Having written two National Hunt previews (which have had varying degrees of success!), I have finally decided to write a Flat one with horses to follow throughout the 2015 season. The list features plenty of three year olds. Some hopefully will make into Classic contenders whilst others are of interest in lower grade handicaps where hopefully they can improve a fair bit on their current ratings. Some of the older horses are obvious suggestions but there are a couple of horses that I feel will make their mark this season after promising plenty as three year olds.
Before listing my own to follow for the upcoming season, we recorded our 2015 Flat preview video last week with plenty of horses to follow in each category mentioned in the link from myself, Luke and Calum. Most of those have made the written preview but there are a couple extra including the three year old fillies which I’ve left out the piece.
ACOLYTE – 3 – Roger Charlton
The list begins with this son of Acclamation who caught the eye on debut when travelling noticeably well and staying on nicely into third behind subsequent Group winner Elm Park over seven furlongs who used his experience to his advantage that day. He then dropped down in distance to six furlongs and won on his second start at Kempton with a clever front running ride from William Buick who allowed him to use his stride without having to use the whip. His final two year old start was at York where he was given a mark of 78 for a nursery however he was awkward leaving the stalls and raced keenly before his effort petered out.
It could be that the ground was against him, however it was plenty soft enough on his debut at Newbury so it could just be over six furlongs that he was outpaced. He is definitely much better than that effort and off his handicap mark of 76; he will be very dangerous in handicaps.
AGENT MURPHY – 4 – Brian Meehan
The son of Cape Cross went off unfancied at 33/1 on debut at Bath but showed a really likeable attitude to outbattle the favourite Principle Equation. His handicap debut at Sandown off a mark of 84 was an impressive performance as he was keen enough early on off a slow pace before quickening smartly and again showing his battling qualities to fend off Torchlighter.
The handicapper then raised him five pounds and he went to Ascot for the last day of the King George meeting. He carried top weight and attempted to make all the running, but bumped into one in Redkirk who has since moved to Hong Kong for a substantial amount of money. Once again when he was headed, he showed a willingness to fight all the way to the line. He was raised six pounds to a mark of 95.
His final start of the campaign was in the valuable Winning Post Bookmakers Bristol Handicap at Ascot in September where he stepped up to a mile and a half for the first time. In a big field handicap, he was knocked about soon after the start and again was fairly keen even with them going a strong pace but travelled powerfully before getting slightly outpaced. With some doubts in his pedigree about stamina, it was pleasing to see him stay on strongly to finish third behind a potential Group performer in Battersea.
He ended the season on a mark of 98 and looks a horse who will improve with a winter break. Early season, he could be one for a big handicap at twelve furlongs including races like the Jorvik Stakes at York’s Dante meeting and potentially the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot which was a route taken by Arab Spring last year; he could even be an Ebor candidate having looked a strong stayer.
ATALAN – 3 – Hughie Morrison
When finding horses for this preview, I tended to find it easier to select a few three year olds for handicap purposes at various level of abilities, especially compared with National Hunt handicappers. This son of Azamour only has a handicap mark of 57 after three runs. However, he already has a huge resemblance to his half-brother, the Melrose winner Vent De Force. He made his debut in the exact same race at Goodwood over nine furlongs where he finished last of six beaten twelve lengths behind Dissolution, another horse that features further down this list.
Again, his second start was at Goodwood in the same race that Vent De Force also ran in and was again beaten twelve lengths on softer ground. This time it was by Shadow Rock who had finished second in the maiden mentioned above but he shaped with enough promise considering his finishing position. His final start at Nottingham was over a mile where he raced closer to the pace, but unsurprisingly, he was outpaced and wasn’t knocked about once beaten.
We should see him out fairly soon in the campaign where that mark can be exploited over twelve/fourteen furlongs. Long term, he could end up in the Melrose like his half brother whilst following a similar route to him.
BRAGGING – 4 – Sir Michael Stoute
Sir Michael Stoute’s record with fillies and mares is second to none and this daughter of Exchange Rate looks to be another that could be a prime example of her trainer’s excellent record with the fairer sex.
