Andrew Ayres take us through a stunning list of eye-catchers
CHELTENHAM March 16 (soft)
2m novice hurdle Grade 1 (Class 1) High class winner
APPRECIATE IT (Willie Mullins) is a proper physical specimen and had this won before turning for home. He’s got enough pace to make a Champion Hurdle horse but looks a chaser and will be hard to beat in the Arkle back here next spring.
2m110y four-year-old handicap hurdle (Class 1)
HOUX GRIS (Paul Nicholls) was well fancied and looked ready to rumble. He travelled like a good horse but hit the front too soon and did well to make the frame. It’s easy to envisage this fella improving for a summers’ rest and he’s one to keep a close eye on.
CHELTENHAM March 17 (good-soft)
2m5f novice hurdle Grade 1 (Class 1) Impressive winner
BOB OLINGER (Henry de Bromhead) is an exceptionally handsome individual and quickened sharply to win with plenty up his sleeve. A drop back to 2m shouldn’t pose any problems for this strong-traveller and he’s nailed-on to go right to the top over fences or hurdles.
2m handicap chase (Class 1) Ultra-competitive event
IBLEO (Venetia Williams) has improved physically and might have won but for being set mission impossible by Charlie Deutsch. A return to 2m4f will help and he looks tailormade for the big middle-distance chases back here next winter.
CHETENHAM March 19 (good-soft)
2m1f handicap hurdle (Class 1) Red-hot contest
THIRD TIME LUCKI (Dan Skelton) had been laid out for this and looked fit as a flea. Unfortunately, Harry Skelton played his hand far too early and, after leading at the second last, he was swamped on the run-in. The horse is significantly better than the bare bones of this form and will win a big pot next term.
HAYDOCK March 24 (good-soft)
1m7f110y maiden hurdle (Class 4)
MACKELDUFF (Olly Murphy) looked a shade backward after a four-month beak but ran a nailer to finish best of all in third. There is plenty of stamina in this fella’s pedigree – half-brother to a useful 3m chaser – and a step-up in trip should see him visit the winners’ enclosure.
LINGFIELD March 26 (standard)
1m2f fillies’ novice (Class 5) Above average event
MARSDEN CROSS (Sir Mark Todd) is a stocky filly who shaped well to finish third under a quiet ride from William Carson. She’s been given a handy rating of 69 and will win a handicap or two for her improving trainer.
DONCASTER March 27 (good)
1m handicap (Class 2)
Race peppered with well handicapped horses
DANYAH (Owen Burrows) has developed into a handsome individual and did well to finish fourth after racing freely through the opening stages. He’s still unexposed after just eight starts and will hold his own in Listed/Group races later in the campaign.
1m2f three-year-old maiden (Class 5) Above average form
LINE OF DESCENT (Simon & Ed Crisford) looked a shade backward but attracted support at fancy odds (22s to 16-1). He rewarded those eachway shrewdies by finishing third and will win a race or two over middle-distances.
DONCASTER March 28 (good)
7f three-year-old maiden (Class 5) Fair contest
HELLO ZABEEL (Kevin Ryan) hails from a tough and speedy family – dam was a Group 2 winning sprinter – and was nibbled at in the betting (12s to 7-1). He ran a nailer to finish second
after being keen and green through the early stages and will be a different proposition next time. This could be a useful sprinter in the making.
LINGFIELD April 2 (standard)
6f three-year-old stakes (Class 2) Impressive winner
DILIGENT HARRY (Clive Cox) learnt a lot when touched off here in March and improved a stone to win as he liked. Connections have a cracking record with sprinters and it’s easy to imagine him nicking a Group race during the summer.
MUSSELBURGH April 3 (good)
5f handicap (Class 2)
CAME FROM THE DARK (Ed Walker) looks a bigger, stronger model this term and set a personal best to finish third in a bunch finish. A return to 6f will help and he is nailed-on to nab a valuable sprint this spring.
KEMPTON April 5 (standard to slow)
2m handicap (Class 2)
POSTILEO (Roger Varian) probably needed this after a 227-day break and was mugged on the line. Still, he’s a heavy-set individual and guaranteed to come on for the outing. This fella cost plenty – 500,000gns – and will develop into a decent marathon runner.
LINGFIELD April 7 (standard)
1m2f handicap (Class 6)
Competitive race for the grade STORMBOMBER (Michael Madgwick) is chucked in on his best form and looked a shade unlucky to get nailed inside the final furlong. He’s in tip-top shape at present and ought to pinch a similar race in the near future.
1m2f novice (Class 5)
Race that lacked depth
POET’S EYE (Kevin Philippart De Foy) is a scopey filly who shaped better than her finishing position (fourth) suggests. She’s qualified for handicaps now and its long odds-on that her upwardly mobile trainer unearths a suitable opening. 1m three-year-old handicap (Class 5) Messy race
CUBAN CIGAR (Richard Hannon) looked in tremendous shape but had his chance compromised by a dawdling early pace. Bearing that in mind, he did well to flash home in third and will win again before the big boys come out to play.
7f handicap (Class 4)
Race run at a decent clip
CASPIAN QUEEN (Sean Woods) is built like a brick out-house and probably needed the run after a 172-day sabbatical. Still, there was plenty to like about the way she knuckled down to finish third and connections will be expecting to collect next time.
LEICESTER April 9 (good-firm)
5f two-year-old novice (Class 5)
Race that will produce a winner or two ANGEL BLEU (Ralph Beckett) cost plenty (100,000euros) but comes from a yard that doesn’t have many winning newcomers and was easy to back near the off. He ran green when popped the question, but clearly has ability and should get the job done next time.
LINGFIELD April 10 (standard) 1m7f110y handicap (Class 6)
REECELTIC (Pat Phelan) is a big unit and probably not best served by this tight, downhill track. Still, he would have won if veteran Johnny Egan had kept him handy and anyone who backed the horse should gain compensation back at Kempton.
7f three-year-old novice (Class 5) Run-of-the-mill event
ENFRANCHISE (Mark Johnston) is bred to be useful – dam finished third in the 1000 Guineas – but looked green and was easy to back on this belated debut. She has got the physique to improve and will pay for her keep.