Donn McClean's Horses To Follow: January 16th - 21st

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: January 16th - 21st

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

Blue Lord - Naas 13th Jan

6yo Gelding, Willie Mullins

Blue Lord was beaten by Bob Olinger in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novices' Hurdle on Wednesday, but the winner has always been really highly regarded, and there was plenty to like about the performance that Blue Lord put up in chasing him home. Willie Mullins' horse raced more keenly than ideal for much of the race. He was keen as they raced down the back straight, racing in second place behind Gabynako, and he was still keen as they raced to the home turn. Moved up on the outside of Gabynako on the run to the second last flight, he and Bob Olinger went on together at that point and, while the winner led on the run to the last and stayed on well up the run-in to come clear, Blue Lord kept on well himself to retain second place, two lengths ahead of Gabynako in third.

This is a race that has been won by Envoi Allen and Battleoverdoyen and Next Destination and Rule The World in the past, and this year's renewal looked well up to standard. While some of the interest was removed from the race by Ashdale Bob's departure at the second flight, it still looked like a strong race. Bob Olinger is potentially top class, and impressive maiden winners Gabynako and Flanking Maneuver were both strong in the pre-race market.

Blue Lord had been impressive himself in winning his maiden at Punchestown in November over two miles. Willie Mullins' horse is bred to get further than the minimum trip, and he raced over two miles on his hurdling debut as if he would do even better when he stepped up in trip. He just didn't settle here, and that obviously took its toll in the closing stages of the race. If he can settle better next time, perhaps with the addition of a hood or the implementation of extreme hold-up tactics, he could improve significantly on the bare form of this run. He retains bags of potential.

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Entoucas - Fairyhouse 16th Jan

7yo Gelding, Joseph O'Brien

Entoucas did well to keep on as well as he did to finish fourth behind Daly Tiger in the Dan and Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday. Joseph O'Brien's horse adopted a good position early on in mid-division, but he was a little keener than ideal as the pace steadied going up the side of the course. He made a fairly bad mistake at the first fence in the back straight, and that may have affected his confidence, as he wasn't fluent at his fences thereafter. Another fairly significant mistake at the fifth last fence, the second last before the home turn, knocked him back to eighth or ninth place and, while he still travelled fairly well at that point, he had given up a good position in a highly competitive handicap, and it was always going to be difficult to get back into it after that. Still only eighth or ninth as they turned for home, he couldn't go with Daly Tiger when he kicked for home, but he stayed on well from the second last fence to take fourth place, just failing to catch the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Chatham Street Lad for third.

It took Entoucas almost two seasons to get off the mark over hurdles, he didn't win his maiden until February last year on his seventh attempt, but he ran some fine races in defeat over hurdles before that, including when second to Klassical Dream in his maiden hurdle at Leopardstown's 2018 Christmas Festival. Runner-up in all his three chases before Saturday, including behind the highly talented Sizing Pottsie at Fairyhouse on his previous run, he is only seven, and he still has the potential to progress more over fences. This was just his fourth chase, and he has the potential to go beyond his handicap rating of 138 as he gets more fluent at his fences, which he should do as he gains in experience.

Will Sting - Warwick 16th Jan

6yo Gelding, Lucy Wadham

Will Sting ran out an impressive winner of the two-mile novices' handicap hurdle that opened proceedings at Warwick on Saturday. He was a little ponderous over the first two flights, but he was better at the third when he met it on a good stride, and he settled into his race nicely along the inside and towards the rear. He was good over the three hurdles down the side of the track and, although checked a little initially by the weakening The Garrison on the run to the home turn, he got a lovely run around the inside and actually led into the home straight. He was probably in front sooner than rider Aidan Coleman would ideally have liked, but he had to take the inside run when it was there really and, actually, the Scorpion gelding seemed to be very happy in front. He travelled best of all in front down to the second last flight, jumped that obstacle well and he came clear on the run to the last, before staying on well up the run-in to win by nine and a half lengths.

It was an impressive performance by Lucy Wadham's horse on this, his handicap debut and just his fourth run over hurdles. He had shaped encouragingly on his previous run at Huntingdon over two and a half miles, but he seemed to appreciate this drop back down to the minimum trip here, a trip over which he won his bumper at Huntingdon on his debut this season, the handicapper has raised him by 13lb for this to a mark of 122, which is not an insignificant hike, but he was still novicey here in his jumping, so there is plenty of room for progression as he gains in experience and becomes more proficient over his obstacles. He should be able to go higher again.

