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JUNE 2017 HORSES TO FOLLOW
ASHCOTT BOY     (Neil Mulholland)

9 year old chesnut gelding     (Lahib – Last Ambition)     007/92705P43P/115/4111215/12F8864-2

As the numbers hide in plain sight, his career has three phases. Phase 1 was learning the job, growing into the requisite physical stature and having a bit of general confusion. Phase 2 was to go 100% bat pooh win crazy from autumn 2014 to spring 2016. Phase 3 was a first ever fall and the dawning of realisation that the handicapper really was fed up with being continually defied. This was akin to the apes inventing weapons at the start of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” However, the omens from the last run at Aintree are that his internal computer has regained control of the situation, as he lost by only three lengths, the best outcome since last July. The way that he lost was not perfect, getting outpaced and only staying on again when it was too late to catch Definite Future, but it was a step in the right direction. And rather than worry about Ashcott Boy suffering a loss of pace, it needs to be appreciated that it was also a perfect race for Definite Future. There is a bit of an inclination to fail in small fields, but he does not contest many of them, so the main appeal for when it is time to stalk him financially is when he gets to face good ground.

Handicap chases up to 2m 4f on good going

CARD GAME      (Malcolm Jefferson)

8 year old bay mare      (Scorpion – Cardona)     433/43351101/225PP534-3

Card Game generally saves her best performances for an undulating surface, which is not usually an ideal thing on which to be playing a card game. She established this preference at Sedgefield, where connections seem to have been reluctant to visit in the last year or so, leaving the mare to dream whist-fully of County Durham, and have near misses elsewhere. The other aspect of Sedgefield that Card Game likes are the sharp turns, so she is not one to expect to bridge the leap into regular success on other types of track. With her now an eight year old and the mares only races getting more competitive by the year, the chance of Card Game trying fences is declining fast, and her sire does seem to beget horses that can suddenly lose interest in a sporting career for no obvious reason – based on casual observation rather than statistical analysis. As long as that worst case scenario is avoided, she can start trumping the opposition again soon, and her massed followers will all be happy families, with nothing to crib about.

Hurdle races on sharp, undulating tracks

LE COUER NET     (Anthony Honeyball)

5 year old chesnut gelding     (Network – Silverwood)     56/60003-56

Hailing from a yard that tends to take bumpers seriously and thus do quite well in them, it was not a good omen when Le Couer Net lost his bumpers by 13 and 36 lengths. The first was at Cheltenham, but it was the youthful newcomers one on New Year’s Day, and since inventing it, the race has tended to be a source of unexceptional handicappers, rather than the stars that the track would be expecting. He made definite progress when midfield in his hurdles debut, but then was paralysed with fear of spoiling his handicap mark and got three heftier whoopings in further novice races. However, Le Couer Net took very cunning advantage of a nonsensical Plumpton race with hardly any hurdles jumped to have a school and ease down when the leaping was left behind. The handicap debut was a brave hoik up to three miles and he was beaten six lengths, repeating the margin over 2m 7.5f next time. A drop down to 2m 4f saw the defeat by twice that far. The interpretation of this is that Le Couer Net is a three miler in the making who is very close to being ready to make the most of it. In French, his name is part of an idiom referring to making things very clear, so the UK-Jumping assessment can only be totally accurate. That is how these things work, isn’t it?

Handicap hurdles over 2 miles and 7 furlongs or more

OSSIE’S DANCER     (Martin Smith)

8 year old chesnut gelding      (Osorio – Nina Ballerina)     534F1/35P210/159/P754-22

He caught the eye with a good effort at Plumpton in the middle of May, the best run since returning from eighteen months off at the start of 2017. Ossie’s Dancer has since got even closer to winning, beaten a head in a big field at Market Rasen. This was a winning performance that got away, as all three wins had been going anti-clockwise and his four previous runs going right-handed were all below par, three of them badly so. When presented with an undulating track going left-handed, his score so far is 54131192. The unplaced runs were his hurdling debut, a very decent six lengths loss on heavy and a failed attempt at 2m 6f around Cartmel, where the stamina was not quite up to the job. Or was it something else? It did prove to be his last run before the year and a half sidelined. With him having regained the thread as a hurdler, it is unlikely that we will see Ossie’s Dancer over fences, but if he was allowed a stab at it there is nothing about him that would obviously scare us away from thinking that past preferences can continue to pay off.

Handicap hurdles or handicap chases on a left-handed, undulating course

STONECOLDSOBA     (Denis Quinn)

4 year old bay gelding     (Aqllam – Aswaaq)     453

Although he only won once on the flat, and spent most of his time in modest handicaps on the all-weather, it does really look as if Stonecodesoba has the makings of, erm, a modest handicapper over hurdles as well. Clearly living up to his name, he was fresh enough in mind and spirit to blaze through May with all three runs that are needed to get qualified for handicaps – usually. The first was a ten lengths fourth at Towcester. The form of this is working out badly, and the favourite fell late on, so Stonecoldsoba inherited a place. Next he was twenty-two lengths behind the promising Bach Dre Clermont, but half of the gap was between first and second, so Stonecoldsoba was not uncompetitive for a place. And he was only two lengths away from third when stuffed by New Agenda (already on a 116 rating) next time. This has all been work at two miles, but his flat best came when racing over a mile and a half or more – so when he is in handicaps, expect longer races to bring about improvement.

Class 5 handicap hurdles over 2m 3f or more
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Stonecoldsoba, not in a stone cold sweat, running down the back of his neck, depsite what Phil Lynott might have claimed

UEUETEOTL     (James Ewart)

9 year old grey gelding     (Tikkanen – Azturk)     153/7734/2217/3F4/13F264P/618273-

This horse first caught attention to being a commentator’s nightmare, although Ueueteotl is a lot easier to pronounce when drunk. At some time just about a year and a half ago he was earmarked for inclusion on the ‘to follow’ list but he seemed a touch high in the handicap and distracted thus into tackling opponents that were probably a little too explosive for him to keep tabs on – pun assuming that his name has something to do with Mexican volcanoes. And if that is not true, it should be, and the British racing public are the people to make it happen. He does have a nasty habit of running too well to get a real break from the handicapper, with four wins and no less than nine losses by less than five lengths, but he is now at a point where he can compete in (as opposed to just participate in) the appropriate races. The definition of appropriate is easy tracks, where he has a score to date of 13313612. For the most part soft ground is not on Ueueteotl’s agenda, and the one time that it combined with easy tracks, he finished third but well beaten. Good to firm ground has not been tried, and with a career spanning five and a half years, this is probably a) intentional and b) likely to continue, but if Ueueteotl does try it, people may be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. It turns out that Ueueteotl is an Aztec god whose name can be spelled in a variety of ways. And he is connected with fire, which has at least a visual connection.

Hurdles or chases on an easy track, on good to soft, good or good to firm ground
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