Well it seems to be the time of year when every man and his dog is sharing the ten horses they’re most looking forward to seeing this season. And, in the spirit of this, I thought I’d share mine with you.
However, if you’re expecting the usual ten Classic contenders, you’re in for a surprise…
Now this list has a chance to go one of two ways: I suspect that there will be no middle ground with this. These horses all have something to prove, and pretty much none of them will make it to the top of their sector.
But, from a betting perspective, does that matter? The reason for picking these ten is that I think they may win once or twice at nice prices. Sure, they will lose more often than they win, but this is my ‘Value Ten To Follow’.
So, with that in mind, here we go:
1. Pieter Brueghel (Tr: D Nicholls; 8yo)
At eight years old, this gelding couldn’t exactly be classified as unexposed, and I make no apology for that. He was rated as high as 100 for Paul Cole as a 3yo, and has consistently given his running year in, year out since.
The handicapper is just showing signs of relenting now, and I can see Pieter Brueghel returning to the winners’ enclosure over a sprint trip (5 or 6 furlongs) this season.
This horse loves fast ground and has won round Chester’s very tight ‘bullring’ circuit twice off marks in the 90’s. Both those wins were when trained by Paul Cole, but Dandy Nicholls loves to win races at the Roodeye as well, so pay special attention should this horse turn up there this term.
2. Crossing The Line (Tr: Sir Mark Prescott; 3yo)
Having had the obligatory three runs in maiden company, and recording the form figures for a major international poker company in so doing (888), this gelding will be seen to much better effect over a mile to a mile and a quarter.
He is owned by shrewd connections (Prescott trains and Wally Sturt owns), and they have had many others run up sequences with similar profiles.
Allotted a mark of just 64 for his next turf run, and having cost, 95,000 guineas as a yearling, there must be expectations of more to come.
Look for Crossing The Line over a mile plus.
3. Tonnante (Tr: Sir Mark Prescott; 3yo)
Again we take the “Prescott-trained thrice raced in maidens” route with the filly, Tonnante.
She is out of Hernando, a marvellous middle distance horse who finished runner-up in the Arc amongst his many big race efforts. The dam’s side has stamina in abundance too, having – apparently – been a high class winner in Brazil.
In three maiden efforts to date, Tonnante has mid-pack twice over seven furlongs, and then fourth of five over a mile.
If I’m reading her right, she is crying out for at least a mile and a half, possibly further, and could be one of Prescott’s to run up a sequence.
4. Spirit Of The Mist (Tr: T J Pitt; 3yo)
I like this trainer, and his handling of Les Arcs last season was nothing short of expert, especially for one so new to the training ranks.
Pitt has assembled a useful looking squad for 2007, and I expect him to regularly be among the winners: definitely a trainer to keep on the right side of.
This colt ran green on debut, before winning nicely in a decent enough race second time out as a two year old last season. He then ran in the Goffs Million race in Ireland and finished last of 28 (albeit sent off only a 16/1 shot).
That run is easily forgiven and forgotten and, off a mark of 80, I expect this horse to show improvement as a three year old. The one concern I have is that the trainer may decide to campaign him at a higher level than handicaps, in which case he may be found out.
But, nonetheless, I think this one will win races in his grade and he readily makes the team.
5. Rapid City (Tr: Julia Feilden; 4yo)
Ok, so I probably do need to apologise for including this horse in my list, as I own a tenth of him! However, I think he takes his place on merit.
Having been bought cheaply from Criquette Head’s French stable, he has run six times over the winter, winning three and finishing second twice.
His run last Saturday was all wrong. Over a trip short of his best, and with pace setting tactics employed, I am convinced that we did not see the best of Rapid.
His trainer, Julia Feilden, has high hopes for him, and the plan ultimately is the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot. He’ll need to win a race between now and then to have a chance of making the cut.
But he is a horse who definitely wants to hear his hooves rattle, and an end to end mile (which is like a mile and a quarter in a run of the mill race) will suit him down to the ground.
Rapid has not finished winning just yet!!
