20 Dec Ten horses to follow for 2018
Photo: Grossick Racing Photography
Ravenhill Road (Brian Ellison): The familiar colours of Phil Martin have been carried by some very good horses. Think Definitly Red, Seamour and Forest Bihan. But Ravenhill Road (pictured above) could be his best yet and heads our horses to follow for 2018. Unbeaten in a point-to-point and two bumpers, he made a winning debut over hurdles in October at Sedgefield. He has not been seen since as Brian Ellison is waiting for some decent ground to run him on. The trainer does not want to risk this good mover in deep winter conditions. Ellison has called him a “machine” and thinks he will make a top-class chaser next season. Although Ravenhill Road has a couple of entries at the Cheltenham Festival, he could be more of an Aintree horse.
Baracalu (Phil Kirby): Baraculu has yet to win over hurdles but that should only be a matter of time. He won a bumper in heavy ground at Hexham when trained by Sandy Thomson last season and relishes testing conditions. He ran a solid race at Sedgefield when second Sue Smith’s in Blottos (also in this list. His jockey that day, Brian Hughes, marked him down as a horse to follow after that race. One to side with when the ground is very soft.
Photo: Philip Kirby Racing
Coole Hall has a big future
Coole Hall (Rose Dobbin): I was at Newcastle on Fighting Fifth day when this strapping sort won The French Furze Novices’ Hurdle. He appeared to relish every inch of the 2m 6f and the soft ground. Coole Hall looks like a grand staying chaser in the making. He had previously only just failed to give the useful Senor Lombardy 7lb at Kelso. Before that had won his maiden hurdle at the Borders track despite being a bit outpaced. Only six, this likeable Flemensfirth gelding is going the right way and will probably be seen to best effect when he jumps a fence.
Whiskey Chaser (Donald McCain): The McCains like a staying chaser, don’t they? And although this boy is no world beater, he should pay his way in 3m chases. At Haydock in early December he outstayed his rivals in soft conditions by impressively pulling clear in the final 100 yards. He won with a bit in hand. He was a little disappointing the other day on his return to Haydock but the ground may have been a bit too desperate for him.
Joke Dancer looks a chasing type
Master Of Irony (John Quinn): John Quinn does well with his handful of hurdlers and Master Of Irony could bag a decent handicap. His victory at Wetherby in October from Keep In Line (with other good horses well behind) was a solid run. He showed that was no fluke with a close fifth, beaten just over two lengths, to High Bridge in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury. On a mark of 133, it would be no surprise if he is aimed at one of the bigger handicaps at one of the spring festivals.
Joke Dancer (Sue Smith): Only five but has shown a likeable attitude and strong progression. A good second at Newcastle was followed by a ready victory at Haydock in early December. There, he saw off the useful Flat horse Niblawi with ease. He wasn’t disgraced at Haydock again last time out in a handicap although that race may have come too soon. when Going the right way, the son of Authorized handles testing ground and looks every inch a chaser in the making.
Blottos is a typical Trevor Hemmings horse
Titian Boy (Nick Alexander): Impressed when winning two novice chases last season from the front. Although he was not always foot perfect, he appeared to enjoy bowling along in front. He was held up on his reappearance, which did not seem to suit him. He was also a bit disappointing at Ayr on January 2. However he probably needed that run and may not have enjoyed being taken on for the lead.
Blottos (Sue Smith): A typical strapping and scopey Trevor Hemmings store horse who looked a bit one-paced in his bumpers last season. But he recovered from a fall on his hurdling debut at Carlisle to win at Sedgefield from Baraculu (see above) recently. He showed strong reserves of stamina that day to get up close home and looks like staying will be his game. He followed up with a solid second to a useful Neil Mulholland novice at Catterick and is a likeable young horse.
Don’t write off Catchamat
Forest Des Aigles (Lucinda Russell): Took some time to find his feet last season after arriving at Lucinda Russell’s yard from Guillaume Macaire in France. But has been in mighty form so far this season with three victories at Hexham, Carlisle and Bangor. He has risen in the ratings from 112 to 133. However, he looks up to plundering a good prize in a better race. He is probably in quite a few horses to follow lists!
Catchamat (James Walton): Finished a long way last on her seasonal reappearance at Bangor. But I would not write her off just yet. A three-time point winner, Catchamat needed a run last season to put her straight before winning two staying novice hurdles on soft ground. Definitely a mare to keep on side during the winter months.