Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 3rd -12th

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: February 3rd -12th
Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: February 3rd -12th

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.

Fakiera - Leopardstown, 6th Feb

6yo Gelding, Gordon Elliott

Fakiera stayed on well to take fourth place behind Gaillard Du Mesnil in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday. Settled in mid-division early on by Jack Kennedy, he came under pressure as they raced to the end of the back straight. No better than ninth as they approached the second last flight, he responded well to pressure, and he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in to take fourth place. It never looked like he was going to trouble the winner, but he closed on the placed horses Gentlemansgame and Stattler all the way to the line to finish just two lengths behind that pair.

It was a fine run by Gordon Elliott's horse, probably a career-best in first-time cheekpieces and over the longest distance over which he has run to date. Second in three maiden hurdles last season, behind, respectively, Entoucas, Jon Snow (when he had Roseys Hollow behind him) and Politesse, he got off the mark over hurdles on his debut this season at Fairyhouse over two miles, and he followed up by landing the Grade 3 Monksfield Hurdle over two and a half miles at Navan, when he stayed on strongly to get up and beat Fire Attack, with last weekend's Ladbrokes Hurdle runner-up Champagne Gold back in third. From the family of Grand Steeplechase de Paris winner El Paso, he raced here as if he will appreciate a step up to three miles and, as such, he could run a big race now if he is aimed at the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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Fakir D'Oudairies - Leopardstown, 6th Feb

6yo Gelding, Joseph O'Brien

Fakir D'Oudairies put up a good performance to finish second to Chacun Pour Soi in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase. Settled back in the field early on, fourth of the six runners, he made ground as they raced down the back straight to move into second place behind Notebook when Min made a bad mistake at the third fence down the back straight. He travelled well out of the back straight, and he moved to the front ahead of Notebook as they straightened up for home. Chacun Pour Soi made his ground between the two leaders and jumped the last friend in front but, while he had no answer to the winner's surge, Fakir D'Oudairies kept on well to take second place behind him, coming seven lengths clear of Notebook and Tornado Flyer.

This was a good step forward by Joseph O'Brien's horse. Beaten by Notebook in the Grade 2 Poplar Square Chase over two miles at Naas on his debut this season, he was pulled up in the Savills Chase over three miles at Leopardstown at Christmas, but he ran well for a long way in that race before it appeared that he reached the limit of his stamina range. Winner of the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase over two and a half miles as a novice last season, and second in the Arkle at Cheltenham, he shaped here as if he will appreciate a step back up to two and a half miles. We know that he goes well at Cheltenham and, as such, he could be a big player if he takes his chance in the Ryanair Chase.



Uradel - Leopardstown, 6th Feb

10yo Gelding, Willie Mullins

Uradel only finished 17th in the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday, but he ran much better than that. Settled in mid-division early on by Aubrey McMahon, he made nice progress as they raced to the end of the back straight. He travelled really well out of the back straight, and moved up on the outside into about seventh position, just three lengths behind the leaders. He was a little crowded on the run to the second last flight, and he wasn't great at that obstacle, and he got left behind then quite quickly as they quickened. His rider wasn't hard on him after that once his chance had gone, he just allowed him come home in his own time.

This was Uradel's first run since he finished seventh in the Coral Cup at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. He is 10 now, and he was allowed go off at 50/1 here, but he has run just 10 times over hurdles, and this performance suggests that there could be another day or two in him. Winner of the big Connacht Hotel Handicap at the 2018 Galway Festival, Willie Mullins' horse was only beaten a neck by his stable companion Low Sun in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket two and a half months later. His two runs in the spring of 2019 - a close-up fifth in the Ladbrokes Hurdle, a close-up seventh in the Coral Cup - were good, and he should come on for this run, his first in almost two years. An Irish mark of 132 may be high enough to allow him sneak into the Coral Cup again this year, and he could run well at a big price in that if he does. No 10-year-old has won the Coral Cup wince Chance Coffey won it in 1995, but Uradel is a lightly-raced 10-year-old, he has raced just 10 times over hurdles, and Willie Mullins went very close in the Coral Cup with the 10-year-old Wicklow Brave in 2019. Even if he doesn't go to Cheltenham, Uradel could out-perform market expectations wherever he goes next. 


The Shunter - Leopardstown, 6th Feb

8yo Gelding, Emmet Mullins

The Shunter did well to keep on as well as he did to finish fourth in the Matheson Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday. Sent to the front from flagfall by Brian Hayes, The Shunter was keen enough in front through the early stages of the race. He remained in front, jumping well, until he got in tight to the first ditch, and Entoucas and Epson Du Houx moved up on his outside, and Capuccimix moved up on his inside. He remained prominent though, and he travelled well to the end of the back straight. He came under a ride on the run to the second last fence, he dropped back to fifth and it looked as if he might drop right back through the field, but he boxed on well on the inside around the home turn. It didn't help that he was a little short of room on the run to the final fence, and he was only fifth jumping the last, but he stayed on well on the run-in to move back into third place, running on strongly to finish less than four lengths behind the winner A Wave Of The Sea.

