I would like to thanks Owen Johnson for forwarding his 50 to Follow – 2024 Flat Season. You can find him at Owen’s Twitter Profile.
Henry Longfellow – Trainer: Aiden O’Brien
Many will be hoping that top two-year-old from last year City Of Troy will be making plenty of headlines this year and there’s no doubt that’s very likely to be the case. However, in all the praise City of Troy has received, I feel like Henry Longfellow has been slightly forgotten about which maybe a foolish thing to do. Out of the Brilliant 1000 Guineas and Oaks winner Minding. This strong Dubawi colt was well found in the market on his debut at the curragh (a track I always like to see O’Brien debut his newcomers) and he didn’t let his supporters down by running out an easy one and three quarters length winner from Mythology. Mythology then duly won at the prestigious Galway festival on his next start, before then only being beaten a length in the Group 3 Prix Francois Boutin at Deauville. Henry Longfellow however, then went back to the Curragh again to win the Group 2 Futurity Stakes where he beat Islandsinthestream by two lengths. At the time many including myself where disappointed he didn’t win easier given he was sent off a 2/9 chance, but after been a doubter I was turned into a convert after his Vincent O’brien National Stakes win in which he dished out a five length beating this time to his old friend Islandsinthestream, who then later in the season won a conditions race at Longchamp before going onto be narrowly touched off in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud. All the evidence already suggests Henry Longfellow is a top class colt and with a trip to France for their 2000 Guineas already being intimated it’s likely himself and City Of Troy will be kept apart from each other, but don’t be forgetting him now as there might not be as much between the two as people think.
Illinois – Trainer: Aiden O’Brien
Aiden O’Brien certainly dominated the two-year-old scene in Ireland last year but that didn’t stop him trying and succeeding in England and indeed France as well as this Galileo colt was also involved in the aforementioned Criterium de Saint-Cloud, when finishing a very respectable third. However in context this was an impressive performance as he’d only landed a maiden at the Curragh 15 days previously in impressive fashion on his debut. Bred on the renowned Galileo- Danehill cross he is a half-brother to Arc winner Danedream, it would be dreaming highto think he could accomplish that feat, but he has the potential to rate very highly amongst the middle-distance horses in 2024.
Ghostwriter – Trainer: Clive Cox
Back on British shores this Invincible Spirit colt actually come to my attention as a foal and to be more precise, at the Tattersalls December foal sale in which he was picked up for 100,000 guineas by Littleton Stud of Jeff Smith fame, the same connections also bought the Coronation & Sussex Stakes winner Alcohol Free as a foal in Ireland at Goffs public auction. But this is a rarity for this outfit and they are seemingly been proven right again, as Ghostwriterwent off a relatively unfancied 9/1 shot on debut on Newmarket’s July course, he ran out an easy winner by three and half lengths. His next assignment was a Novice at Ascot in which he had to carry a six pound penalty for his win at Newmarket but he did the job convincely despite edging left, and indeed taking a false step after the line. It was now up in grade and trip for this son of Invincible Spirit, in the Group 2 Royal Lodge stakes, in which he was backed in the market going off at 100/30 and didn’t let anyone down by scoring by one and a quarter lengths from Al Musmak (who nearly made this list). Ghostwriter is out of the dam Moorside who herself was a fairly good middle distance horse and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ghostwriter stepped up in trip at some point this season. However, his main aim at this point is the 2000 Guineas and given how well he’s handled the track on both occasions he’s been to Newmarket (Rowley & July courses) he’s one to keep firmly in mind for the first Saturday in May.
See The Fire – Trainer: Andrew Balding
A day after Ghostwriters victory on Newmarket’s July course Jeff Smith was celebrating again after this Sea The Stars filly’s victory. Reports prior to See The Fire’s debut had been positive with murmurs of her doing exceptional work on Kingsclere’s gallops, which was backed up by the support in the market for her which she justified in a professional manner. She was then given a hard task upped in grade in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster, in which I got to see her in the flesh and I instantly fell in love with her as she has such a nice outlook and good body, but with plenty of room for improvement it seemed. In the race she was held up under Oisin Murphy but then came with what looked like a winning challenge to Darnation but when asked again she drifted left under pressure and was also hampered by the winner but lost little in defeat from my point of view. Her final assignment was the fillies mile at Newmarket in which to my mind her and Shuwari went for home too soon and set it up for the eventual winner Ylang Ylang. However, she did hang left again which is a concern but given she catapulted quickly into Group company hopefully that tendency will have gone by this season. In addition, in his column for the Sun Newspaper See The Fire’s trainer Andrew Balding said that:’ See The Fire was their great white hope for next season’. All I can say is I hope he is right as out of all the horses I saw in the flesh last year none took the eye more than this filly.
