Our Ten To Follow for this years Flat season, with 2 additions from our recent notebook horses from the Newmarket Craven and Newbury Greenham meetings.
Ajyaall – W Haggas
Having not run as a 2yo, Ajyaall won nicely on his 3yo debut, he then lost all chance on his 2nd start, when rearing up as the stalls opened, losing a fair amount of ground. He did well to make up a huge amount of ground in the home straight and almost catch the winner. He made up for that on his final start, winning well despite a wide draw, to win comfortably. Given a mark of 90 following that victory at Wolverhampton, he potentially a good deal better than that mark, has been gelded in the winter and is in the right hands to be placed patiently and well this season.
Alba Rose – M Johnston
Related to some progressive stayers from the same yard in Sir Ron Priestley and Subjectivit, if she’s half as progressive as those two, she’s in for a fruitful season. Runner up to a nice sort on her debut, she then won on her 2nd start in impressive fashion. A big step up in class saw her run very well when 3rd in the Rockfel Stakes, finishing her races off well having been understandably outpaced in that company over 7f. She didn’t handle the heavy ground on her final start. Sure to be stepped up in trip this season, it’ll be interesting to see how far she can progress.
Alpinista – M Prescott
A progressive 3yo last season, winning a listed race impressively on her 2nd start of the season before chasing home the brilliant Love in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks. As a result she took a huge hike in the ratings, and was arguably unlucky on her final start when chasing home Antonia De Vega in a Group 3 at Newmarket towards the end of the season. The winner got first run that day and Alpinista just couldn’t quite close her down, whilst pulling well clear of her other 2 rivals. Connections have trained a number of the family, who tend to improve with age and they are sure to find some suitable races for this progressive filly this season.
Fox Champion – R Beckett
A very promising 3yo for Richard Hannon, winning 3 on the bounce including the German 2000 Guineas. He was then highly tried in the St James Palace Stakes, Prix Jean Prat and Prix Maurice De Gheest, against the best of his generation. A disappointing season last year saw his rating drop from 107 down to 95. He’s now moved to the Ralph Beckett yard and has been gelded. Potentially very well handicapped and a change of scenery can spark a revival in his form, he’s now off a very winnable mark.
Gisburn – R Hannon
A once raced 2yo, by the multiple Group 1 winner Ribchester. Gisburn made a very encouraging debut at Newbury over a trip that’s likely to prove a good deal sharper than he wants. Having made the pace early on, he just got tapped for toe as the principles quickened and was hampered by the eventual 2nd, who just came across him. To his credit, especially for one so inexperienced, he then came home really strongly when getting into his full stride. He’s sure to win a maiden and could be a nice 2yo when asked to over slightly further. It wouldn’t surprise to see him very competitive in one of the Royal Ascot 2to races.
Highest Ground – M Stoute
Very much the typical Sir Michael Stoute patient approach with a potentially high class horse. Highest Ground race just once as a 2yo, when an impressive winner at Leicester having given away several lengths at the start. He then beat the highly regarded Waldkonig on his 3yo debut, before stepping up in class in the Dante at York, run in July last season. A race in which Oisin Murphy perhaps went a little early, as Highest Ground quickened to win his race, only to get tired close home and run down by the winner Thunderous close home. All at sea on soft ground at Newmarket on his final start, he’s sure to be well campaigned this season and has all the attributes to progress into a Group winning 4yo.
Montather – R Varian
A very lightly raced 4yo for Roger Varian, having only made his debut in November 2019, when winning at Chelmsford before then reappearing in June last year at Newmarket in a novice event under a winner penalty. He ran well in 3rd that day, just failing to concede the 7lb penalty in finishing a close up third. An easy winner at Thirsk on his final start, he has a handicap rating of 94 and looks very capable of winning off that mark, before progressing into pattern company.
Opera Gift – A Balding
Unraced as a 2yo, he made rapid progress as a 3yo considering he only made his debut in September. 4th on that occasion, he then won his maiden 9 days later before then following up in a handicap off what was clearly a lenient mark of 76 the following month. His 4th run in a short space of time saw him just beaten by the very progressive Ocean Wind in a race where he was taking on a whole host of older, stronger and more experienced rivals. From a family that improve with age, he’s got plenty more to offer and is sure to prove himself better than his current rating of 88 over the course of the season.
Roberto Escobarr – W Haggas
Third on his racecourse debut as a 3yo at Haydock, where he looked in need of the experience, met trouble in running and finished his race off with plenty of promise. He then won a nice novice event at York, pulling clear of several subsequent winners. Pitched into group company next time on the Great Voltigeur, he could only manage 6th place behind Pyledriver, but it was a very deep race, full of very classy runners throughout the entire field. Given time by connections he was then put away for this season. He has the size and scope to improve a good deal with another winter behind him. His full brother Pablo Escobarr progressed to win at group level and there seems no reason why this chap won’t either.
Secret Protector – C Appleby
A winner on his 2nd start as a 2yo, he wintered in Dubai and won a conditions event over 9 ½ furlongs in impressive fashion in February, as a preparation for the turf season. Making his reappearance in the UK, he ran really well in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket finishing 2nd to stablemate Highland Avenue, with a fair field of 3yos well beaten behind. Secret Protector has plenty of stamina on the Dam side of his pedigree, being out of Eternal Beauty who stayed 1m4f well, and herself being by Derby winner Galileo. He looks sure to play his part in some nice races this season when stepped up in trip.