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OCTOBER 2020 HORSES TO FOLLOW
BRIAN BORANHA     (Peter Niven)

9 year old bay gelding     (Brian Boru – Tapneiram)     9392/40421D331/222421/1031830/44PF5-0

With his only run this summer having been a Listed handicap chase, in which he was seen off by a fairly long way, and last season ending up somewhat short of being a riotous success, this does not look like a good time to be picking up on Brian Boranha for inclusion in the list. The yard has only had fifteen runners since the first lockdown spell and dug out one flat winner from them, it does need us to go back into late 2019 to find the last jumps winner, and it is more than ten years since they fielded fifty runners in a National Hunt season. What appeals abut Brian Boranha (and offsets the incredible difficulty found in typing his name) is how incredibly reliable he is when conditions are correct. Those circumstances are handicaps over 2m 7f or more, with a maximum of eight runners, and it has produced results of 23122211313F alongside a healthy profit to level stakes of 13.25 points. Even when he fell at the last fence in his sole qualifying run last term (Catterick, eight runners, 3m 6f) the diminishing chance of a win was not extending as far as thinking he would be unplaced. With an unproductive season consigned to the dustbin of history, Brian Boranha is now rated below his last winning handicap mark and poised to strike again.

Handicaps over 2m 7f or more, with up to eight runners
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Fortunately somebody else did all the labelling work on this one (no copyright specified, apologies if one exists)

CALLIOPE      (Dianne Sayer)

7 year old bay mare     (Poet’s Voice – Costa Brava)     38245/0355523312-121

As classical scholars and crossword buffs will immediately recognise, Calliope was in Greek mythology the Muse of poetry and eloquence. This mare is here, as will be the theme of the October list, for her rather more workmanlike attribute of consistency. And if anyone is expecting an entry in rhyming couplets, just look up the bit in Beowulf when he gives Hygelac a gift of four horses.

Hyrde ic þæt þam frætwum feower mearas

lungre, gelice, last weardode,

æppelfealuwe; he him est geteah

meara ond maðma

It is worth repeating if only to drive the spellchecker to distraction. Anyway, Calliope the contemporary racehorse. Due to the unwelcome distraction of flat racing, she was five years old before getting stuck into hurdles, and as the numbers above show, she has got to grips with it quite well. The interest for us is the subset of those form figures that relate to right-handed courses. They read 51212, with the second places being both by closer than two lengths. There is an argument that by winning at Kelso earlier in September, the song being sung by Calliope was one of a horse motivated by blinkers or cheekpieces. However, that race was probably a little weaker than the ones where she had been so competitive earlier in 2020, so trust in the clockwise bias remains. The current mark of 103 means that Calliope could still fit in a run or two at class 5 standard but she can probably survive a while when stepping into the lower echelons of the class above.

Races on a right-handed track

FOXY ACT     (Chris Down)

9 year old bay mare     (Act One – Brown Fox)     0/03/12117P40/P9/57P04340-P0

Being without a victory since 2017, people can be forgiven for thinking that like the octogenarian burlesque dancer, her best days are behind her and Foxy Act should really let it go. But hope has not been extinguished entirely. Her three wins all happened when she had no more than six opponents and her score in such races is 312117 – thus every race from September 2017 has failed to meet that circumstance. Reinforcing the faded glory/optimism is that the general trend amongst those unsuitable races is that the fewer runners that take part, the better is seen of Foxy Act. As she now finds herself hovering around the lower regions of class 5 company, on a handicap rating of 75, the demand for a run in that level is such that she may go all through her year on the list without finding a suitable race – hence the inability recently to reproduce a couple of gently encouraging runs from 2019. If she does, expect Foxy Act to be a decent price and one win at such would do very nicely indeed.

