Donn McClean's Horses to Follow: April 2nd - 9th

Welcome to Donn McClean's horses to follow column where he looks back on the last week's racing and picks out some eye-catchers to take note of. Keep scrolling for this week's selections.

Donn McClean's Horses to Follow: April 2nd - 9th

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.

Khuzaam - Lingfield, 2nd April

5yo Gelding, Roger Varian

Khuzaam is not exactly under the radar, but he was seriously impressive in winning the All-Weather Mile Championships Final at Lingfield on Good Friday, and he might be under-rated when he goes back on turf. He was keen enough through the early part of the race, up on the outside of early leader Canagat, who set a fast pace but, the further they went, the better he travelled. He moved up on the outside of the leader as they rounded the home turn and, when Jack Mitchell asked him to pick up at the two-furlong marker, he quickened up impressively. He quickly put three lengths between himself and his pursuers, and he kept on strongly up the home straight to win by five lengths from the talented Mums Tipple, a 109-rated horse, with the 105-rated Bless Him staying on well from the rear to take third place.

It was a big performance by Roger Varian's horse. He travelled like the best horse through the race off a fast pace, the manner in which he picked up and came away from talented rivals was impressive, and he clocked a fast time. He won just two of his first eight races, he finished second in five of the other six, but he is two for two now since he was gelded.

This was a career-best performance and, while he is five now, he has only run 10 times in his life, and he is on a serious upward trajectory now. He will have to prove that he can be as good on turf as on an artificial surface, he hasn't run on turf since he finished second in a handicap at Yarmouth in September 2019, and his dam was at her best on all-weather, but she is a half-sister to Guineas winner Ghanaati, from the family of Nashwan, and there is every chance that Khuzaam can be at least as good on turf. He doesn't hold any lofty entries, but he will be of interest now when he steps up into listed or Group company back on turf.

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Starting Monday - Cork, 3rd April 2021

4yo Gelding, Gillian Scott

Starting Monday only finished fifth behind Aesop in the 10-furlong handicap at Cork on Saturday, but he ran much better than that placing suggests. Sent forward early by Nathan Crosse from his wide draw, stall 13 of 14, he had to do a fair bit of running to get to the front around the first turn and close to the inside rail by the time they reached the end of the back straight. Still in front and travelling well when they straightened up for home, he picked up well at the two-furlong marker, and he was still in front on the run to the furlong marker, but he just tired inside the final 150 yards, and he dropped to fifth close to home.

It was still a good run by Gillian Scott's horse, stepping up to 10 furlongs for the first time in his life. It was probably a combination of his early exertions and the trip that saw him weaken late on, but he remains a progressive individual. He raced eight times last season, and he didn't get off the mark until his eighth attempt, when he made all to win a seven-furlong maiden at Galway in October on heavy ground. Raised by 12lb for that win, he was impressive in winning a one-mile handicap at The Curragh on the opening day of the turf season last month off his mark of 71. He was raised by another 8lb by the handicapper for that win, but he proved that he was up to a mark of 79 with Saturday's run at Cork. He proved there too that he could operate on better ground, and the form of the race received a nice boost when fourth-placed Fil The Power won his maiden at Gowran Park on Wednesday.

It may be that Starting Monday will yet prove to be effective over 10 furlongs, his dam won over a mile as a juvenile, and her half-sister Mary Tudor won a Salsabil Stakes over 10 furlongs, while her half-brother Victor Ludorum finished third to Mishriff in the Prix du Jockey Club. But it may be that he will be seen to best effect for now dropped back down to a mile or nine furlongs, and ridden aggressively like this. While he probably won't want the ground to be too fast, it may be that he doesn't need it bottomless, that just a slight ease will be fine for him.



