Friday 7 October 2016

Chasers to follow

Well, here we are again. The time of year where we convince ourselves the game is easy and by making a dynamic list of horses to follow we can win enough to spend the entire summer in the south of France.

Obviously that's not going to happen but with a bit of luck this sextet will keep the fires burning through the long winter nights.

I have no idea what the plans are for these horses - it's all guesswork. We can only hope the wheels are still on and the engines are being cranked up.

Last year I put up five horses, two of which never saw the racecourse. Let's hope for better luck with these six chase prospects.

Double W’s (M Jefferson)
I was thinking of including this horse even before he made an early reintroduction at Hexham last week, when he ran another solid race behind the improving and race-fit Australasia.

Having now been placed five times over timber and twice in bumpers, he looks a bit one-paced over 2m but pulls too hard over an extra half mile and doesn’t quite see his race out.

But he’s bred to stay well and 2m4f should hold no terrors this term with that pipe-opener out of the way, when I thought he looked around 85% straight.

Having already run twice at Cheltenham, he’s clearly held in decent regard by his handler, and I can see him going well in the novice handicap at the festival with his attentions now turned to fences.

Having never run on soft ground, decent terrain appears to be important and I can see the six-year-old being sparely campaigned round the likes of Catterick and Doncaster this winter. You only have to watch his incredible effort at the former venue in February to see the potential this horse has.

Five In A Row (B Ellison)
I expect this unexposed horse to have a big season in staying chases as he reaches full maturity.

A career over the larger obstacles was put on hold early in 2015 but he was right back on track last term with two hard-fought wins over a trip that is likely to prove short of his best.

After essentially out-staying the opposition at Musselburgh and Newcastle, he didn’t have the pace to get competitive at the Cheltenham festival before closing the campaign with another solid performance behind a speedier type at 20f.

But 3m-plus is where his future lies and, having never run at the trip over fences, there are reasons to believe he is well positioned to take advantage of a mark of 136.

Just an economical jumper of fences, he is also well-in off 131 over timber should his astute handler find a suitable opportunity.  

I Just Know (S Smith)
The first of two entrants from the yard of Sue and Harvey Smith. Typical of one of theirs, this six year old had half a dozen outings over timber without troubling the judge, nor I suspect many notebooks.

However, things didn’t go right on several occasions following a pleasing seasonal return at Wetherby, and for my liking he looked on the weak side physically for much of the campaign.

He out-ran his odds in a good race at Doncaster before going as if over the top on his final start, and it’s my guess that a mark of 105 seriously undervalues this horse’s ability.

He’ll make a lovely staying chaser and I can’t wait to see him again, he should be able to win over 2m4f before Christmas prior to stepping up in trip.

Cost 28k 18 months ago, so connections will be looking for some payback this autumn. It ought to be forthcoming.

Just Georgie (S Smith)
Another Bingley-based youngster hiding his light under a bushel last term was this Kayf Tara gelding, who showed more than enough to suggest a mark of 113 can be exploited over fences this time around.

Apart from one disappointing mid-season effort he showed a willing attitude in the face of several difficult tasks, before receiving a surprisingly negative ride on his final start at Sedgefield, where he wasn't seen to best advantage.

A notably good jumper of hurdles, he is thoroughly unexposed in stamina sapping conditions that should suit, and this high-knee actioned horse will require soft ground to show his best.

Kilbree Chief (L Russell)
For the second time in three seasons I’m putting up a horse trainer by Lucinda Russell that has had time off the track through injury, however I have no hesitation in proposing Kilbree Chief as one to follow in staying handicaps this winter.

The only two disappointing runs of this eight-year-old’s career came within a fortnight of each other when it is assumed he was suffering from the problem that subsequently kept him off the track for 20 months.

But in five chases last term he appeared to resume his upward curve, finishing second four times and winning when facing an extreme test of stamina for the first time.

He will resume on a mark of 127, coincidentally the same perch as when ending his hurdling career. I believe Kilbree Chief will prove worthy of a stone higher rating if campaigned over extreme distances, with the slugfests that dot the programme at Haydock making particular appeal. 

Point The Way (B Ellison)
Considering he was a May foal, this athletic Brian Boru gelding has achieved a good deal before reaching his fifth birthday, and with more to come he’s one to keep onside.

Bought the previous May for £43,000, Point The Way was given quite an aggressive campaign with seven starts, winning four. Essentially a stayer, he ploughed through terrible ground on Boxing Day before winning twice more from the front, jumping well and showing a willing attitude.

He had probably had enough by the time he contested the EBF final at Sandown, but that poor effort means a mark of 131 should be exploitable in the coming months.

I’ve no idea whether they plan to start him out over hurdles this season, but with plenty of improvement to come physically he’s a five year old to look forward to, particularly if or when he's sent chasing. 

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