. He was wide around the turn away from the stands then, and he had to do a fair bit of running to recover his position, wider than ideal. They weren't going a great pace, so he was able to move up again into second place on the outside of Gaelic Warrior. He wasn't helped by the fact that the leader was jumping to his right, into his path on occasion, and he didn't travel as well as the favourite on the run from the third last flight, but he stuck to his task admirably. He was a clear second as they rounded the home turn, two lengths behind the leader, but he jumped the final flight well, and he stayed on determinedly up the run-in for Mark Walsh, forging on to get home by a short head from the well-backed favourite.
It was a game performance by JP McManus' horse, he did well to win, to beat a well-backed and probably a well-handicapped rival in a race in which things did not really go his way. He was beaten in each of his first three runs over hurdles for Padraig Roche, but he was impressive in winning at Naas on his last run before Cheltenham, and this was a nice step forward from that. A full-brother to Irish Derby winner and St Leger winner Capri, he won a maiden over a mile on heavy ground last August when he was with Aidan O'Brien, but it looks like he has found his metier over hurdles. He deserves a shot at a Grade 1 four-year-olds' hurdle now at Aintree or at Punchestown, and he could be a very exciting hurdler next season.
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Corach Rambler - Cheltenham, 15th March 2022
Corach Rambler did really well to win the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday. He missed the break, he was slow at the first fence and he got in tight to the second, with the result that he was second last of the 24 runners as they raced away from the stands with two circuits to run. Rider Derek Fox didn't panic, he allowed his horse find his rhythm, he was still second last after they had gone another circuit. He didn't start making ground until they started to race down the hill final time. Still travelling well over the third last fence, his rider didn't ask him for his effort until they raced to the home turn. Still no better than eighth or ninth as they started around the home turn, he picked up well, jumped the second last fence in fifth place, moved into third at the last, and stayed on strongly up the hill to hit the front with a hundred yards to run, before going on to win by almost three lengths.
This was a race in which the early pace was not strong and, consequently, it should have been difficult for the hold-up horses to make up the ground. Of the other three horses who raced out the back with him early on, two of them were pulled up and one of them, Belargus, finished 15th. Corach Rambler made up a lot of ground late on, into a quickening pace, and he won going away, probably with more in hand than the bare winning margin.
The handicapper raised Lucinda Russell's horse by 8lb for this to a mark of 148, but he has the potential to go higher still. This was just his sixth run over fences, and there is room for improvement in the fluency of his jumping. It was his second win from as many runs at Cheltenham, he obviously likes it there, but he is one for one at Aintree too, he won a novices' handicap chase there in October, so he will be of interest if he goes to Aintree now, for the three-mile handicap chase on Grand National day. He is in the Scottish National too and, while that may come up too soon, just 18 days after the Ultima, he should be worth following for the future. He could be a horse for the Ladbrokes Trophy in November.
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Celebre D'Allen - Cheltenham, 17th March 2022
Celebre D'Allen did well to finish fifth in the Plate at Cheltenham on Thursday, given that he was held up early on in a race in which the prominent racers have dominated in recent years. This year was true to form too, with Coole Cody leading for most of the way, and four of the first six home racing prominently or just behind the leaders. Celebre D'Allen was held up early on, he was just about last as they turned away from the stands with a circuit to run, and he was still third last jumping the fifth last fence. He did start to make ground as they raced down the hill, but he was still only ninth as they raced to the home turn. He stayed on well from the top of the home straight, but a mistake at the second last fence didn't help and, while it never looked like he was going to get close to the winner Coole Cody, he kept on well for Tom O'Brien to take fifth place, just over 10 lengths behind the winner.
Philip Hobbs' horse is 10 now, but he has only run seven times over fences, and just twice over fences since he joined Philip Hobbs. A winner over hurdles and fences for Louisa Carberry in France, he won his first two races for Philip Hobbs earlier this season, both over hurdles, and he ran out a nice winner of a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Warwick in February on his first run over fences for his new trainer. The handicapper raised him by 6lb for that to a mark of 141, but he has dropped him by 1lb for his Plate run, and a mark of 140 looks more than fair. As well as that, he may do better back on a flatter track, he is two for two at Haydock and he obviously runs well at Auteuil. He will be of interest if he goes to Aintree, and he could step up in trip.
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Mister Coffey - Cheltenham, 17th March 2022
Mister Coffey ran a big race in the Kim Muir to finish second behind Chambard. He was fairly badly hampered at the second fence, which saw him shuffled back from a good early prominent position, back towards the rear of the field. He got back into his rhythm though for Sam Waley-Cohen, he made his ground steadily and he moved into sixth or seventh place by the time they reached the top of the hill first time. He moved into third place along the inside as they raced down the hill final time, he looked a likely winner as they raced to the home turn, travelling well. However, while he did pick up, he just couldn't get past Chambard. A mistake at the final fence didn't help, but he did rally to hold onto the runner-up spot from Didero Vallis.
Mister Coffey hasn't won yet over fences, but he went close in the good novices' handicap chase that Jacamar won at Kempton on St Stephen's Day, and you can easily allow him his defeat at the hands of L'Homme Presse in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown in February, when he had Pic D'Orhy behind him. Nicky Henderson's horse had never been beyond two and a half miles before in his life, but you can easily argue that he stayed this three-and-a-quarter-mile trip all right, and he might have won had he not been hampered at the second fence, or if he had jumped the final fence a little better. Interesting that his trainer said that he could retain his novice status for next season now, and target the National Hunt Chase. That would be an interesting project. Alternatively, a 4lb hike to a mark of 141 is fine, and he would be of interest in a good staying handicap chase off that mark.
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Ballyadam - Cheltenham, 18th March 2022
Ballyadam ran well to finish fifth in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday. Settled towards the rear of the field early on by Aidan Coleman and towards the inside, he travelled well through his race and his jumping was good. He was still well back in the field as they raced down the hill, but he only had four or five horses behind him jumping the second last flight, but he picked up well when they straightened up for home. He stayed on well on the far side, away from the main action on the favoured stands rail, over the final flight and up the hill to take fifth place, just six lengths behind the winner State Man.
It was a really encouraging run by Henry de Bromhead's horse, his best run for some time. He seemed to enjoy being ridden like this, in behind and passing horses, and he finished off his race strongly up the hill. He did well to get as close as he did from the rear, given that they didn't go that quickly for a County Hurdle. He has only been beyond two miles and one and a half furlongs once in his life, but he might be worth another try now over two and a half miles, maybe at Punchestown, an easy two and a half miles. He could be a well-handicapped horse now, and he will be of interest off his current mark in a good handicap hurdle at one of the spring festivals.