Hurdles with up to seven runners

POKER SCHOOL     (Ian Williams)

10 year old bay gelding     (Gold Well – Broken Pockets)     1/0482215/47U214/96141146/642542U42/359232531/2396U4-245

At face value, which probably should not be taken when assessing a horse named Poker School, he has had a lean time of things in the last eighteen months, lacking a win. However he is now back below a rating that he has won from in the past and his career has been lightly blighted by only have raced in nineteen of his forty-nine starts in his preferred conditions – a right-handed course and a race of class 3 or lower, i.e. the intended targets for UK-Jumping selections. The standard of race is important as Poker School has two runs in Listed level and five class 2 attempts going clockwise and won none of them. All seven career wins fit those specified circumstances, so one thing missing from the store of tactics is an ability to bluff an opponent who is playing a superior hand. With the short summer campaign featuring two of his better displays going what is for him the wrong way round, there is good reason to be optimistic that Poker School can deal up a couple more late career wins, to universal acclaim. Six of the wins have been with good or good to soft ground and his record is not good when things are wetter. However he does have a bumper win (in 2014!) on heavy and a hurdles second on soft the following year, so if he is up against sufficiently unqualified opposition, success in the mud is a possibility. Ditto for undulating courses.

Races on a right-handed track.
Poker School inscrutably disguising his thoughts – picture from ianwilliamsracing.com

SNOW LEOPARD     (Tony Carroll)

4 year old grey gelding     (Mount Nelson – La Gandilie)     56

Please do not be alarmed – picking a 41-rated flat horse who has never been placed in fourteen career races over both disciplines is not a sign of going stir crazy. Dressing up as a lettuce and throwing taramasalata at passing buses is, but the police have been very sympathetic and simply decided that an injunction will suffice. Fortunately it makes no reference to hummus and post office vans. Getting back to Snow Leopard, who is named after an animal that chases goats down extraordinarily steep mountain sides (nothing bonkers about that), the selection is made in the hope that he proves to be one of these occasional horses who appear in hurdles having not had the cruising speed to function on the flat but find a jumps pace and a bit of athletic dexterity can take them a further at the new job. For the hurdles debut he was beaten 27 lengths but finished fifth of thirteen to Courtandbould (a neck away from winning four out of four this summer) and subsequent winner Bashful Boy. Upped to 2m 4f next time, he lost by a similar margin but ended up sixth of seventeen. Always going comfortably towards the rear, every attempt to make forward progress in time saw Snow Leopard unluckily / skilfully (delete as per your degree of cynicism) find a weakening opponent blocking his path. A step up in results when meeting low level handicaps would be less than amazing, and there is hope that slightly softer ground will slow the races down to benefit him even more.

Class 5 handicap hurdles

TEESCOMPONENTS LAD     (Gillian Boanas)

7 year old bay gelding     (Midnight Legend – Northern Native)     522/3221334/23141/455412-5

The year of 2020 has been one to stretch the patience of a saint (“It’s gone beyond that you shower of b*******,” as St Cuthbert is reputed to have confided to close associates recently) so it is quite a provocative measure to drop in here a horse for whom not only is patience required for the wins to come, but who has also a win this year outside the circumstances stated and who will probably remain just as consistent thus teasing punters to be more flexible. However, for Teescomponents Lad, coincidentally one of St Cuthbert’s close associates, there is so far a profit to be made in big fields. Where the need to sit out temptation comes in is that at the time of writing he only has one appearance on ground quicker than good to soft – the most recent, when he lost by just over four lengths - and rain remains in short supply. Additionally the profit relies on his performances in bigger fields, where the strike rate is unexceptional but has produced a 2.5 point level stake profit, or roughly 20%. It has been slightly knocked down by one of the wins being a dead heat, forcing the calculation to allow for odds to half the stake, but in this day and age horses that dead heat more than once per career are really an oddity that merits a tomb configured for pilgrimages from astonished punters. The trio of victories have come at Catterick, Wetherby and Carlisle, so it does look as if any course works for Teescomponents Lad and although three of the qualifying defeats have been at three miles, his small field win was over even further and an average margin five lengths loss hints that one day the Teescomponents Lad three mile win in a big field will come.

Races with ten or more runners
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Boudning happily to victory at Carlisle, and all with St Cuthbert's approval (pic from gillianboanasracing.com).
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