After two promising efforts at Lingfield when third to Etaab and Windsor where she won a maiden in comfortable style, she was given a mark of 82 but was beaten at Nottingham on her handicap debut. She was well worth forgiving as she didn’t look at home on soft ground and confirmed her promise off a five pound higher mark when bolting up in a Newmarket handicap over seven furlongs under Ted Durcan. She went up ten pounds for that but that didn’t stop her doing the same in a deeper race over the same distance at York with James Doyle back in the saddle, showing that she was still well ahead of the handicapper and a potential Pattern class performer.
For her final start, she stepped up into Group company at Doncaster but got outpaced at a crucial point before staying on strongly into second behind Kiyoshi who was given an inspired ride by Jamie Spencer. I fully expect her to confirm the promise she showed last season and win a Group One. Races like the Duke of Cambridge at Royal Ascot, the Falmouth at Newmarket, the Nassau at Goodwood and real long term, the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares Turf would be interesting, especially as there is stamina on the dam’s side of her pedigree. A very exciting filly.
COUGAR MOUNTAIN – 4 – Aidan O’Brien
Aidan O’Brien only features once on this list. This isn’t because I dislike his horses. It’s because most of his Classic contenders will feature prominently in other pieces and I believe this choice may have potentially slipped under the radar due to circumstances not going his way towards the back end of last season.
For a horse with limited experience, this son of Fastnet Rock was highly tried after his impressive maiden win at Naas over six furlongs when thrashing Monsieur Power who had travelled better than him through the race by five and a half lengths. It convinced connections that he was already good enough for a crack at Group One company. His first assignment at that level was in the July Cup where he ran a superb race for a horse of his experience to finish fifth behind the imperious Slade Power, beaten only three lengths.
Five furlongs looked too sharp in the Nunthorpe when behind Sole Power and the greasy surface at Haydock wouldn’t have suited him in the Sprint Cup when behind G-Force so he can be forgiven those efforts. He looks as though a step up in distance wouldn’t go amiss and something like the Lockinge could come under serious consideration. If he does get a mile then it will open up plenty of opportunities with other Group Ones like the Queen Anne and the Sussex also potential options. At this stage, I’m unsure whether the Breeders’ Cup Mile would suit with the tight turns as he does look a horse that needs winding up a fair bit. Overall, he looks a horse with plenty of untapped potential.
DISSOLUTION – 3 – Sir Michael Stoute
Something I was never really interested in was looking through two year old maiden events until last year where I really enjoyed the challenge of finding potential handicappers that could even improve beyond that sphere. This son of New Approach was tried in several good maidens including when fifth on debut to subsequent Group winner Nafaqa, making some eyecatching headway late on and shaping like a stayer. Similar comments apply to his next start at York where this time he was outpaced at an early stage and then was doing his best work late on when fifth behind the impressive White Lake.
At Haydock, he stepped up to a mile where he was again outpaced at an early stage and had to be given a sharp reminder at the bend by James Doyle. He was too far back to trouble the winner Lord Ben Stack who looks a useful prospect but Dissolution beat the rest comprehensively which included the likes of Darrington and Rocky Rider who also look nice horses with bright futures. On his final maiden start, he was fitted with a first time visor and was all out to beat Shadow Rock over nine furlongs but he looks a horse that will improve for a winter break and given a bit of time to develop. Given a mark of 82, you would be disappointed if he wasn’t winning middle distance handicaps and he could be the type to improve into a King George V Handicap type for Royal Ascot.
EL FENIX – 3 – Gary Moore
Usually when you read my fellow OnTheOtherHoof colleague Luke Elder’s horses to follow pieces, they feature plenty of Gary Moore horses. So imagine his surprise when telling him that I was putting a Moore horse in this piece!
This son of Lope De Vega was held in a high enough regard by his trainer before his maiden at Windsor with Ryan Moore taking the ride only for the horse to disappoint when eighth behind Aces. He ran better when sixth in a maiden at Sandown over five furlongs which was always going to be too sharp for him before catching the eye in a seven furlong maiden at Kempton when fifth behind Mulzamm without Hector Crouch getting too serious on him.
