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JULY 2018 HORSES TO FOLLOW
CAIUS MARCIUS     (Nicky Richards)

7 year old bay gelding     (King’s Theatre – Ain’t Misbehavin)     153/1212U417/14289-522

An extremely well named horse, because the historical character Caius Marcius is better known to us all, via Shakespeare, as Coriolanus, a man who was very much misbehaving in multiple ways. From the point of view of the horse, he may feel unfairly tarred with a critical brush, just for the sake of top notch punnery. He could be as nice as pie in real life. What he is for us is strongly predictable, which counts as being as nice as pie to proper racing fans. The statistics are simple – he has raced carrying 11 stone 5 pounds or more seven times. Those races have brought four wins and three seconds. The dozen races on lower weights have given one win (carrying 10-13 in a novice hurdle) and two second places, both with 10-12 in novice chase company. For some horses, the high weight preference disappears when handicapped into better quality races, but Caius Marcius seems not to worry about that, just getting stuck in irrespective. It is almost as if he understands that he is being marked as better than other horses and responds by trying to emphasise his aloofness. This takes us all back to the “what’s in a name?” thing that the selection began with. Connections have only twice tried him beyond 2m 1f and he has failed both times, but Caius Marcius had a low weight both times, so was in a bit of a funk of perceived insult.

Chases or hurdles carrying 11 stone 5 pounds or more

JUST FOR TARA     (Christian Williams)

5 year old bay mare     (Malinas – Just For Jean)     553

After not winning her only Irish point run in April, but beating plenty of opponents and only being pushed into second by three lengths, Just For Tara just could not wait to come to Britain and try hurdling. That was despite the fact that the smattering of opponents that had run against her who have tried again had not racked up significant achievements in their doings. Dubai Ash won an end of season maiden at a meeting that is set up as a last desperate fling to get some additional winning form in the marketing sheet, but for the rest, nothing. Just For Tara made her first appearance over hurdles at Fakenham at the beginning of June and was resoundingly stuffed, but it was not enough to stop her trainer from cracking on in search of a handicap mark. She did much better upped to 2m 4f for her next race, just running out of steam from the second last at Worcester, finishing two lengths behind a horse rated 105. Most recently she was back at the same track and returned to two miles, ending up being beaten by eleven lengths, but the pair that beat her are interesting. Aardwolf is an 82-rated flat horse who could not understand jumping initially but has now seriously got to grips with it and is potentially better than his current handicap mark of 112. Ezanak has the same flat rating and after ten months off and a wind operation has finished runner-up in both hurdles starts. Failing to have the pace of these two from approaching the final hurdle is nothing to be ashamed of, and Just For Tara can now run in handicap company, where she is very capable of winning mares only races. And perhaps others.

Handicap hurdles rated up to 110
As a colourful representation of a nice summer afternoon at Fakenham, this is the right picture. As a study of West To Crossgales in action, loitering in last but at least on the near side, it is hopeless.
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Just For Tara (12) at Worcester, enjoying the sun, the company and not having to go terribly fast

NO SUCH NUMBER     (Maurice Barnes)

10 year old bay gelding     (King's Best - Return)     10/36509P/668P/57424PP/11116433-P25P

One of the very fair critcisms of this page (Horses To Follow in general, not just the July edition) is that in waffly terms when dealing with horses that have off days in their conditions, the caveat is along the lines of "is a likeable sort," so the anomalies are forgiven. No Such Number is the epitomy of all that, because when he pulled up at Hexham in his latest race, it was the first time he had been beaten in his preferred conditions. The original thought was not to narrow it down to only left-handed tracks, and even then it would have been the first failure to complete in nominated conditions. In fact the first non-number for No Such Number. He did not do much hurdling - just one win - because he never got to race on an easy course, having one spin around Worcester and the rest was on sharp turns. Therefore it is as a chaser that the numbers have added up in easy on the eye style. There is a concern that his four race blitz in 2017 has taken No Such Number out of his comfort level, but some near misses since show that he iss not totally out of winning consideration. Having given a letter to the postman explaining this, it was disappointing to get a reply that demanding that he not be bothered by these daft ramblings. A follow up note explaining the negative impact of softish going was not released...