Darnation – Trainer: Karl Burke
If I am putting See The Fire in though it would be rude of me not to put in her May Hill conqueror. However, back to her debut at Haydock (a track her trainer likes debuting a nice horse) she didn’t create much of an impression on debut, but after hanging left and being outpaced, she kept on well to finish third. The daughter of Too Darn Hot quickly got people talking though after her ten length romp over Nighteyes at Thirsk. Who despite being favourite had no answer to Darnation’s turn of foot. Nighteyes then went on to win a Novice at Ripon giving further credence to Darnation’s dominance at the Yorkshire venue. She was then upped in grade for the Group 3 Prestige at Goodwood in which I watched the race at York with Nick Bradley’s racing manager – Ian Hutchinson who had backed Darnation told me beforehand the stable thought the world of this filly and despite being slowly away she duly won going away from Carla’s Way who then went onto win Group 2 Rockfel at Newmarket from the aforementioned Shawari and Ylang Ylang. She then lowered See The Fire’s colours at Doncaster which was to be expected given that she went off 11/10 favorite. After the race though I spoke to Karl Burke who said she would head to the Marcel Boussac on Arc weekend. Darnation indeed did take up this engagement but despite the Racing Post saying the ground was Good To Soft this was not the case as it was actually Good To Firm which Darnation didn’t handle. This is me only quibble with Darnation that all her best form is on soft ground, so if it were to come up quick for the 1000 Guineas I wouldn’t be rushing to back her but give her a bit of juice in the ground be under no illusion Darnation will do some damage in the fillies division this season.
Fallen Angel – Trainer: Karl Burke
Trainer Karl Burke and indeed owner Steve Parkin have a lot to look forward to and this another top class filly in the yard by the sire Too Darn Hot. Like Darnation Fallen Angel made her debut at Haydock and was well fancied for her debut going off 9/4 favourite and was pushed out nicely to beat Lady Of Leisure who on her next start was second again but to a certain Shawari and was found lame and unfortunately died not so long after that run. Fallen Angel herself came up against Shawari on her next start in the Listed Star Stakes at Sandown and Fallen Angel tried to lead for most of the way which maybe counted against her and despite rallying couldn’t reel back Shawari. Soprano, who finished third that day clashed with Fallen Angel on their next starts at Newmarket in the Sweet Solera and Fallen Angel confirmed who was the better filly by winning comfortably by three lengths. Fallen Angel then rounded off her two-year-old campaign in Ireland by winning the Moyglare at the Curragh from Vespertillo (more on her in a moment) after been well backed throughout the day Fallen Angel won in the style of a top class filly and can maybe give the stable their first classic winner this season in Britain.
Vespertillo – Trainer: Willie McCreery
True to my word Vespertillo is next on the list, after running a promising third on debut at Fairyhouse it was interesting her trainer saw fit for her to take on Ylang Ylang in the Group 3 Silver Flash at Leopardstown. Despite the fact she couldn’t beat the O’Brien trained filly that day I was impressed with how Vespertillo finished off her race that day especially after being held up and the winner having her own way out in front. Vespertillo did have her day in the sun next time out though, at the Curragh taking the Group 2 Debutante Stakes comfortably after travelling smoothly for most of the way. She then went for the aforementioned Moyglare Stakes in which she met Ylang Ylang again. I backed her that day thinking she had every chance of possibly beating the O’Brien filly who seemingly underperformed on the day but of course found Fallen Angel too good. Watching the race back Vespertillo travelled better than anything during the race and came with what looked like a winning move just before the furlong marker, however it seems that effort put pay to her winning chances and Fallen Angel galloped away from her. However given another winter on her back I can see this Night Of Thunder filly improving again this season and it will be interesting to see if she comes over for our 1000 Guineas as if she did I wouldn’t be underestimating her.
Ramatuelle – Trainer: Christopher Head
Vandeek was rated the highest British-trained juvenile of 2023 but this filly is the one that’s come closest to beating him in going down by a short neck, in what was a strong Prix Morny at Deauville on what was described as very soft ground. Ramatuelle went off the Even money favourite that day but just looking at her pedigree by Triple Crown winner Justify and out of a Raven’s Pass mare Raven’s Lady who was best on a quicker surface. Therefore it will be interesting if Ramatuelle is ever presented with quick ground what she can do as all her races have been on ground described as Good or softer with the majority on good to soft. She also beat some good horses along the way likeLes Pavots (who was third in the Marcel Boussac) and also Ramatuelle was also beaten by the likes of Beauvatier who has only got one defeat to his name. Cristopher Head showed last year with the likes of Big Rock and Blue Rose Cen that he’s not scared of coming over the Britain to take a chance of landing the big prizes and if the ground comes up quick at newmarket it will be interesting to see if she is sent over but whatever plan is set she is one to keep well on side this year.