6. Monte Alto (Tr: Luca Cumani; 3yo)
Luca Cumani is one of the great modern trainers in my opinion. He has had his (all too human) failings, and been involved in a few scandals (he’s Italian, what do you expect?!), but ultimately this man rarely fails to deliver.
He has some very good looking prospects for 2007, and I nominate Monte Alto as one to be on the right side of.
In two runs to date, this horse has finished third both times in decent maiden company.
He’s bred for a mile, and was staying on over seven furlongs in his two runs to date. Given normal physical improvement from two to three, he may actually stay a little further.
He’s likely to have one more run in a maiden and, while I wouldn’t put anyone off backing him in that, it is in decent three year old handicaps that I think ‘Filthy’ Luca will be looking to get the money down.
7. Furmigadeligiusta (Tr: Luca Cumani; 3yo)
Three runs in maidens to date for this one, which is a ploy that Signor Cumani uses almost as effectively as Sir Mark Prescott.
Having been the ‘lantern rouge’ in his first two starts (i.e. last man home!), he made eye-catching progress on his third maiden start. I have a strong suspicion that his progress was actually a bit too eye-catching for the trainer, as the word may now be out.
This horse will very likely win races this year, and the good news is… you don’t have to be able to pronounce his name to bet him!!
8. Novellara (Tr: Henry Cecil; 4yo)
I may be indulging myself by including horses from the stables of my favourite trainers here, but isn’t that what Ten To Follow is about?!
Novellara is a slightly better class animal than my other selections, and I nominate her because I reckon she might just get Mr Cecil (where’s his knighthood for heaven’s sake?) back into the Group 1 winners.
I’m not privy to trainer plans, and this may be pie in the sky, but I reckon this mare could have chances if she runs in the Coronation Cup a
Although she’s currently only Listed / Group 3 class, I reckon that given soft under hoof conditions, she will be competitive in the best mile and a half races, especially among her sex.
Cecil is a master of training fillies and mares, and – if this one hasn’t already been sent to the paddocks (her breeding is phenomenal and she already has black type) – I think she will win some nice races this season.
9. Bertoliver (Tr: Dean Ivory; 3yo)
Another man who might bang in a few decent priced winners this season, Dean Ivory looks to have a useful tool in Bertoliver.
This horse ran seven times as a juvenile, which might lead you to believe that he’s exposed. However, I suspect that there is improvement in him for a year of physical growth.
Last seen when runner up (the remainder well beaten off) in an average nursery, he had run extremely creditably the time before, when ‘winning’ the middle race in a hot Newmarket maiden (the field split into three groups across the track).
A well bred sprinting type, I reckon he’ll get competitive in some decent sprint handicaps this season. Pay special attention if/ when he runs at Windsor.
10. Worldly (Tr: Sylvester Kirk; 3yo)
This guy is going to be big! One of the real rising stars in the flat training ranks, make a note of anything this man runs anywhere. He is not afraid to take on the big boys (and win), as his haul of over half a million quid in prize money last season will testify.
The horse I nominate here is a slightly risky one (aren’t they all?!), as he burst a blood vessel on his final run last season. It can often be the case that horses who ‘burst’ become susceptible to it, so it may be that he becomes a regular bleeder.
However, I’m happy to include him with the caveat that, should he ‘burst’ again, he will be struck off my top ten.
So why am I including him? Good question! His previous two runs had resulted in a runner-up placing on debut, and a facile win (at odds of 1/4) second time up. In that final race where he bled, he was sent off the 7/2 joint favourite as one of the top weights in a decent looking Newmarket nursery.
If his bleeding problem has subsided, he looks set to take a hand in some good three year old handicaps this season at around a mile and a quarter.
So there it is – my ten plodders to follow. Probably no equine superstars in there (except perhaps Novellara), but quite possibly some good payoff’s to be had for those who keep the faith.
I’ll continue to report on the progress of this bunch and, if you have any comments, or your own dark horses to follow for the season, why not add them as a comment to this article.
I’ve no monopoly on content here, my racing friends!