Horses To Follow » HTF

Mighty Blue

Mighty Blue put up a good performance to finish second to Gauloise in the listed mares’ novices’ hurdle. Keen enough early on along the inside just behind the leaders, she travelled well down the back straight final time for Donagh Meyler and she travelled well into the home straight. A mistake at the second last flight didn’t help, but she recovered her equilibrium quite quickly and got out after the Gauloise, who came from behind her to hit the front at that point. It never really looked likely that she would get to Willie Mullins’ filly, who stayed on strongly to win well, but she kept on well up the run-in to get to within three lengths of her, coming nicely clear of Place Des Vosges in third.

This was a good race, and it was a good performance by Joseph O’Brien’s filly to get as close as she did to Gauloise, who is now favourite for the mares’ novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Third behind Dawn Patrol and Barrington Court in the Group 3 Loughbrown Stakes at The Curragh in September, when she had Kastasa just behind her in fourth, she is a classy recruit to the jumping game. She did jump to her right a little here, so it may be that she will be at her best kept to right-handed tracks, but it was just her second run over hurdles, so she should progress from this. She should learn to settle better too as she gains more experience over hurdles.

Thurles, 20th December 2020


Farclas ran a big race to finish third in the Paddy Power Chase. He was a little keen early on for Jack Kennedy on this, his first run over three miles, but he settled into a good rhythm, just behind the leaders. Gordon Elliott’s horse travelled well out of the back straight and he jumped the second last fence well, which took him into a share of fourth place as they raced to the home turn. He came under pressure as they straightened up and, while he couldn’t get to Castlebawn West, he kept on well over the last and up the run-in to finish third.

This was a really good run by Farclas on just his second run since he won a novices’ chase at Roscommon in June 2019. It was his first foray too beyond two miles and five furlongs, and he saw out the trip well, which gives him options. Winner of the Triumph Hurdle in 2018, he has raced just five times over fences, so he has the scope to go beyond his mark of 143, up just 1lb for this run, which was more than fair. Just turned seven, he will be of interest in another staying handicap chase now, and the fact that he has high-class Cheltenham Festival form means that he will be of interest if he goes to Cheltenham for one of the staying handicap chases in March.

Leopardstown, 27th December 2020

Magic Daze

Magic Daze did well to finish third behind Gaillard Du Mesnil on her debut under Rules in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle. She took them along from early, and she stretched her field out nicely as they raced down the back straight. Still in front and apparently travelling well over the second last flight, she couldn’t go with Gaillard Du Mesnil when he moved up and joined her at the entrance to the home straight, and she was passed by her better-fancied stable companion Mr Incredible on the run to the last, but she still kept on admirably up the run-in to retain third place, well behind the winner but nicely clear of the fourth horse Bold Getaway.

It was a really encouraging performance by Henry de Bromhead’s filly on her debut over hurdles. Winner of her only point-to-point for Colin Bowe last October, when she made all, she seemed to enjoy herself here, bowling along in front, and her jumping was good. Interestingly, the other horses who lay up with her, Indigo Breeze, Great Bear, Gaspard Du Seuil, horses who were towards the head of the market, all faded out of it and finished out of the first three. Magic Daze is a keen-going sort, but she kept going nicely even after she had been headed. She should progress for this experience, and she should be winning her maiden hurdle before too long.

Leopardstown, 28th December 2020

A Plus Tard

Noted after he finished second in the Fortria Chase on his debut this season, A Plus Tard is worthy of note again after he won the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

We knew that he was talented going into the race, but we didn’t know that he could stay three miles. We do now. And it wasn’t just that he stayed the trip, it was that, under a really adept and patient ride by Darragh O’Keeffe, he stayed the trip well. He hit the line strongly, and he left the impression that he has every chance of staying the extra two and a half furlongs of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

As a just-turned seven-year-old, he has the potential to progress again as a staying chaser. As such, as a seven-year-old who has top class form over distances that are short of the Gold Cup distance, he has a similar profile to past Gold Cup winners Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John, as well as Best Mate and Kauto Star before they won their first Gold Cups. We don’t know by how much these seven-year-old staying chasers can progress. We do know, though, that Henry de Bromhead’s horse goes well at Cheltenham, he won the Close Brothers Chase as a novice and he finished a close-up third in the Ryanair Chase last March, and he is a big player in the Gold Cup picture.

Leopardstown, 28th December 2020

Dickie Diver

Dickie Diver put up a really encouraging performance in finishing second to Paint The Dream in a highly competitive two-mile-six-furlong novices’ handicap chase, on his chasing debut and his first run back after a long break.

Settled nicely by Aidan Coleman at the rear of the eight-runner field and towards the outside, he travelled well through his race and his jumping was good in the main. Still only sixth as they raced to the end of the back straight, and fully eight lengths behind the leader, he travelled well out of the back straight and over the cross fence, and he made nice progress at the top of the home straight. He got a little out-paced when they quickened from the third last fence, but he stayed on well from the second last, over the last and up the run-in, to just get up and pip Demachine for the runner-up spot.