Create Belief - Gowran Park, 9th April

3yo Filly, JP Murtagh

Create Belief put up a nice performance to win the one-mile three-year-old fillies' maiden at Gowran Park on Thursday evening. Sharply away from her wide draw, she tacked over quickly towards the inside rail to sit up on the outside of early leader Even Flow. She travelled well into the home straight and, asked for her effort by Ben Coen on the run to the two-furlong marker, she hit the front and quickly went a length in front. She was challenged by Pale Iris down the outside, and by Adelisa on the far side, but she kept on well and was strong all the way to the line. She put two lengths between herself and her two closest pursuers by the time they got to the winning line, and they in turn came nicely clear of the rest of the field, clocking a time that was the second fastest of the five one-mile races run on the evening.

It was a nice performance by Johnny Murtagh's filly on her seasonal debut, and just her second run ever. On her racecourse debut, over this course and distance back in October, she had finished third behind Port Sunlight and Even Flow, with who she reversed form here. She is a nice big filly who obviously improved during the winter, and she can continue to progress now. Her rider said afterwards that she was a good-moving filly who should be good too on better ground and, out of a half-sister to Make It Up, a 111-rated performer who won over seven furlongs and a mile on good and good to firm ground, from the family of Authorized, she will be of interest now as she steps up in grade.

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Colonial Dreams - Haydock, 3rd April

9yo Gelding, Nicky Henderson

Colonial Dreams was unlucky to be nutted by Small Present in the three-mile handicap hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. Always travelling well for Nico de Boinville towards the outside and just behind the leaders, he jumped well and he moved up nicely as they raced down the back straight. He moved up on the outside of leader Iwilldoit as they raced towards the end of the back straight, and he hit the front at the second last flight. He didn't clear away from his rivals, but he pricked his ears in front and appeared to have at least a little bit left. He jumped the last two flights well too, and he looked set for victory as he set off up the run-in, but he was just run down in the last few strides by Small Present.

It may have been that Colonial Dreams was in front earlier than ideal. It may have been that he was getting lonely in front, because he rallied after he was passed, and he was in front at the pull-up. He is nine years old now, and this was his 15th run over hurdles, but it was only his second run over three miles. On his only previous run over three miles, at Newbury in early March, he stayed on well from the rear to finish third in a race in which the prominent racers fared best.

This was a nice step forward from that, and there is every chance that he can go forward again. He remains unexposed over staying distances. He goes well on this good ground, and he will be of interest in another good three-mile handicap hurdle. A 3lb hike is not harsh, and the Long Distance Handicap Hurdle back at Haydock on Swinton Hurdle day next month would be a good target for him now.


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Panda Boy - Fairyhouse, 3rd April

5yo Gelding, Martin Brassil

Panda Boy finished only seventh in the three-mile novices' handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse, on Saturday, but he was beaten a total of less than five lengths, and he did well to finish as close as he did. Settled back in the field early on by Ricky Doyle, he made nice ground among horses on the run to the end of the back straight. Travelling well just behind the front rank as they raced to the home turn, he had to be niggled along a little as they made the turn in order to hold his position, but he travelled as well as any of his rivals as they straightened up for home. He made a mistake at the second last flight though, which wasn't ideal, just when he needed a good jump to take him closer, and he wasn't great at the last either, by which time Crosshill had hit the front and Lady Breffni and Jacksons Gold were finishing out in the centre of the track. Panda Boy ran out of room too on the inside rail on the run-in, after which Ricky Doyle just allowed him coast through the final 100 yards.

It was still a big run by one so inexperienced in such a competitive handicap hurdle. Martin Brassil's horse had run just once beforehand, he had sprung a 33/1 surprise in a two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle at Punchestown on soft ground early last month, after which his trainer said that he expected that he would progress from that.

He travelled well on the better ground at Fairyhouse on Saturday, and he seemed to stay three miles well enough. A chaser for the future, he is only five and he will be of interest if he runs in another novice hurdle or handicap hurdle before the end of the jumps season. He has the potential to be better than his rating of 128.


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If you want to see previous editions check out Donn McClean's library of past horses to follow here.