Latest My Stable eyecatchers
Our team have nominated 10 horses from the festive period that could be worth adding to your My Stable trackers.
Cousin Khee is well treated if his head can be straightened out
It's well worth revisiting Min's Boxing Day victory at Leopardstown and not just for the most obvious reason. Henry De Bromhead will have been gutted with the performance of Identity Thief, who returned battered and bruised having made a few early mistakes and never got into any sort of rhythm. The one to take from the race, however, is his stable companion, who filled the runner-up spot for the second race in succession after chasing home Identity Thief at Punchestown in November. That came on the back of a taking debut win at Fairyhouse, form which is working out well in Ireland, so the seven-year-old is building a nice little profile over the larger obstacles – indeed, he's been mentioned favourably among our eyecatchers previously this season. De Bromhead was disappointed with how Ordinary World's season unfolded over hurdles last year but the son of Milan already looks a much better chaser and it will be interesting to see if he's now sent down the handicap route. Zabana, Noble Endeavour and Home Farm have all represented the owners at the Cheltenham Festival in recent seasons so it wouldn't be a great surprise were they already working back from the second week in March. (MB)
While we associate Willie Mullins with mega-bucks owners and odds-on winners of the prizes everyone else wants to win, it's always hugely eye-catching when he takes over care of a low-grade sort from elsewhere. Little over three years ago, Isleofhopendreams popped up at Thurles to make his debut for the yard, having formerly been with Henrietta Knight and shown next to nothing. Sent off 4/5, he won by 10 lengths, angering the assessor to the extent that when he next lined up, two years later, he did so off a mark some 23lb higher. Two miles and an over-confident ride did for him that day, before an early fall next time, but he's returned better than ever this season with a ready chase win before being sent off 5/1 favourite – an extremely well-supported one – for a valuable handicap hurdle at Leopardstown. Ridden by a 5lb claimer with the top boys unable to do the featherweight required, he ultimately bumped into a well-handicapped and brilliantly-ridden horse yet he'd still have won but for meeting trouble in running with the pair nicely clear. A small rise won't stop him winning a similar race over hurdles, but it's also worth keeping an eye out for an engagement over fences. If able to get in off even a revised hurdles mark of in the region of 118, it would look extremely generous given that he gave a stone and a comprehensive beating to a horse now rated 116 over fences in November, his sole start as a chaser. This son of Flemensfirth can make up for lost time and land a nice prize, make no mistake, and I'll happily back connections to find the right one. (BC)
This one takes a bit more believing. There is still an engine inside Cousin Khee, as he showed when taking a heavy-ground handicap at Nottingham over a mile and three-quarters by seven lengths off 79 15 months ago – the question is whether his head can be straightened out. He seemed to lose interest coming off the home turn here at Leicester, ballooned the third last and then hung so badly afterwards that Tom O'Brien appeared to have difficulty getting him to go forwards for most of the straight. However, he rattled home for fourth place and it's worth emphasising that this sub-two-mile trip was surely an insufficient test of his stamina – this is a horse who was a multiple bumper winner in his youth and who has surely got to be worth another try at further than two and a half miles, despite a laboured effort around Cartmel in midsummer. There's definitely a chance that Cousin Khee has decided he's had enough of racing, but a previous experiment with headgear yielded an immediate dividend and I just can't walk away from a horse who is rated 85 on the Flat and yet will soon be able to run in a 0-120 on the sort of testing ground he appreciates. (WH)
The French import has joined Stuart Edmunds and a made a pleasing debut over hurdles in the juvenile fillies' event on Town Moor between Christmas and the new year. She took up a prominent position from an early stage under Brendan Powell and jumped very soundly in the main, whilst showing an enthusiastic attitude toward the job in hand. Her hurdling technique suffered somewhat over the last couple of flights and she looked to tire quite noticeably but did enough nonetheless to hang on for third place behind two reasonably useful-looking rivals who had already had some racecourse experience. She should be all the wiser for this given more time to acclimatise to her new surroundings and will be of plenty of interest if turning out for a contest against her own sex. (DJ)
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Paul Nicholls' gelding was magnificently prepared for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last season, only coming up short by a head when beaten into second by stablemate Diego Du Charmil, and he definitely looks like he could be in line for a return to the Festival in a couple of months. Much like fellow Nicholls inmate Bouvreuil, who was second in the 2015 Fred Winter before returning to fill the same spot in last year's Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, Romain De Seman looks to have been brought along steadily over fences in the early part of the season but he's performed really well in chasing home Top Notch at Plumpton and then again at Newbury when not beaten far in third. A four-runner affair is never going to see this strong-travelling sort in his best light and so it proved on Saturday as he seemed pretty keen in the early stages before being caught out of his ground slightly then running on when it was just too late. He'll be of interest in the coming months, especially if his official rating remains below the 140 mark for him to contest the same event Bouvreuil almost landed for team Ditcheat last March. (MB)
