First the company report. Readers who invested a tenner on the nose each time our Twelve to Follow for the Flat turned out have made a wallet-warming profit of £638. Only the management consultants on whom a panicky government has showered gold-plated contracts with no questions asked have done better than that in these Covid times.
The dozen contested 39 races and seven won, four of them more than once. The standout was James Fanshawe’s filly Audarya. After a 12-1 Newcastle success she was sent to France for the Group One Prix Jean Romanet. Ridden by Ionitz Mendizabal, she won by a neck with British bookmakers paying 33-1. On-course investors with the Pari-Mutuel collected at 47-1. Audarya concluded her season last weekend by triumphing in the hands of Pierre-Charles Boudot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare in the US. Locals got 17-1; British bookmakers paid out at only 12-1.
Another two-time winner, before injury forced his retirement, was Marcus Tregoning’s brilliant miler Mohaather, whose Sussex Stakes victory at Goodwood was the best race of the season. Michael Dods won twice with Brunch, at 7-1 and 15-2, and John Gosden won a brace too with the classy mare Enbihaar. Other victories came from Mark Johnston’s Elarqam, Roger Varian’s Valyrian Steel and Clive Cox’s Tis Marvellous. The disappointment was Varian’s Setarhe who, after finishing second at Royal Ascot to Dandalla, never managed better than third in five subsequent outings.
Putting together a long-term team is harder than it looks. Sometimes early-season form is turned upside down when the weather changes. Sometimes owners, even trainers, get carried away by minor success and start running their horses above their class. Over jumps the easiest thing would be to pick a dozen horses exclusively from the yards of Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. They will probably win as many Cheltenham Festival races as all other trainers combined, but then so they should because success breeds success and they are sent the best horses. I am though ignoring their stars because they are discussed exhaustively elsewhere in the media and are rarely available at fun prices. We need winners at the bread-and-butter tracks too.
This season I believe the value is to be found in improvers being nurtured by the likes of Harry Whittington, Anthony Honeyball and the fast-advancing Fergal O’Brien, who is currently riding high in the trainers’ table, with only Paul Nicholls having trained more winners. I’ll start with Fergal’s Templepark, handy winner of a Warwick chase. Kim Bailey’s horses are in fine form, so in comes his second season chaser Imperial Aura, a strong performer at the Cheltenham Festival in March and a convincing winner already at Carlisle.
Another who caught the eye at the Cumbrian track was novice hurdler Jetaway Joey, second there on his seasonal return to Castle Robin. His trainer Olly Murphy, boosted this season by signing Aidan Coleman as stable jockey, said Jetaway Joey had a good blow afterwards and ‘will come on a bundle’. Another Murphy with a decent novice hurdler on the premises is Newmarket handler Amy Murphy whose Soldier on Parade has won three at Market Rasen. Gary Moore’s Botox Has earns a place after his defeat of The Pink’N and Allmankind at Cheltenham’s first autumn meeting. I kicked myself for not backing Botox Has after Gary said before the race that they’d not wanted to run him against Goshen in the Triumph (the Cheltenham Festival race in which their stable star capsized at the last with his race conclusively won) ‘although he’d probably have won that given how things panned out’. Praise indeed.
There is no more capable yard supplied with the right livestock than Fingerpost Farm, Llancarfan, where Evan Williams regularly sends out 50-plus winners a season (aided by assistant trainer Eleanor Williams, office managers Catherine Williams and William Williams and conditional jockey Isabel Williams). Annsam and Quoi de Neuf, who ran well over hurdles last season, should both do well over fences and I’ll include the latter. The unrelated Christian Williams and his talented conditional rider Jack Tudor should continue to win chases with Kitty’s Light, who scored at Warwick despite a slipping saddle, then finished like a train in the Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton. Up in Cheshire, Donald McCain gave us a hint when owner Trevor Hemmings sold off many of his horses. He bought Mount Mews, saying that he looked upon the handicap chaser as ‘unfinished business’.
From Ireland I’ll include Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo, who has Festival form. David Pipe looks to have a good prospect with Bumpy Johnson, an impressive bumper winner at Fontwell. Jamie Snowden, whose last season was his best yet, should win more races with Ga Law, successful at Fontwell, Exeter and Wincanton, and Alan King, who has become one of the most successful dual-purpose trainers in the land with three Royal Ascot winners and a Champions’ Day victory with Trueshan, has a good jumping prospect with Valleres who won on his debut at Wetherby. Good luck, all.
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