Given a mark of 67 by the handicapper, he appeals as a type to go on a winning run over the next few months as there looks to be a fair amount of improvement to come.
ELM PARK – 3 – Andrew Balding
If we have already seen this year’s Ladbrokes St Leger winner then this is the likeliest horse for that race. The son of Phoenix Reach shaped promisingly on debut when third behind Latharnach at Sandown having run green during the race before going on to remain unbeaten for the rest of the season.
He built on that Sandown effort next time on softer ground at Newbury when winning a fair maiden beating Constable Buckley who actually ties in with Dissolution and Atalan from his next start at Goodwood and Acolyte who featured above. On his next start at Salisbury in Listed company, he made every yard of the running and the manner of which he went about his business earmarked him as a horse of real potential. The Royal Lodge at Newmarket underlined his toughness after not handling the dip very well before showing battling qualities when beating Nafaqa by a length.
He proved on that occasion that he handled fast ground which underlined his versatility with ground conditions. His final start of the campaign was in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in which he was a comfortable winner having travelled like the best horse through the race before sealing it in an uncomplicated manner.
He goes straight to the 2000 Guineas as his starting point but against speedier types, he is likely to struggle but the main point of interest is whether he can handle the dip, as that would depend on him handling the unique demands of Epsom. It wouldn’t be the end of the world were he to miss Epsom’s classic with a whole host of opportunities elsewhere including the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly, the Grand Prix De Paris at Longchamp and the Irish Derby other feasible options. Down the line, he really looks tailor made for the St Leger back at the scene of his biggest triumph to date so far.
EXTREMITY – 4 – Hugo Palmer
Hugo Palmer made the point in his blog recently that he has very few older horses in training this season but this son of Exceed And Excel looked a real improver as last season progressed. He started his season looking to need the run behind Muwaary before winning at Leicester. A second place behind Idea at Kempton followed the Leicester win and a third at Sandown when behind Royal Seal looked respectable.
After that performance, cheekpieces were applied and they looked to help him when just getting up to beat Buckstay on the line in a handicap at Glorious Goodwood where he first caught my attention before a solid effort behind Master The World when second at York carrying top weight. He then reversed the form when winning comfortably at Thirsk in a race with some decent opposition. That win got him into the Cambridgeshire where he just didn’t seem to run his day on that occasion and was possibly feeling the effects of a long season.
With a handicap mark of 99, connections could be tempted to go for a big handicap with races like the nine furlong handicap on 2,000 Guineas day or potentially the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot before improving into Listed and Group contests. Ten furlongs shouldn’t be any issue either.
FAYDHAN – 3 – John Gosden
Very rarely do you hear John Gosden with such high praise for any horse. So to hear statements from him saying Faydhan is ‘exceptionally brilliant’, it’s exciting to see what potential this son of War Front possesses..
We have only seen him once on the track in his maiden at Haydock last July where he broke slowly from the stalls and had to be nudged for a couple of strides after a furlong, looking fairly green for the first half of the race. Once he grabbed hold of the bridle, he was soon off it chasing down the three leaders but once he engaged top gear, it was a devastating turn of foot which saw him power away to win by six lengths from Dutch Connection who went on after this to win the Group Three Acomb Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival.
Unfortunately, a slight setback meant he missed the rest of his two year old campaign but that could be to the horse’s advantage having not had as hard a season as a few of his competitors. He is likely to start off in the Free Handicap at Newmarket where he will test his 2000 Guineas credentials. At this current moment, he looks the most exciting prospect for that race and potentially going forward from it.
FREE EAGLE – 4 – Dermot Weld
Of the three year old colts returning from last season, this son of High Chapparal looks to have the star quality to be winning major Group Ones throughout the campaign.
Going into last season, he looked a viable contender for the Derby but a training setback meant he missed the first half of last season. His return was well worth the wait as he demolished a field on Irish Champions Day in the Group Three Enterprise Stakes in a faster time than what was achieved by The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion later on the card. A trip to Ascot on Champion’s Day was the last port of call in the season where he ran a stormer on ground far too soft for him when third behind Noble Mission and Al Kazeem in the Champion Stakes.
