Donn's Articles » Five for the Flat

The early throes of the Flat season have been bubbling away all right for the last few weeks.  It is only now, however, with the Punchestown Festival and Sandown’s Bet365 Gold Cup meeting behind us, and the National Hunt champions crowned, that the 2017 Flat season can command undivided attention and can explode into life with Guineas weekend.  Here are five horses who could be worth watching for the season ahead.

Winter (Trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

Winter bids to take the next step forward today as she takes her chance in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.  She is only the second best Aidan O’Brien-trained filly in the race according to the market, and it is not surprising that Ryan Moore has chosen to ride Fillies’ Mile winner Rhododendron instead, but Winter could out-run her odds today, and she could have an interesting season in front of her.

The Galileo filly was beaten on her first two runs last season when she was trained by David Wachman, but she was impressive in winning on her third and final run for Wachman, overcoming a wide draw and running out an impressive winner of a seven-furlong maiden at Dundalk last August.

Moved to Ballydoyle at the start of this season after David Wachman had retired from the training ranks, Winter ran a highly encouraging race on her seasonal bow in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last month.  Racing again from a wide draw, she was a little keen through the early stages of the race, and she was wider than ideal around the home turn, but she stayed on strongly through the final two furlongs to take second place, just a head behind her better-fancied stable companion Hydrangea.

Leopardstown’s 1000 Guineas Trial is often a good pointer to the future.  This year’s renewal looked strong beforehand, and third-placed Rehana went on and beat the older fillies in the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at Naas last Monday.  Winter gets seven furlongs well and, although she was beaten in a maiden over a mile last season, she shapes as if she will get a mile now as a three-year-old.

The Tin Man (James Fanshawe)

The Tin Man put up the best performance of his career when he landed the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot last October, and he could be in for a lucrative time for it now this season as a five-year-old sprinter.

He suffered his only two defeats in five runs last season on the two occasions on which he encountered easy ground.  He proved that he could cope with easy conditions when he finished second to Quiet Reflection in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup in September, conceding the age and fillies’ allowance to Karl Burke’s filly, but he is better on good or fast ground.

Raced exclusively over six furlongs, James Fanshawe’s horse could start off the season in the Duke of York Stakes in 10 days’ time, before going on to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and then perhaps on to the July Cup at Newmarket.  He could be a major force in the big Group 1 six-furlong races this season.

Tocco D’Amore (Dermot Weld)

Tocco D’Amore put up a really nice performance on her racecourse debut to win a 10-furlong maiden at Naas last month.

Weak in the market beforehand and slowly away, she travelled well through her race and she showed an impressive turn of foot to come clear of her field inside the final furlong.

Regally bred, by Raven’s Pass and out of Kilcarn Stud’s Sadler’s Wells mare Spirit Of Tara, a full-sister to Salsabil and a half-sister to Marju, she was bought by Moyglare Stud for €2 million at Goffs as a yearling, and she could go a long way towards justifying that price tag this season.  She could run next in the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at The Curragh next Saturday, and that is a race that her trainer Dermot Weld has won three times in the last five years.

Blue Point (Charlie Appleby)

Blue Point probably didn’t fully stay the seven-furlong trip when he finished just third behind Churchill and Lancaster Bomber in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October.  He appeared to be much happier back over six furlongs on his debut this season at Ascot on Wednesday when he ran out an impressive winner of a Group 3 contest in track record time.

Now proven at Ascot, the Godolphin colt should have a big chance of landing the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup back over Wednesday’s course and distance at the Royal meeting against his contemporaries, and he could be competitive against the older sprinters later in the season.

Ulysses (Sir Michael Stoute)

Ulysses was well-backed for the Epsom Derby last year on the back of a maiden win at Newbury.  It all proved to be too much for Sir Michael Stoute’s horse at Epsom, but he proved that he was still a talented individual when he colt at Goodwood and landed the Group 3 Gordon Stakes.

Only fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on his final run last season, he put up a nice performance on his debut this season to land the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last Friday.  That 10-furlong trip appeared to suit him well and, with races like the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on his radar, he could take a high rank among the top middle-distance horses this season.

Last year’s Five for the Flat:

Awtaad – won Irish 2000 Guineas

Found – won Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Harzand – won Epsom Derby and Irish Derby

Minding – won Epsom Oaks, Pretty Polly Stakes, Nassau Stakes and QE2

Pleascach – ran just once, beaten a short head in Prix de l’Opera

© The Sunday Times, 7th May 2017