Horses To Follow » *Horses To Follow


Bellshill looked very good on his return to the racecourse in the Bobbyjo Chase. He travelled well for David Mullins in behind horses and his jumping was fluent and efficient. He made ground on his rivals at most of his fences. He jumped to the front over the second last fence and, still on the bridle on the run to the last, he eased his way clear. He had to be kept up to his work on the run-in, but he was almost certainly idling, and he probably won with far more in hand than the near-five-length winning margin.

It was a fine performance from Willie Mullins’ horse on his seasonal debut, his first run since he finished third behind Might Bite in the RSA Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. The second and third, A Genie In Abottle and Val De Ferbet are both rated in the high 140s, and he was giving them both 2lb, so an 8lb hike for Bellshill to a mark of 158 is understandable. It looks like he is set to run in the Irish Grand National now back at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, and he should be a big player in that race. He is only eight and that was just his fifth run over fences, so there is every chance that he will progress again.

He is a classy horse, he won the Champion Bumper at Punchestown in 2015, he is a dual Grade 1 winner over hurdles, and he has the potential to go beyond his mark of 158 over fences. That said, he would be of even greater interest if he were to run in the Aintree Grand National, because he would get to race off his original British mark of 148. He would be 10lb well-in compared to his new Irish mark. He may lack the experience required for the Aintree race, but eight-year-olds have a very good recent record in the Aintree National and he would be of big interest in the race if connections decided to allow him take his chance in it.

Fairyhouse, 24th February 2018

Scarlet Dragon

Scarlet Dragon had no answer to finishing surge of the impressive winner Global Citizen in the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle, but he did well to finish second to him. He raced out the back through the early stages of the race, he moved through his field nicely, he made nice ground around the inside around the home turn and it looked like he might be a threat to the winner on the run to the second last flight. The winner skipped clear from there, but Scarlet Dragon kept on well to take second place, coming away from the third and fourth horses on the run-in.

Rated 107 on the flat and 109 at his peak, this was his first run over hurdles, and he acquitted himself well. He was unlucky to come up against a horse as talented as Global Citizen. As well as being his first run over hurdles, it was also his first run for Alan King, his first run in 154 days, and his first since a wind operation. He is a high-class recruit to hurdles. He didn’t run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he will be of interest now if he goes to Aintree. Goodish ground would be a positive for him there, and Aintree should suit him. He will be of interest wherever he goes next.

Kempton, 24th February 2018

Theatre Territory

Theatre Territory did well to finish third in the Betdaq Chase over 3m.

Prominent from early, she was wide through the early stages of the race, but she moved up to take up the running at the sixth last fence. She led on the inside around the home turn and, although she was headed by Art Mauresque on the run to the third last fence, and although she made a mistake at the second last fence, she battled back well to wrest third place back from Paul Nicholls’ horse.

She was well beaten by the first two, Master Dee and Ballykan, but those two horses raced out the back of the field from early. The Waley-Cohen mare was up with the leaders from early, and she did best of those who raced prominently.

This was Warren Greatrex’s mare’s fifth run over fences, and she hasn’t won a chase yet, but she has run some fine races in defeat, including when second to subsequent Close Brothers Chase winner Mister Whitaker at Cheltenham on her previous run, and she has never been out of the first three over fences. She was raised 4lb for that run against Mister Whitaker to a career-high mark of 132, the mark off which she raced on Saturday, but she has the potential to go beyond that mark now.

She did win a point-to-point, but this was her first run over 3m over fences, and she saw it out well in her first-time cheekpieces. She can improve over this trip now, and she will be of interest wherever she goes next. She seems to be versatile in terms of ground, she has good form on soft and heavy ground, but she handled the goodish ground on Saturday well. She could be an interesting horse for the Topham Chase at Aintree, over the big fences over which her rider Sam Waley-Cohen has such an enviable record.

Kempton, 24th February 2018


Bacardys ran a big race in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Willie Mullins’ horse was well back in the field early on, so it was not ideal for him that the race was run at a sedate pace, and he was trapped in behind horses towards the inside on the run down the hill to the second last flight. He was unfortunate too to get stuck in traffic as they raced around the home turn, leaving him no better than 13th of the 14 remaining runners when they started to straighten up, and he was still behind a wall of horses as they faced up to the final flight. Switched towards the far side by Patrick Mullins, he made nice ground among horses and he was almost disputing third place as they rose to the final flight. He jumped the final flight well too, he just seemed to over-jump a little and he came down. It was an unlucky fall.

The Coastal Path gelding could be an under-rated horse now. This was his first run over hurdles this season, it was his first run over hurdles since he won the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle over 2m 4f at last year’s Punchestown Festival. He did have two runs over fences earlier this season, but he was only third at Naas and he fell at Leopardstown, so the switch back to hurdles made sense. He is a highly talented horse.

Third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March 2016, he won the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree the following month and, last season as a novice hurdler, he won the Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle and that Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, under Patrick Mullins on both occasions. Actually, the amateur rider has ridden him to four of his five wins under Rules. He will be of interest now if he goes for the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree or the Stayers’ Hurdle at Punchestown, he is proven at both tracks, and he could be under-rated by the market in whichever race he contests.

Cheltenham, 15th March 2018


Benatar did remarkably well to finish third in the JLT Chase, given how keen and free he was through the early stages of the race. He was well beaten by Shattered Love in the end, but there was no disgrace in that, on soft ground. She is a highly talented mare and he was conceding the 7lb mares’ allowance. He had won his first three chases going into this race, he had beaten Finian’s Oscar in a Grade 2 race at Ascot on his previous run. He hadn’t run since then, however, since December, and it is possible that he was just a bit too keen because of that absence. He can go well fresh, he won on his racecourse debut and he won a novices’ handicap chase at Ascot on his debut this season, but he could settle better next time with the freshness run out of him.

Gary Moore’s horse is only six and he has raced just four times now over fences, so he has bundles of scope for progression. He will be of interest if he runs at Aintree. He ran a big race there last year, he put up the best performance of his career over hurdles in finishing fourth behind Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. Two and a half miles is a good trip for him for now, and the Manifesto Chase looks like the ideal race for him at Aintree.

Cheltenham, 15th March 2018