This season looks a prime opportunity for him to deliver at the top level with races like the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, the Prince Of Wales at Royal Ascot, the King George at Ascot, the Juddmonte International at York, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp to name a few potential targets. It would be a shock if he doesn’t feature prominently throughout the season.
KINGS FETE – 4 – Sir Michael Stoute
Sir Michael Stoute is renowned for his patient approach with precocious three year olds but Kings Fete is a rare example of a horse that was actually tried at the highest level, despite showing signs of inexperience. The son of Kings Best began his career at Newbury when fourth behind Second Step in a ten furlong maiden showing some promise before winning on his next start, again over ten furlongs at Sandown when beating Obsidian.
His handicap debut deserves a fair bit of attention. He was given a rating of 91 by the handicapper and went straight into an open age race at York with him being stepped up to twelve furlongs. In the preliminaries he was relatively calm, however he bolted when allowed to stride out onto the racecourse. Things didn’t get much better in the race as he failed to settle early on for James Doyle. When he did, he travelled smartly and found enough to see off Mighty Yar with both of those pulling away from the rest.
In an attempt to harness his energy, connections tried him in a hood on his next handicap start at Goodwood however it is possible that the addition of it relaxed him too much under new tactics when held up and he couldn’t make up the amount of ground to useful handicapper Double Bluff when second. He then returned to Goodwood with aspirations towards the St Leger in March Stakes over a mile and six furlongs where they tried a ring-bit to help him settle but he was way too free to post and in the race itself. He was travelling like the best horse a furlong out but just couldn’t quicken past two stout stayers in Forever Now and Alex My Boy.
Connections then pondered whether to take their chance in the St Leger and in the end they decided to as a second string behind Snow Sky. He looked fine enough in the pre-parade however in the parade ring itself, he sweated up badly. During the race though, he settled perfectly fine but weakened two furlongs out to finish seventh behind Kingston Hill beaten eleven and a half lengths.
He remains an exciting talent once he learns to settle in his races and will definitely be a Group performer. He is the type that could win over both ten and twelve furlongs with races like the John Porter at Newbury, the Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket and the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot looking ideal early season targets. It could be worth trying him again in a hood if he hasn’t improved regarding him settling in his races.
MECCA’S ANGEL – 4 – Michael Dods
Whilst this list could have had more sprinters in the likes of Muthmir and Limato, the Michael Dods trained filly is more than worthy of her position.
She had shown enough promise as a juvenile to suggest that she would improve again into her three year old career. She started out in a Thirsk handicap off top weight where she gave her rivals a comprehensive beating before absolutely thrashing the opposition in a conditions race at Hamilton. Her next start was worth forgiving as only twelve days later she was turned out quickly at Maisons-Laffitte where she underperformed when fifth behind Rangali.
The quick turnaround plus the journey to France would likely have taken plenty out of her which was recognised as she was given a mid-season break before returning at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting in the Scarborough Stakes when dismissing of Reckless Abandon and Steps. She was again quickly turned out but this worked at Newbury in her first Group race when on softer ground she beat Justice Day in decisive fashion. What makes her so likeable is the pace she shows through a race plus her finishing effort is always strong.
She wouldn’t want extremes of ground but she still remains a sprinter of huge excitement. She could start out in the Palace House at Newmarket if the ground was safe enough but the long term aim is probably the Prix de l’Abbaye on Arc day at Longchamp where she should get some cut in the ground. Other targets could include Royal Ascot and the Nunthorpe at York. Six furlongs shouldn’t hold any barriers for her either so she could even go for something like the Sprint Cup at Haydock.
TERRITORIES – 3 – Andre Fabre
When looking at the French two year olds from last season, several stood out in different ways including the Criquette Head Maarek pair of Epicuris and Full Mast but one horse that the latter faced on two occasions is Territories who looks interesting when viewing the French classics.
