As the National Hunt season begins to wind down following the excitement of the Grand National, it is now time to look ahead to a hopefully glorious summer from a weather perspective, with the added bonus of some fantastic flat racing action to savour.
The Guineas meeting at Newmarket will soon be upon us, as form students and the average punter alike are all trawling through ante-post markets and re-runs of previous outings to try and gain an edge over the bookmakers. In this article, we will look at four horses to keep a close eye on for this seasons’ campaign – in different categories. Sprinter, a Guineas offering, a Derby entrant, along with a thorough staying type to try and cover most bases of the racing spectrum – and to hopefully line our readers’ pockets for the summer months.
A speedster that really took my eye last season was the William Haggas’ trained, Muthmir. After an extremely impressive win in a 19-runner handicap at York last July, he was turned out quickly for the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood. Things didn’t go to plan that day, but Muthmir returned to the winners’ enclosure in September after claiming the Portland Stakes at Doncaster with another taking performance. The four year-old looks to be equally adept at the minimum trip, along with six furlongs, and is to be aimed at the biggest sprint races this season – provided the ground is good, or even firmer.
It is never easy to rank the hierarchy of Aiden O’Brien’s runners in the build-up to a Guineas meeting, but Gleneagles has been the subject of strong ante-post support in the last few weeks. However, Highland Reel should not be dismissed from consideration. The son of Galileo met with defeat on his first outing at Leopardstown over seven furlongs last June. Highland Reel was then stepped up to a mile at Gowran Park on his second outing, and routed his fellow maidens by twelve lengths. A trip to Goodwood for the Vintage Stakes in late July followed, and Highland Reel didn’t disappoint by comfortably beating his field by 2 ¼ lengths. New number one jockey, Ryan Moore will have a plethora of horses to choose from when it comes to making his Guineas decision, and even if Moore decides against Highland Reel, he will still have sound claims at Newmarket.
Once again, the ante-post market for the Derby is littered with Aiden O’Brien hopefuls, and the current favourite to claim the Epsom showpiece is John F Kennedy. The three year-old colt out of Galileo is still available with at the ‘working man’s price’ of around 4/1 – which still represents some value. John F Kennedy – like Highland Reel – was beaten on his first outing at Leopardstown over a mile, but then took a major leap forward with his maiden win at the Curragh in August. That victory was accentuated with another comfortable win with a Group 3 win back at Leopardstown in mid-September. O’Brien has trained the last three Derby winners, and with John F Kennedy within his ranks, it could well be four.
The Dermot Weld trained Forgotten Rules went into many notebooks with a captivating staying display to win the Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day at Ascot last October. On only his second start under flat rules, the son of Nayef outstayed his rivals in fine style to win the Group 2 event in testing conditions. Forgotten Rules was sent out in a bumper on his first start at Punchestown, and following a facile win, Weld realised the five year-old had better options than the jumping game for his recent future. The bay gelding currently holds favouritism for the Ascot Gold Cup in June and that is likely to be the main target for this highly progressive animal.