Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 29th to April 6th

Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: March 29th to April 6th

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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.

Helpmeout - Navan, 29th March 2022

Helpmeout ran well to finish third in the three-year-olds' 10-furlong handicap at Navan. Held up early on by Billy Lee from her outside draw, nine of nine, she was still last of the nine runners as they straightened up for home. She travelled well early in the home straight, and she made her ground on the bridle to move in behind the leaders as they raced inside the two-furlong marker, still on the bridle. She picked up too when her rider asked her to and moved into third place at the furlong marker, and she looked a likely winner, but her run just flattened out up the hill and couldn't get any closer, finishing third in the end behind Supagirl and Haroya, with the first three nicely clear.

It was a good run by Willie McCreery's filly on her seasonal debut, her first run since last October. She didn't win as a juvenile, but this performance suggests that a mark in the mid-60s should be well within range, and a 2lb hike to a mark of 67 should be fine, it means that she can compete in this 47-70 grade again. She had never been beyond a mile before Tuesday, and it may be that this 10-furlong trip up the hill just stretched her stamina beyond its limit, or it may be that she just tired on her first run of the season. Either way, she will be of interest wherever she goes next, and it may be that a mile will prove to be her optimum trip, at least for now. Her dam won over seven furlongs, and she is a half-sister to Warsaw, a listed race winner over five furlongs. She is entered in a one-mile three-year-olds' handicap at Gowran Park next Wednesday, and she will be of interest if she takes her chance in that.


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Gatsby Grey - Naas, 31st March 2022

Gatsby Grey was impressive in winning the rated novices' hurdle at Naas last Thursday. Settled fifth of the sixth runners early on behind a decent pace that Ballykeel and Bold Approach set between them, clear of the outsider Titan Jack, you wouldn't have picked him out as the most likely winner early in the race. Barry Browne just had to niggle him along at a couple of points in the race, but he got stronger as the race developed. He moved up nicely on the outside on the run to the third-last flight, jumped that flight well and travelled well up on the outside of the leader Bold Approach as they rounded the home turn. He moved to the front on the run to the second-last flight, jumped that flight well, and he cleared away from his rivals from that point. He kicked the top of the final flight, but it didn't halt his momentum at all as he stayed on well up the run-in to win by 15 lengths.

This was just Gatsby Grey's fifth run over hurdles, and it was a career-best, racing off an effective mark of 125, on the fastest ground on which he has ever raced. Winner of his bumper when he was with Declan Queally on heavy ground at Navan last March, he won his maiden hurdle on his first run for Oliver McKiernan at Limerick's Christmas Festival, also on heavy ground. The better ground was an unknown going into this race, but he handled it well. He thrived on it actually, and that opens up options going forward. Favourite, Goven, disappointed, but he still beat Leopardstown winner Ballykeel by 15 lengths, and he recorded a decent time, the fastest of the five two-mile hurdles run on the day. He will be interesting now if he goes to Fairyhouse or Punchestown, and he could do even better back up in trip to two and a quarter or two and a half miles.

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Hotel Wren - Leopardstown, 2nd April 2022

Hotel Wren put up a game performance to win the three-year-olds' maiden at Leopardstown on Saturday. Smartly away from his outside draw, he quickly settled into a nice racing rhythm for Oisin Orr, in fourth position behind a decent pace that Janoobi set and one off the rail. He travelled well into the home straight, and when the leader kicked from the front, he picked up well to get out after him. He showed a really willing attitude to get up and collar the leader close home, with the pair of them finishing nicely clear of their rivals.

It was a fine performance by Noel Meade's horse. The runner-up is well regarded and was well-backed, a Shadwell colt now with Ger Lyons, and he enjoyed a nice run through the race in front under Colin Keane. He wasn't stopping either, so Hotel Wren had to be strong and game to get past him. A half-brother to winners over distances from five furlongs to 10 and a half furlongs, the Dragon Pulse gelding ran well on his second and final run last season as a juvenile to finish second to another Ger Lyons horse in Pirate Jenny in a six-furlong maiden at Cork. He appeared to appreciate the step up to a mile here, and he could go even further on this evidence. He has a really nice, willing attitude, and he will be of interest wherever he goes next.


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Panama Red - Leopardstown, 2nd April 2022

Panama Red only finished sixth in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on Saturday, behind the impressive winner Homeless Songs, but she ran a nice race in defeat. Smartly enough away from her outside draw, rider Gary Carroll allowed her to drift back in the field a little early on, so that she was just about last of the 11 runners as they left the back straight and three wide. Still last when they straightened up for home, and four wide, she shipped a small bump from Beautiful Sunshine on her inside, which wasn't ideal but still stayed on well through the final furlong and a half. She didn't have the pace to get to the front five, who had a nice break on the rest of the field, but she kept on well to do best of the rest, finishing a clear sixth, just over five lengths behind the winner.

She did well in a race that wasn't run to suit. The second of Ger Lyons' fillies in the race, a much bigger price than her stable companion Sacred Bridge, she was drawn wider than ideal, and the pace was probably not as strong as she would have liked. Winner of the listed juvenile fillies race over this course and distance on Irish Champions' Weekend, her pedigree is all 10 and 12 furlongs, so she will be interesting now if and when she steps up to a mile or even 10 furlongs in time. This was an encouraging run, and she should be able to build on this.

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Let's - Leopardstown, 6th April 2022

Let's finished off her race nicely in the Listed Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown on Wednesday. Dropped in last of the seven runners by Joey Sheridan through the early stages of the race, she was still last, two lengths behind the second-last horse, when they straightened up for home. But, taken to the outside as they raced inside the two-furlong marker, she stayed on well through the final furlong, moving from seventh place to fifth place by the time they got to the winning line, and beaten no more than three parts of a length for third.

This was a race in which the pace held up well so it was difficult to make ground from the rear. The winner and second, Pearls Galore and Pretreville, occupied the first two positions from flagfall, with the third and fourth, Cadillac and Saltonstall, racing in third and fourth from early. Let's did well to get past both Neptune Rock and Agitare to take fifth place, and to get as close to Cadillac and Saltonstall as she got. Her rating of 90 left her as the lowest-rated horse in the race by a fair way, but she shaped here with lots of encouragement for the season ahead.

Ken Condon's filly has only won two races, a juveniles' maiden at Dundalk and a fillies race at Limerick last June, but she ran well enough in the Cairn Rouge Stakes and in the Fairy Bridge Stakes last year to suggest that she could win a listed race or a Group 3 fillies' race. This was a good start to the season for her, and she will be of interest again now in races that are confined to her own gender. A mile is a good trip for her, but she could get nine or 10 furlongs on good or fast ground.