His debut at Maisons-Laffitte over six furlongs showed plenty of promise when third behind Ride Like The Wind with the front three drawing clear of the rest of the field. He followed that effort up with an easy success at Chantilly when cruising up effortlessly and putting the race to bed in a matter of strides to beat Souvenir Delondres who went on to Listed success. The Prix La Rochette was his next port of call where he travelled like the winner before seeming to lack a real kick of acceleration when third behind Full Mast.
On Arc day, he ran in the Prix Jean Luc Lagadere where again he travelled strongly on the heels of the leaders and was the last to come off the bridle as he was trapped behind horses. When the split opened, he went for the rail where he began to gain but got hampered by Full Mast before Gleneagles came across on the pair of them in the closing stages. Consequently, Gleneagles was disqualified and placed third behind Full Mast and Territories.
He looks a horse that will appreciate the step up in distance to a mile with the French 2000 Guineas firmly in mind with a preparation in between. Depending on his Guineas run, he could turn into a Prix Du Jockey Club contender but that trip would look to be as far as he wants.
THE CORSCIAN – 4 – David Simcock
Having only had five career starts and already rated 101, this son of Galileo looks to have a bit more to give having slowly improved through the handicapping ranks last season.
His career began in a twelve furlong maiden at Salisbury where he ran respectably when third behind a more experienced rival in Wrangler. The ground was probably plenty soft enough for him on that occasion and he shaped with some promise. Next time out, he followed up that effort with a win at Kempton when ridden more handily and showed enough to deny a wayward Desert Snow to win by half a length.
Connections then considered him good enough to have a crack at the Group Three Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket’s July meeting. He took a keen enough hold early doors but was still travelling strongly three furlongs out and was one of the last to come off the bridle but the early exertions plus possibly failing to see out the distance told as he ended up being beaten a fair distance by Hartnell.
For his final two starts, he was dropped down to ten furlongs in handicaps off an opening mark of 86. The first of those runs was his debut in handicaps at Goodwood where he first caught my attention as he was dropped in and travelled omniously well on the heels of the leaders. He needed luck in running but eventually got it and powered away to a comfortable success from Madeed who clearly wasn’t in love with the track. A seven pound rise didn’t stop him on his final start at Doncaster with the performance being a carbon copy of his Goodwood win when beating Mange All and Arab Dawn.
There looks a bit more to come and he does look a potential Group performer but connections may be tempted to wait for an early season handicap like the Wolferton at Royal Ascot. He should have no issue going back to twelve furlongs at some stage in the season.
WHITE LAKE – 3 – Luca Cumani
Trainer Luca Cumani very rarely has maiden winners and this was reflected in the son of Pivotal’s price on debut at York in a strong maiden when sent off 25/1, even with the booking of Ryan Moore. He settled well towards the rear of the field before coming towards the stands rail and showing a decisive turn of foot to win going away from Secret Brief by two lengths. For his only other start as a two year old, he went to Doncaster for the Flying Scotsman where he didn’t travel like he did at York. Although he was looked after by Andrea Atzeni , he wasn’t far away at the finish when fourth to Nafaqa who had hung badly towards the crowd just like Cotai Glory had earlier on the card.
This season could just be a learning curve as Cumani excels with long term prospects. He holds entries in the Tattersalls races but he looks a horse that would already appreciate a trip above eight furlongs. Depending what connections wish to do, he could easily follow a similar path to stable companion Postponed who has been built around a four year old campaign by starting in the Craven and ending in the Great Voltigeur at York. If not, he could make up into an outsider for the Derby if they decide to go down that route via a trial like the Dante at York or the Dee Stakes at Chester.
WINTERVAL – 3 – Luca Cumani
Luca Cumani finishes the list as well with this son of Dubawi for the same owner as White Lake with a horse that will be interesting when given a handicap mark having only seen the racecourse twice. His debut at Newbury was a fair effort when sixth behind McCreery in as he wasn’t beaten around by Andrea Atzeni but showed enough to suggest he could win races and confirmed that also on his second start behind a 79 rated horse in Stoked who revelled in the conditions and would be another to stay on side when given soft ground. He did look on that occasion that he needed plenty of stoking up and he will be better over further than a mile. Once he is given a handicap mark, he will be one to firmly keep on side as the season progresses.