Donn's Articles » Five to follow

Search For A Song (Dermot Weld)

Search For A Song put up a fairly remarkable performance to win the Irish St Leger in September. Dropped towards the rear of the field early on, she didn’t settle at all. After fighting a losing battle with the filly for a couple of furlongs, rider Chris Hayes allowed her stride forward, up on the outside and into the lead, in the obvious hope that she would settle better in front.

The move worked, she relaxed when she got to the head of the field. Even so, she had expended so much energy through the early stages of the race, it was always unlikely that she would have enough in reserve to withstand the challenge from the older horses that would inevitably come in the home straight.

The challenges came all right, but Dermot Weld’s filly fought them off. Kew Gardens and Southern France and Cross Counter and Master Of Reality, all top class four-year-old stayers. She picked up at the two-furlong pole, put distance between herself and her pursuers, and she won by two lengths.

You rarely see a horse running as freely as she did for as long as she did in a Group 1 race and winning. Not only that, but no three-year-old filly had won the Irish St Leger in 30 years. Search For A Song won with a little bit in hand, and runner-up Kew Gardens added further ballast to the form when he went to Ascot next time and beat Stradivarius in the British Champions Long Distance Cup.

Owned and bred by Moyglare Stud, the Galileo filly is very exciting. She obviously stays a mile and six furlongs, but she has lots of pace. She could drop back down to a mile and a half, the distance over which she won the Listed Galtres Stakes at York last August, and it is interesting that she holds an entry in the Tattersalls Gold Cup over 10 and a half furlongs.

Immaculately-bred, by Galileo out of Polished Gem, a sister to Matriarch Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes winner Dress To Thrill, and therefore a half-sister to Free Eagle and Sapphire and Custom Cut, there is no knowing how high she could go.

Sinawann (Michael Halford)

Sinawann raced just three times last season as a juvenile. Michael Halford’s horse shaped encouragingly on his racecourse debut over seven furlongs at The Curragh in early August, and he stepped forward nicely when he stepped up to a mile next time, staying on strongly to win nicely back at The Curragh.

His final run of the season was in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend, and he ran a big race there to finish second to Mogul. Aidan O’Brien’s horse got first run on him that day, but he stayed on all the way to the line to get to within a length of the winner, who is generally second favourite for the Derby behind Pinatubo.

A half-brother to Simsir, whose three wins to date have been over 10 furlongs, and to Silwana, who won a listed race over two miles, the Aga Khan’s colt should progress this season as a three-year-old. He will be of interest if he takes up his entry in the Irish 2000 Guineas, and he could progress as he steps up to middle distances later in the season.

Up Helly Aa (Willie McCreery)

Up Helly Aa didn’t race as a two-year-old, but he progressed nicely last year at three. Winner of his maiden at Gowran Park in June, he stepped forward from that next time when he stayed on well to finish second to Mohawk in the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown over nine furlongs.

Willie McCreery’s colt improved again from that on his final run of the season, when he won a listed race at Cork over an extended mile. He showed a really nice attitude that day, staying on well down the outside and finishing off his race strongly. He only got home by a neck from Pincheck that day, but it always looked like he was going to get there.

He is another who is really well bred, bred by owners the Niarchos family by Galileo out of their mare Fiesolana, who was also trained by Willie McCreery to win the Group 1 Matron Stakes. Fiesolana excelled over seven furlongs and a mile, but Up Helly Aa is by Galileo, he stays nine furlongs well and he could be even better over 10. He has raced just four times, and he could come into his own now as a four-year-old.

Current Option (Ado McGuinness)

Winner of a novice stakes over seven furlongs on his final run for William Haggas last June, Current Option continued his progression last year when he joined Ado McGuinness later in the summer.

Second in a good seven-furlong handicap at Cork in August on his first run for his new trainer, he ran a cracker next time in the Irish Cambridgeshire, hitting the front two furlongs out and looking a likely winner before just giving best to Jassaar close home.

He went one better next time in the seven-furlong premier handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend. Drawn wider than ideal that day, he was always prominent and, hitting the front two furlongs out, he kept on bravely to repel all challengers, actually going on again inside the last 25 yards and remaining in front at the pull-up.

The handicapper raised him by 5lb for that win, which brings him up to a mark of 94, but he is still lightly raced and he has the scope to progress beyond that mark this season. His trainer reports him to be in top form, and he could be a big player in some of the big handicaps over seven furlongs and a mile this season before potentially stepping up in class.

Sceptical (Denis Hogan)

Sceptical is a hugely exciting sprinter. Third on his racecourse debut at Dundalk in October, he stepped forward from that next time when, fitted with a tongue-tie, he easily landed his maiden over six furlongs.

Given a bit of a break after that by Denis Hogan, he returned in February and was impressive in winning a six-furlong handicap off a mark of 90, he travelled well into his race and kept on nicely to beat a good yardstick in War Hero, who was in turn clear of the third horse.

Raised by 11lb to a handicap rating of 101 for that, James McAuley’s horse dropped back down in trip again to five furlongs next time back at Dundalk, and he bolted up.

A son of Exceed And Excel out of Queen Mary Stakes winner Jealous Again, and picked up for small money by his astute connections at Doncaster last August, he could be better than a handicapper. His trainer mentioned some of the top sprints as potential targets this season, depending on how the season pans out, and it may be that he will be an under-rated horse if he takes his chance in Group races.

©, 26th April 2020