After the utterly abysmal performance of my 40 to follow jumps team, it has taken some serious external prompting to rouse my enthusiasm for a similar venture on the flat. The winter months have not been kind. To my eternal grief, the project briefly crashed beyond the -100 point barrier of shame. A mug punting low for a campaign that has previously seen seasonal profits as plump and regular as the bowel movements of a high fibre diet. The late season rally that saw me stagger and belly flop back to double-digit negativity offers no comfort.
Explanations? Excuses? I can identify horses with progressive profiles who simply did not progress; I can point to a string of big priced placed horses and a run of near miss seconds; I can cling to rain, frost and snow interventions that halved the appearance of my better horses. But the bottom line is that I also picked some rank dogs, donkeys and trees. The likes of Dance Island, Mr Marker, Whipper Way, to name but several, should have been nowhere near the list.
So much for public self-flagellation. It’s taken some warm sun on my back, an hour or two of therapy on the allotment and a restorative trip to Epsom’s derby trial meeting last week to bring me into line for the flat. Epsom was a joy. Gorgeous spring day, good quality racing, top company and a redeeming win in the lucky last! Suddenly I’m bobbing along with empty-headed, starry-eyed zeal for the season ahead. Worrying signs.
My approach to the flat is different to the jumps. Fewer horses and a (theoretical) concentration on quality. This is largely to generate some season-long interest in the regular highlights of Group 1s and the festivals that stud the months through to October.
This year I’ve gone for 10 entered in the Tote Ten To Follow comp, supplemented by 10 others to be aimed at more diverse targets. I’ve got decent early season form in the TTF, even hitting the leaderboard on a couple of occasions, but have never been able to sustain a challenge.
Tote Ten To Follow
FRANKEL – Henry Cecil: Of course. Whose list would be missing this potential superstar. Just like nobody’s list was missing St Nicholas Abbey last year…..
PATHFORK – Jessica Harrington: Lovely, lovely trainer. How could I not include her unbeaten colt in this list? She seems to be taking the flat much more seriously these days.
RODERIC O’CONNOR – Aiden O’Brien: Inevitable inclusion of one of the Ballydoyle hotpots. This one is a sly entry that I’m hoping will be Guineas and Derby bound for double bonus race chances.
HOORAY – Sir Mark Prescott bt: Backed her a couple of times last year and was impressed. The term ‘canny’, could have been coined for this entertaining, larger than life trainer. Hooray should turn up in the 1,000 guineas despite his handlers assertions that she’s not coming to hand.
HAVANT – Sir Michael Stoute: Rock solid form last year and potential Guineas and Oaks filly.
CANFORD CLIFFS – Richard Hannon: Will have the 1m races at his mercy….er, unless Goldikova turns up!
CAPE BLANCO – Aiden O’Brien: Absolutely electric over 10f on good or better ground. Sometimes. Should win a few this year.
SNOW FAIRY – Ed Dunlop: The new Ouija Board for her former well-bred handler? Not quite. But on her day has a startling turn of foot.
SANS FRONTIERES – Jeremy Noseda: This one to step up in quality and possibly in trip. My outsider for the Ascot Gold Cup
TEMPLE MEADS – Ed McMahon: 3yo sprinter with potential. Unproven at the top level though after his saddle slipped in the Middle Park Stakes at the end of last season. Can he really take on the Budapest Bullet?
Another ten to follow
ROSE BLOSSOM – Richard Fahey: pure front-running speedball. Best work on good or better at York. More to come.
WOOTTON BASSETT – Richard Fahey: Tough and talented unbeaten juvenile last season, giving Fahey his first Group 1 success. Due to appear later this Spring.
BOURNE – Luca Cumani: Had to have an improver in the list from the high class handicap King.
SARAFINA – Alain Du Royer-Dupre: Loved this filly last year, 3 wins and two places. Mullered in the Arc when in with a big shout. Looking forward to this one.
HOOF IT – Mick Easterby: Sublime to the ridiculous, classy filly to a lumpen handicap sprinter who should improve with shrewd handling.
MONSIEUR JOE – Walter Swinburn: Wanted one from the local yard. Finding one with prospects that won’t be targeted at the sand was a challenge. This sprinter fits the bill.
LAAHEB – Roger Varian: Who you ask? Me too. He’s the former assistant to the now retired Michael Jarvis who takes over the reins at Kremlin House Stables this season. Laaheb is a friend from last year with a touch of quality.
QUADRANT – Brian Meehan: well thought of Highclere colt who made a satisfactory debut in a maiden last week.
BOSAMBO – Alan Swinbank: Improving 3yo likely to pick up a couple of handicaps around gaff northern circuits. Just my type.
MODUN – Sir Michael Stoute: Eye-catcher at Newbury last week, winning with plenty in hand and likely to be aimed higher and further.
OK, I’m tooled up for the Summer.