Beauvatier – Trainer: Yann Barberot
As mentioned this Lope De Vega colt beat Ramatuelle early on in that horse’s career and indeed was sourced from the same sale at the Arqana August Yearling sale. Beauvatier was bought for 160,000 Euros by her trainer Yann Barberot and quickly got most of her purchase price back as a two-year-old. After bolting up on debut at Chantilly she then downed the aforementioned Ramatuelle. Beauvatier then went to Deauville and won nicely in a tactical affair from the Jean Claude-Rouget trained Zabiari who later went onto win a Group 3 at Longchamp beating The Grey Man who’s form ties in with Henry Longellow through Mythology. Beauvatier then went to Lonchamp himself and won easily in the Prix Rochette. However similar to Darnation in that this horse needs cut in the ground, went to the Lagardere on Arc weekend and couldn’t handle the quick ground but still ran a very respectable third to Rosallion. Granted cut in the ground this very has shown time again he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Task Force – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
It’s fair to say there won’t be many better bred colts in training than this fellow. By the incomparable Frankel and out of Special Duty who famously won the 1000 Guineas on disqualification of the late Sir Henry Cecil trained Jacqueline Quest. Task Force certainly came with a reputation to Salisbury on his debut going off the Even money favourite and winning easily despite being a bit green. I was then very impressed by his attitude to win the Ripon two-year-old Trophy stakes, as he had every reason to get beaten as it was obvious from watching the race that he wasn’t in love with Ripon’s ridges and in addition was furthest away from the favoured nearside rail but he managed to see off his stablemate Matters Most by one and a quarter lengths. On his final start of the season he was also beaten by Vandeek but in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket and gave the impression that stepped up to a mile next season he could progress into an interesting contender for the 2000 Guineas let’s see if he can follow in his mum and dad’s footsteps in May.
Lautrec – Trainer: John & Thady Gosden
Another Juddmonte trained colt named after the French Painter Toulouse- Lautrec, may not have cost as much as one of his paintings as a yearling but still wasn’t cheap at 600,000 guineas at Tattersalls Book 1 in 2022. Despite the big price tag, Lautrec made a winning start up at Newcastle, a track the Gosdens have debuted many a good two-year-old with Enable springing to mind. Even Juddmonte may not think Lautrec can reach her dizzy heights but it was a pleasing debut from this son of Kingman who was made to work very hard to win as only getting up in the dying strides to beat the Karl Burke trained Samphire Green. The Burke stable also had the Even money favourite Temple City back in third however, maybe he didn’t run his race. However considering all that the Gosdens two-year-olds are generally quite green on debut and I liked the fact Lautrec had to get down and dirty to win on debut, possibly indicating that maybe a mile and a quarter might be his best trip this year. Related to the likes of St Mark’s Basilica and Magna Grecia he could be one to keep an eye on this year. Furthermore the late Khalid Abdullah who built Juddmonte from scratch firstly bought all of Jock Whitntey’s mares after he died and funnily enough Whitney’s favourite painter was Lautrec, coincidence?
Kaleidoscope – Trainer: John & Thady Gosden
Another Gosden newcomer to make a winning debut albeit this time at Lingfield was this Kingman filly. Her victory at Lingfield came in a muddling race but she was well placed close to the pace by her jockey Oisin Murphy, and she justified favouritism by three lengths from her 78-rated stablemate Sea Ice. What impressed me though was how strong Kaleidoscope was at the line and it took her a while to pull up which is always a positive sign. Kaleidoscope is out of a Cheveley Park winner in Lightning Pearl , and she could just be the type to test her credentials in a classic trial in either something like a Nell Gwyn or a Fred Darling in the opening weeks of the season before hopefully going on to better things.
Beatrice Shilling – Trainer: Peter Chapple-Hyam
This gorgeous Sea The Stars filly came to my attention as a yearling at the prestigious Tattersalls Book 1 sale in which she was purchased by BBA Ireland for 140,000 guineas. Sent to Peter Chapple-Hyam who for my money can do the job with all types of horses given the ammunition might just have a good one on his hands here.It certainly seemed that way the night before Beatrice Shilling’s debut as she was backed from 10/1 into as low as 6/4 before finally going at 11/4. However, she didn’t justify the market confidence and finished second to the already once raced Warda Jemila who could be a smart horse herself. Beatrice Shilling though was on the outside for most of the home straight and despite making a positive move two furlong out could never reel in the winner. However given her size and her long stride and indeed her pedigree I would expect Beatrice Shilling to improve plenty as a three-year-old and hopefully she can break her maiden before going onto better things.