This former Cambridgeshire winner is a cut above most horses we see running in all-weather handicaps, despite the vastly improved quality of winter Flat racing in recent years, and will surely land a decent pot before long. Twice now, he's been out of luck as connections plot their way around the country's synthetic surfaces: first, when drawn in the car park at Chelmsford and flying home for a place; then on Saturday, when everything went wrong during the key part of his Lingfield debut, which ended in a never-nearer fifth. Whether his tame effort in between was down to being partnered by David Nolan for the first time since a maiden in 2014, helping to force a strong pace, not enjoying the tight turns of Dunstall Park, or a combination of the three, we may never know, but I'd like to see him back at Chelmsford under the sort of positive ride which has seen him compete in top-class handicaps throughout each of the last two seasons, given the way that particular track rides. Third Time Lucky was dropped 2lb after his Wolverhampton run and while a mark of 99 might have looked just beyond him on the turf, he'd often been taking on progressive, younger horses with Pattern-race aspirations. By contrast, just one of his 39 rivals on the all-weather has been a three-year-old and now we've moved into 2017, I can see him winning a similar race. His next start will be his 20th, a reminder that this horse still has scope to progress, and it could well be a winning one granted better fortune. (BC)
I fear we've been here before on these pages with this horse, but Thomas Crapper merits inclusion following a hugely eye-catching run at Cheltenham on Sunday. Anyone who tuned in for the dawn of a new terrestrial TV era will know all too well how bad the weather turned, and by the time the Grade Three handicap chase came around conditions were really demanding. But while fellow top-of-the-ground horses Foxtail Hill and Vaniteux were taken out, their bigger yards can afford to take such decisions whereas I'd wager Robin Dickin felt compelled to let his stable star have a go at this valuable pot regardless. In finishing fifth having been just about last off the bridle, Thomas Crapper fared better than could've been expected because he's plainly not suited by the slog in the mud which this became after the turn for home – the heavy-ground maiden hurdle he won at Towcester some years ago ranks as one of the poorest maiden hurdles ever run and everything else he's done confirms that good ground is required. Off the mark from which he was second to Irish Cavalier at the 2015 Festival and to Don Poli a year earlier, he cruised into things in pursuit of Village Vic, for whom conditions were ideal, only to tire up the hill as mudlarks like Top Gamble and Tenor Nivernais plugged on past him. There's another Grade Three handicap chase over course and distance the same day Thistlecrack is expected to run in the Cotswold Chase and Thomas Crapper should sneak in at the foot of the weights for what's sure to be the target. Let's all agree to stick to that dry January, shall we? (BC)
A Good Skin – Cheltenham, January 1 (Watch the free video replay)
There is a very similar argument to the one stated above for the inclusion of Tom George's eight-year-old. Although A Good Skin has form on soft, his trainer has gone on record as stating his runner's preference for a sound surface and it seems deep winter ground is certainly not his thing with four career runs in January and December failing to yield any reward. He was runner-up to Cause Of Causes in the Kim Muir last March from a rating of 138 and his mark, already 1lb lower, could come down further after his ninth placed finish. His 41 length defeat hardly tells the true story as he raced and jumped exuberantly on the pace until getting very tired from three out and gave every impression of being in rude health. Although they didn't result in victory, the addition of cheekpieces for the first time looked a good move for the son of Presenting who hasn't always looked entirely focused at the business end of his races and they could bring about a little improvement from a horse who still looks progressive. He may be able to prove that point granted suitable conditions in the spring. (IO)
Neon Wolf – Exeter, January 1 (Watch the free video replay)
We haven't added many last time out winners to this feature this season but I'm prepared to make an exception for this exciting six-year-old who produced a similarly imperious performance on his Rules debut in a Uttoxeter bumper. It looked significant that Noel Fehily passed up a few rides at Cheltenham to head to the Devon track and his decision was immediately awarded with the comfortable success of Neon Wolf in the opener. The fact that he was backed form 4/6 into 2/5 is a fair indication of his ability and the depth of the race but he looks more than capable of making a mark in stronger company where he could be sent off a backable price. With Fehily reporting that his mount was 'much too keen for his own good' trainer Harry Fry is considering whether to give Neon Wolf another run in novice company first but, writing on his website, Fry went on to describe the Vinnie Roe gelding as 'a hugely exciting prospect'. Both Fry and Fehily have already referred to Neon Wolf's future chasing career but he can land a decent prize over hurdles before being sent over the larger obstacles next season. As an addendum to the race, also keep an eye on fourth home Touch Kick who is very much a work in progress but is worth bearing in mind for handicaps further down the line. (IO)
Fry and Fehily were also on the mark in the Billy Williams Memorial Maiden Hurdle as Air Force One ended a frustrating sequence of results in seeing off the challenge of one of last season's leading bumper performers Coeur Blimey. Those two useful performers had the field quite well strung out behind and it was the runners in fifth and sixth place that caught the eye on their hurdles debuts. Minella For Me, an Irish point winner, was prominent in the market having chased home Capitaine in his bumper and had plenty of use made of him in testing conditions; he can do better in time. One place and four and a half lengths behind him was Argus who could turn out to be a very shrewd purchase at 25,000 guineas, considerably less than his yearling price of 400,000 guineas! He didn't do as badly as those figures suggest during his Flat career for Qatar Racing as he won three of his nine starts and ended with a rating of 86 having been as high as 92. Rip Van Winkle has yet to establish himself as a National Hunt stallion but he has a four-year-old called Jazz In Montreux who has shown a decent level of form in France and Argus certainly did enough in staying on from a long way off the pace to suggest that he has a future at this game. Trainer Alex Dunn has had a quieter than usual jumps season thus far but has improved her seasonal tally year on year since taking out her licence and is very much a yard on the up. She can be expected to place Argus to best advantage and he's an interesting prospect for further down the line. (IO)
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