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Mint Condition - Warwick 16th Jan

7yo Gelding, Jennie Candlish

Mint Condition stayed on well to finish second in the Grade 2 Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday. Jennie Candlish's horse travelled well through his race, but he got caught a little for pace as they quickened on the run around the home turn. He was crowded out of it on the run to the second last flight and it didn't help that he got in tight to that obstacle and landed a little flat-footed. Switched towards the near side, he still had three lengths to find with the winner Adrimel when they landed over the final flight, but he stayed on really strongly up the home straight to get to within a neck of Tom Lacey's horse by the time they reached the winning line.

This was probably a career-best from Mint Condition. Winner of three of his four previous races this season, all handicaps, he had risen from a mark of 115 to a mark of 135 prior to Saturday's race, and he proved that he was well up to that mark. He continues to progress, and he stays this two-mile-five-furlong trip well, but he left the impression that he could improve for a step up to three miles. He could be good enough to contest the Albert Bartlett Hurdle on this evidence, but he also has the option of returning to handicaps. The handicapper raised him by just 3lb to a mark of 138 for this, which was more than fair.

That is a mark that could still under-estimate his ability, given his rate of progression, and he would be of interest in a high-class handicap now off that mark.

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Colonel Mustard - Punchestown 17th Jan

6yo Gelding, Lorna Fowler

Colonel Mustard only finished fourth in the two-mile maiden hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday, but he ran better than that. Settled by Conor Orr just behind the leader Lifetime Ambition through the early stages of the race, he was just a little bit keen, but he travelled well and his jumping was much better than it had been on his hurdling debut at Down Royal.

He moved well in second place behind Lifetime Ambition down the back straight, and it appeared as if he was travelling better than the leader as they jumped the second last flight and raced to the home turn. Frere Tuck moved up on his outside at that point, and it appeared as if the pair of them had it between them as they straightened up for home. If anything, it looked like Colonel Mustard was travelling better than his rival on the run to the final flight, but he weakened on the approach to the obstacle, got in tight and landed flat-footed. He tired on the run-in as he was run out of the places by Hurricane Cliff and the rallying Lifetime Ambition.

This was Colonel Mustard's first run since his seasonal debut at Down Royal in October, when he finished second to Ballyadam, and it was probably lack of a recent run that took its toll here. An impressive winner of his bumper at Punchestown in September on just his second run, Lorna Fowler's horse shaped well here, and his jumping was good. He should progress from this, his first run in 78 days, and it may be that he will be better on better ground. He should be winning his maiden soon before stepping up in grade.

Broomfields Jeremy - Clonmel 19th Jan

6yo Gelding, Philip Dempsey

Noted after he was a staying-on third at Punchestown last month, Broomfields Jeremy is worthy of note again after the performance that he put up in winning the rated novices' hurdle at Clonmel on Tuesday. Held up early on by Robbie Power, he travelled well through his race on the heavy ground - he switched off nicely and his jumping was good.

Last of the 10 runners when they set off and about nine or 10 lengths behind the leader Conqueredalofeurope when they started down the back straight first time, he gradually moved his way through the field so that he was fifth and about four lengths behind the leader when they turned for home. Moved to the outside on the run to the second last flight, he actually landed in front at the obstacle, and he picked up impressively from there. He put five lengths between himself and his rivals by the time he reached the final flight, and he kept on well up the run-in to win by 13 lengths.

This was a seriously impressive performance by Philip Dempsey's horse. He was racing over two and a half miles for the first time at Punchestown on his previous run, and he saw out the trip well. He saw a similar trip out well again at Clonmel and, under a really nice patient ride from Robbie Power, he showed a turn of foot on the ground and over this trip. He was rated 117 going into this rated race and, while the handicapper will obviously raise him by a few pounds now, he is only six and this was just his sixth run over hurdles. He has plenty of potential to continue to improve.

Usually ridden forward over two miles, it appears that he has improved too for the switch to more patient tactics and the step up to the intermediate trip. He will be of interest now in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle or in a novices' handicap hurdle, and he should be able to cope with a step up in grade.

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