It was a good run by Emmet Mullins' horse over a trip that just didn't appear to present as stiff a stamina test as he probably needs in order to be at his most effective. He did win the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November over an extended two miles, but the ground was really testing at Cheltenham that day, and that brought his stamina into play. He won his maiden hurdle at Downpatrick in September over two miles and three furlongs, and he won his beginners' chase at Punchestown in late September over two miles and five furlongs, when he beat the now 136-rated Enjoy D'Allen by 18 lengths. He should to better when he steps up a little in distance.

The handicapper raised The Shunter by 3lb for this to a mark of 135, and that was fair. He has raced just five times over fences, so he has the potential to go beyond that mark. It is a pity that the novices' handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival has been scrapped, that could have been a good race for him, given that he is one for one at Cheltenham, but he will be of interest now wherever he goes next. Out of a half-sister to Florida Express, who won over three miles on heavy ground over fences and finished fourth in a Troytown Chase, he will be of greatest interest if he steps up in trip, probably to two and a half miles, but he would also be worth trying over three if and when he learns to settle a little better.

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Blue Lord - Leopardstown, 7th Feb

6yo Gelding, Willie Mullins

Noted before after he finished second to Bob Olinger in the Grade 1 Lawlor's of Naas Hurdle over two and a half miles at Naas last month, Blue Lord is worthy of mention again after he finished third behind his stable companion Appreciate It in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown on Sunday. He wasn't as keen on Sunday as he had been at Naas, probably helped by the shorter trip and the resultant stronger pace. He travelled well in mid-division early on, and he made nice progress towards the end of the back straight. He wasn't great at the second last flight, however, and he was caught a little flat-footed when they quickened from there. Only sixth as they raced to the home turn, he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in to get up and take third place.

It was a really good run by Willie Mullins' horse over a distance that is probably on the sharp side for him. He was green when he won his maiden hurdle on his first run for Willie Mullins at Punchestown in November, but he was game in the end in getting the better of Julies Stowaway. He was too keen last time over two and a half miles, so he did well to keep on as well as he did to finish second behind Bob Olinger. From the family of Grand National runner-up Mely Moss, two and a half miles is probably still a good trip for him, and he may learn to settle better over that trip as he gains in experience. He remains an interesting horse, and he could still be a live contender for the Ballymore Hurdle at Cheltenham.


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Roseys Hollow - Fairyhouse, 8th Feb

7yo Mare, Jonathan Sweeney

The Solerina Hurdle is usually a good pointer to the future, it has been won in the recent past by Honeysuckle, Laurina, Limini, Minella Melody and Shattered Love, and this year's renewal at Fairyhouse on Monday looked like a strong renewal, with Royal Kahala and Gauloise, both unbeaten over hurdles, both impressive in winning on their most recent runs, heading the market. They both appeared to run their races too, they both ran well, and Roseys Hollow had to put up a career-best to beat them.

Jonathan Sweeney's mare was admittedly the beneficiary of an astute ground-saving ride by Mark Walsh, who got her nicely settled early on in mid-division. She wasn't great at the first flight, but she jumped well thereafter, and she was particularly good at the first flight in the back straight, which took her from fifth to third along the inside. She travelled well from there behind the two leaders Delvino and Castra Vetera and, when Delvino started to weaken as they rounded the home turn, Mark Walsh moved her outside that rival but inside Castra Vetera, and she wheeled around the home turn on the inside with a share of the lead. Royal Kahala moved up nicely on the outside, but Roseys Hollow picked up just in front at the second last flight, and she kept on well from there over the last and up to the winning line to beat Peter Fahey's mare by two lengths, with Gauloise another length and a half back in third.

This was another nice step forward by JP McManus' mare. Winner of her only bumper and third behind Jon Snow and Fakiera in a maiden hurdle on her only run last season, she shaped encouragingly on her debut this season when she finished fourth behind Delvino, Castra Vetera and Royal Illusion in a hot mares' maiden hurdle at Naas in December. She improved nicely from that to run out an impressive winner of her maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse in January, when she had subsequent Paddy Mullins Mares' Handicap Hurdle runner-up Global Equity four lengths behind her in second place, and she improved again from then to win Monday's race. It is interesting that both her trainer and her rider suggested afterwards that she could be even better dropping back down to two miles from this two-and-a-quarter-mile trip and, from the family of Champion Chase winner Big Zeb, she will be of interest if she takes her chance in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival



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