This was Nicky Henderson’s horse’s first run since he finished fourth behind Minella Indo in the 2019 Albert Bartlett Hurdle, and he ran very well. He was beaten over seven lengths by the winner Paint The Dream, who made all, but it looked like a warm race beforehand, it was run in a good time, and Dickie Diver stayed on well past progressive horses in Severano and Demachine. Winner of his only point-to-point, he was a progressive staying novice hurdler two seasons ago, he won his maiden at Chepstow in February that year and he stayed on well to take fourth place in that Albert Bartlett Hurdle, behind Minella Indo and Commander Of Fleet and Allaho, with last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar five lengths behind him in fifth. That was a really hot Albert Bartlett Hurdle. From the family of Merry Gale, JP McManus’ horse obviously stays well. He would be interesting off his rating of 142 in a handicap, and he would also be of interest in good staying novice chases.

Newbury, 29th December 2020

Funambule Sivola

Funambule Sivola put up a nice performance to win the two-mile handicap chase. Settled into a nice rhythm by Charlie Deutsch in third place behind a good pace set initially by King D’Argent, he was sticky enough over the two middle fences in the back straight, with the result that he dropped to fourth place by the time they reached the end of the back straight, but he still appeared to travel well. Left in third when King D’Argent departed at the cross-fence, he moved up nicely on the outside as they rounded the home turn, jumped to the front over the third last, and kept on well from there, always doing enough to hold the game runner-up Shut The Box.

He only got home by a half a length in the end, but he left the impression that he won with more in hand than the bare winning margin. He travelled well up the home straight and got the better of Shut The Box, but he probably idled on the run-in. It is probable that he was only doing as much as he needed to do. His task was rendered easier than it might have been when King D’Argent fell at the cross fence, the fifth last, but he still did all that he had to do. The runner-up is a progressive chaser, and the two of them finished clear of their rivals in a decent time.

Venetia Williams’ horse probably appreciated the drop back down to two miles. He was disappointing at Sandown over two and a half miles on soft ground on his previous run, but that run probably came up too quickly after he had won at Wetherby. Connections obviously took the chance, given that he was racing under a 7lb penalty and that he had been raised by 5lb more than that by the handicapper.

He proved that he was well up to his mark of 124 here, and he remains of interest now off his new mark of 130. This was just his third run over fences, so he has the potential to improve again. This well-run two miles seemed to suit him well. He holds an entry in the two-mile handicap chase at Warwick on Saturday, and he will be of interest if he takes his chance in that.

Newbury, 29th December 2020


Ibleo ran out a cosy winner in the end of the two-mile handicap chase, but he did well to win, coming from the rear at a track at which prominent racers do well.

They went fast from early, as the two Gary Moore horses Darebin and Early Du Lemo took them along. Ibleo actually lined up handily, it looked like Charlie Deutsch wanted to be prominent, but he allowed him drop in over the first two fences behind the fast pace. He was well back down the back straight, he was still only seventh of the eight runners jumping the water. He got in tight to the first of the Railway Fences too, which wasn’t ideal, but he jumped the next two well, and he travelled well to the Pond Fence. He wasn’t helped by Moonlighter jumping across him a little at that fence, but he was back on an even keel around the home turn, he made good ground from the second last fence, switched and joined Paddy’s Poem half way up the run-in and stayed on nicely under just a hands-and-heels ride to win well.

It was a nice performance by Venetia Williams’ horse at a track that probably doesn’t play to his strengths. The fast pace helped him, brought his stamina into play, and it may well be that the pace just collapsed in front of him, but he still showed a really good attitude. He did run well over two and a half miles at Huntingdon on his last run last season, but a stiff two miles is probably optimal for him. Second in his first two runs this season, beaten a short head in the first and beaten by a talented horse in Sky Pirate in the second, this was just his sixth chase, so he should be able to improve again from this. He goes well on soft ground, and a good test at two miles suits him well.

Sandown, 2nd January 2020

Guard Your Dreams

Guard Your Dreams did well to keep on as well as he did to win the two-mile handicap hurdle that brought proceedings to a close at Sandown on Saturday. Totterdown got out in front early on and set a fast pace, as is Totterdown’s wont, and Guard Your Dreams led the chasers. By the time they got to the top of the home straight, Totterdown started to wilt, Guard Your Dreams was left in front and they started to assemble in behind him. Monsieur Lecoq and The Pink’n closed up, as did Friend Or Foe, who looked to be travelling best of all. He picked up too, but Guard Your Dreams was game in front. He held off Friend Or Foe on the run-in and went on to win nicely.

This was just a fourth run over hurdles for Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse. His three previous runs were all in novice company at Bangor, and he won two of them, including his previous race by 10 lengths in a first-time hood, from Barichello, who ran well in defeat at Catterick over Christmas. This was a nice step forward by Guard Your Dreams, into a handicap for the first time and racing off a mark of 128. The handicapper raised him by 7lb for this to a mark of 135, but he has only just turned five and this was just his fourth run over hurdles. Also, he showed a really good attitude here, and there could be more to come.

Sandown, 2nd January 2020