Donn's Articles » Five To Follow On The Flat

Five To Follow On The Flat

With the Flat season now in full swing, here are five horses who might be worth following as the season develops.

Pearls Galore (Paddy Twomey)

Pearls Galore was a highly progressive filly last season, winning two Group 3 races during the summer, and going down by just a neck to No Speak Alexander in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown in September.

It didn’t just happen for her in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in November on her final run of the campaign, but the fact that she remains in training this season as a five-year-old suggests that her astute trainer thinks that there is more to come from her.  A Group 1 win is surely the primary objective this season, and she started off her 2022 campaign with an impressive performance in winning the Listed Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown last month under regular rider Billy Lee.

A mile is her optimum trip and, at her best on good or fast ground, her trainer mentioned the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot as a potential target for her, although she wouldn’t be out of place either in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting. 

Duke De Sessa (Dermot Weld)

Impressive in winning his maiden at The Curragh in August last year, Duke De Sessa rounded off his juvenile campaign by keeping on strongly to land the Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes at Leopardstown in October, getting home by a half a length from Piz Badile.

That rival exacted his revenge in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month, but Duke De Sessa kept on well down the outside from the rear of the field to take third place behind him, seeing out the 10-furlong trip well, and the form of that race was enhanced when the runner-up Buckaroo ran out an impressive winner of the Listed Tetrarch Stakes at The Curragh on Monday.

Duke De Sessa is set to resume his campaign in the Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown this afternoon, and he should run well there.  Looking further ahead, he is out of Dark Crusader, who won the Melrose Stakes at York over a mile and six furlongs, and he shapes like a colt who should improve for the step up to a mile and a half.  He could be an Irish Derby horse. 

Piz Badile (Donnacha O’Brien)

Piz Badile is another really interesting three-year-old colt.  Donnacha O’Brien’s horse was racing for just the second time when he ran that big race in the Eyrefield Stakes at the back-end of last season, and he showed a really willing attitude to get back up and beat Buckaroo in the Ballysax Stakes on his debut this season.

By Eclipse and Juddmonte International winner Ulysses, his dam won a listed race over an extended 10 furlongs, and Piz Badile races like he will get a mile and a half all right.  He has raced just three times in his life, and he is an exciting colt from whom there could be lots more to come.  

Cleveland (Aidan O’Brien)

Cleveland did well to win the Chester Cup on Friday.  Well back in the field early on, he made good ground for Ryan Moore around the home turn, and he stayed on gamely up Chester’s short home straight to get up and win by a neck.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt was racing for just the fifth time on Friday.  Winner of a nine-furlong maiden at The Curragh at the back-end of his juvenile season, he didn’t run at all last year as a three-year-old, but he shaped encouragingly on his first run this season when he finished fifth behind subsequent Group 3 and Group 2 winner Layfayette in a listed race at Naas in March.  Friday’s performance was obviously a nice step forward from that.

By Camelot and out of Venus De Milo, who won the Munster Oaks and who finished second in both the Irish Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks, Cleveland obviously stays the Chester Cup trip of an extended two and a quarter miles well, and there is every chance that he will stay two and a half miles.  As such, he could be a lively outsider for the Ascot Gold Cup, should connections allow him take up that entry.  He is a lightly-raced and progressive young stayer, and it is interesting that the 2015 Chester Cup winner Trip To Paris followed up by landing the Ascot Gold Cup. 

Mutasaabeq (Charlie Hills)

Mutasaabeq was unlucky not to win the Group 2 Bet365 Mile at Sandown last month.  Held up early on in a race in which it was difficult to make ground from the rear, he was denied a clear run at the point at which rider Jim Crowley wanted to go forward.  By the time the gap appeared, Lights On had already gone for home on the far side, but Mutasaabeq finished off his race strongly to go down by just a neck.

Charlie Hills’ horse was a talented three-year-old last season.  Impressive in winning on his debut at three, he was sent off at no bigger than 6/1 for last year’s 2000 Guineas.  He was well beaten in the Guineas, and he came up short in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, but he did notch another win last July in a seven-furlong contest at Haydock, and his two runs to date this season have been most encouraging.

He doesn’t hold any lofty entries, his trainer has said that they are going to allow him progress slowly this season, and that makes sense.  He has lots of pace, so he will probably be at his best over seven furlongs or over an easy mile, and he should be able to gain a Group 3 or a Group 2 win before potentially stepping up to Group 1 level again.

© The Sunday Times, 8th May 2022