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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.
Torn And Frayed - Cheltenham, 22nd October 2021
Torn And Frayed put up an encouraging performance on his seasonal debut and his chasing debut in finishing third behind Annual Invictus in the two-and-a-half-mile novices' handicap chase at Cheltenham recently. Settled at the back of the five-runner field and along the inside, he jumped well and he travelled well to the top of the hill. He came under a ride from Sam Twiston-Davies on landing over the third last fence, and the front three got away from him a little on the run to the home turn, but he stayed on well from the second last, keeping on well on the far side to get up for third place in front of Faivoir, just a neck behind runner-up Danny Kirwan.
It was a good start to his chasing career for Nigel Twiston-Davies' horse. He was a progressive novice hurdler last season, when he proved that he could handle soft and heavy ground as well as this good ground. Two and a half miles was probably his optimum trip over hurdles, but he could get three miles over fences now. He was usually a prominent racer over hurdles, he raced prominently in recording both his wins over hurdles, and he will be of interest now when he adopts those tactics over fences. He is only seven, and he has the potential to go beyond his hurdles rating of 132 over fences.
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Timberman - Cheltenham, 23rd October 2021
Timberman stayed on well to finish third in the conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle that opened proceedings at Cheltenham recently. Held up out the back early on with only Ingleby Hollow behind him, he travelled well through the early stages of the race. Moved to the outside by Fergus Gregory at the top of the hill, he made good ground over the third last and second last flights, and he stayed on well up the hill to take third place behind Samba Dancer, closest at the finish.
It was a good run from Fergal O'Brien's horse, coming from the rear in a race in which the pace held up well. Winner of a novices' handicap hurdle at Market Rasen in May off a mark of 120, this was his first run since he disappointed in a handicap hurdle at Southwell in June, but given a nice break by his trainer, he put that disappointing run behind him here. He handled easier ground too when he was with Nicky Henderson and, a six-year-old who was racing over hurdles for just the seventh time last time out, he could be a well-handicapped horse now on his mark of 119.
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Duke De Sessa - Leopardstown, 23rd October 2021
Duke De Sessa did really well to win the Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown recently. Settled back in the field early on by Colin Keane, he was last of the 13 runners as they left the back straight. His rider moved him towards the outside as they rounded the home turn, obviously giving away ground but maintaining momentum and ensuring a clear passage on a day on which there was plenty of congestion towards the inside, despite the presence of the cutaway rail. In the end, that could have been crucial, as the Lope De Vega colt built up his momentum down the outside in the home straight, and stayed on strongly to get up and beat Piz Badile by a half a length.
It was a high-class performance by the Dermot Weld-trained colt, in a race that looked like a strong Group 3 race beforehand, with plenty of his rivals apparently well fancied and well supported in the market. Also, it was a race in which the pace held up well, Duke De Sessa was the only one of the hold-up horses who got close, and he actually won the race. It was a welcome return to form by the Newtown Anner Stud's colt, it consigned his disappointing run in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend to the annals. Always highly regarded, he shaped encouragingly on his racecourse debut at the Galway Festival, and he was seriously impressive in winning his maiden at The Curragh in August. He can go into the winter now on the back of this victory with lots of possibilities and options for next season. He could progress to be a top-class three-year-old next season.
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Sixshooter - Galway, 24th October 2021
Sixshooter was very good in winning the two-mile-six-and-a-half-furlong beginners' chase at Galway recently. Always prominent, with a clear lead or a share of the lead, he jumped his fences really well in the main for a debutant, and he and The Bosses Oscar were just moving on from Sams Profile when that rival made a mistake at the final fence which put the final nail in his chance. The Bosses Oscar came under a ride on the run around the home turn, but Sixshooter was stronger. He moved on as they straightened up for home and moved towards the near side, and he came clear impressively from Bay Ambition, who moved into second place in front of The Bosses Oscar.
You could hardly have asked for a more satisfactory chasing debut from Noel Meade's horse. He was a good hurdler, he reached a rating of 145 in that discipline, despite the fact that he was never that fluent over his hurdles. Two for two in bumpers, early indications are that he will be much better over his fences, which could allow him go well beyond his hurdles mark over fences. He stays well and, after winning a beginners' chase that has a rich history of producing high-class staying chasers, with Don Cossack, Presenting Percy, Last Instalment and Jessies Dream on the roll of honour, he could morph into a high-class staying novice chaser this season.
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Impervious - Down Royal, 29th October 2021
Impervious looked good in winning the Grade 3 mares' novices' hurdle at Down Royal recently. Quickly into a nice rhythm, at the head of the main group of six runners behind a decent pace that clear leader Annie G set, she moved up nicely on the outside of the leader at the top of the track on the run to the third last flight. She wasn't great at that obstacle, she left her hind legs in it a little bit, but she landed in front and rider Brian Hayes was happy to sit as favourite Party Central came up on his outside. Impervious wasn't great at the second last flight either, as Party Central challenged and Sit Down Lucy challenged on the outside, but she picked up well on the run to the final flight. She jumped that obstacle better, and she had enough in hand to pull away from her rivals on the run-in and post an impressive victory.
It is probable that some of Impervious' main rivals under-performed. Annie G faded out of it disappointingly, while neither Party Central nor Glan found as much as it looked like they would find from the third last flight. So it was left to the 113-rated Sit Down Lucy to fill the runner-up spot. But Impervious was impressive in winning, and Colm Murphy's mare is now three for three. Her first two wins were gained over two and a half miles or thereabouts on good to yielding ground, but she proved here that she could handle softer ground too and an extended two miles. This race was won last year by Skyace, who won a listed mares' novices' hurdle at Punchestown's John Durkan Chase meeting on her next run, and who won the Grade 1 mares' novices' hurdle at the Fairyhouse Irish Grand National meeting in April, and Impervious could be an exciting mare for the season ahead.