Hurdles or chases on a left-handed, easy course, up to 2m 4f, on good or good to firm

RAINY CITY     (Iain Jardine)

8 year old bay gelding     (Kalanisi – Erintante)     55/214/313/112239/2266452P21-49

You do not have to be a maths genius to realise that running seven identically able horses in the same race over and over again will see each of them win one in seven tries, but if ten identical horses are in the race, the strike rate drops to one in ten. Didn’t UB40 write a song about it? Obviously finding even four identical horses, never mind ten, is challenging but there are some horses, just like Rainy City, who manifest their love for small field racing by dropping into feeble anonymity when there are too many others present. When he has no more than five opponents, Rainy City has a record reading 13112222P14, and 552431396645229 when he does not. The sole anomalous success makes the feeble anonymity phrase look a bit harsh, but it was in Spring 2016 and may have been the day that he mentally turned against crowded sports. The other thing that has tended to brighten up Rainy City’s day is going right-handed, upon which he has gained four of his five wins and five of seven seconds. However, in addition to his bumper win he has more than once gone very close on anti-clockwise tracks, so it has to be seen as possible that Rainy City clouds the issue further with more left-handed triumph.

Hurdles or chases with up to six runners

THE WICKET CHICKEN     (Neil Mulholland)

6 year old bay mare     (Milan – Soniadoir)     353/11216-522

It is a little known possible fact that when cricket first went to Ireland as a sport in the eighteenth century, expat Italians were surprisingly enthusiastic about taking up the game. What first caught their attention was that using a piece of crafted kit like a stool as a wicket, when a rather hard ball was being luzzed at it seemed like a waste of functional furniture. Someone worked out that a tethered chicken would serve the same purpose and could be recycled as part of the tea serving. And easily replaced. And so this mare’s name was born. The Wicket Chicken has not proven at all cowardly in the role of racehorse, winning her only Irish point-to-point and one bumper and a couple of hurdle races. She also made a decent fist of her recent chase debut at Huntingdon, only losing by a neck despite getting a bit of a shoeing when the favourite fell four fences out. What she failed to do was get ahead enough on the run-in and keep her line, cutting off the horse that beat her at the dog leg. Without the trouble in running, The Wicket Chicken might have been able to do that. Although all three of her Rules wins have been left-handed, this was not the first effective run going the other way, so now all it is needed is to build on the promise, quite possibly in mares only races. Despite a short career she has four times raced after a break of four to six months and lost every one – although twice she has done well against potentially decent opponents. But it is a trend worth respecting.

Handicap hurdles or handicap chases with a run in the last four weeks

WEST TO CROSSGALES     (Charles Pogson)

7 year old bay gelding     (Westerner - Mooreshill Bay)     P6/7485P-3225

The early summer had smiled upon West To Crossgales in most friendly fashion, and just after it had been decided to drop him into the list, he spoiled it with a highly mediorce performance Southwell. Highly mediocre is an obvious oxymoron, but it is far less annoying than those clowns who have begun repeating the phrase "very unique." The problem with selecting him is stable form. The yard was always good for a few winners a season from a small string, usually in chases (although in the last few years hurdlers have had the edge in productivity), but since the start of 2017 they have only had two victories, both coming in quick succesion in June of that year. What is hoped is that West To Crossgales ceasing to blow cold is a sign that the string is on the edge to bursting back into life - over the last three months eighteen runners have created seven second places and five thirds. With this horse having been beaten only a head oover 2m 7.5f at Fakenham, it was not the distance that diddled him last time, so let us just look forward to West To Crossgales going into the world of chasing.

Class 5 handicap chases over 2m 6f or further
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