Rolica – Trainer: Jane Chapple-Hyam
From one Chapple-Hyam to another and I think Jane has a few nice sorts for this season including this Lope De Vega Villy. Well backed for her debut at Nottingham in which she went off the 3/1 favourite. Rolica was too keen and also raced too prominently as the winner Our Golden One and the second Beeley where held up and let the leaders go on and do their thing. However, when looking like Rolica was going to get swamped by those two and possibly fade away she hung on in there and battled before settling for third place. I’m hoping Jane can make Rolica drop her head for her next run as I can’t see her staying a maiden for long when the season rolls around and after that it will be interesting to see where she goes and whether she can possibly be a pattern performer.
Salamanca – Trainer: Jane Chapple-Hyam
Half an hour after the debut of Rolica, Salamanca made his debut for the Jane Chapple-Hyam outfit. In contrast to Rolica though Salamanca was slowly away but travelled well up until inside the three furlong marker but ran on nicely but was no match for the well backed Poniros, who’s stamina may have come to the fore over the extended mile on heavy ground as Ralph Beckett was later quoted as saying: ‘He could be a leger type for us’. The good thing is Salamanca reminds a maiden heading into this season and shouldn’t take too long in opening his account before being pitched into better company.
Devoted Queen – Trainer: Charlie Appleby
By his high standards Charlie Appleby had a quiet 2023 at the top level. But he may have a few nice three-year-olds to go to war with this season, and Devoted Queen looked a potential pattern performer when winning at Newmarket in October on her only start beating the more experienced Vicario. Devoted Queen herself is a half-sister to the Vertem Trophy runner-up One Ruler and a Sun Chariot stakes placed horse in Fintry. She only needed hand riding from William Buick who eased her down the dip to draw away by two and a quarter lengths. The field was also well strung out against other newcomers who had the dogs barking like Dilara. But what was also impressive is that Devoted Queen seemed to have enough left in her at the line to suggest she can make her mark in significantly better company in the spring.
Bellum Justum – Trainer: Andrew Balding
Another horse who won at Newmarket albeit on his fourth attempt was this Sea The Stars colt, and Newmarket is where I first saw this lad being sold at Book 1 for 375,000 guineas and was one I was looking forward to seeing hitting the track as a two-year-old. Like most of Balding’s newcomers though, Bellum Justum was in need of the run on debut on Newmarket’s July course when fifth, but the first three home that day all won since so it was a hard ask. He then went back to the July course three weeks later in which he put in an improved performance when second at 22/1when losing out to the only filly in the line up True Wisdom. On his third run at Doncaster though Bellum Justum went off a well backed co favourite of three at 4/1, but faded into fourth after being hampered slightly inside the furlong pole in behind God’s Window who came down the more favoured part of the track. God’s Window showed though he was a good horse by running a respectable third in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity also at Doncaster. But as mentioned Bellum Justum finally got off the mark in late September in a big field maiden. He was well backed especially late on but did have the favoured nearside rail to help. So far the horses who have run out of that contest haven’t shown a whole lot but I highly doubt Bellum Justum is just a two-year-old but should keep improving this season into an above average performer.
Inisherin – Trainer: Kevin Ryan
This Shamardal colt was following Bellum Justum home on debut when going off 50/1 on debut which was remarkable given her breeding as he is the the second foal out of the mare Ajman Princess who herself was a teofilo half-sister to seven other horses with a Racing Post rating of at least 105, including last season’s Queen Anne winner Triple Time (also trained by Kevin Ryan) . Therefore given her breeding and the fact that he probably wasn’t showing much on the gallops given his starting price says to me that there should be plenty of improvement to come this year and I’d be staggered if he can’t break his maiden in the spring.
Love Dynasty – Trainer: William Haggas
This Dubawi filly was one of my picks at the Tattersalls Book 1 sale in which Joe Foley picked her up for 190,000 guineas on behalf of Clipper Logistics. She is out of Geisha Girl, who was an unraced Gaileo half-sister to Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Elusive wave , so therefore is bred on the same cross as Group 1 winners Ghaiyyath, Night Of Thunder and our friend Henry Longfellow. With plenty to live up to, Love Dynasty won in the style of a promising filly by two and a half lengths going away at the line. The form so far however from that race is questionable as the second Dubai Melody and the fourth home Arts Of war have run three times between them since that Newmarket race and in each case have been beaten and were also favourites each time to do so. However, it could just be that Love Dynasty was a cut above and although my feeling is that she may want cut in the ground given her action I’d be surprised if William Haggas doesn’t pitch her into a classic trail in the spring at some stage.
Anzac Day – Trainer: Andrew Balding
This lovely looking Australia colt was another one I liked at the Tattersalls Book 1 sale in 2022 and for 200,000 guineas looked a good buy and is proving to be so far his owners Brook Farm Bloodstock who have a couple of bright prospects for the year ahead (with another to come in this list). Out of the Montjeu mare Merville Anzac Day is bred to stay well, being a half-brother to Derby du Languedoc scorer Merveillo. On his debut at Goodwood as with mith most Balding horses has previously mentioned he was clueless for most part of his debut before staying on nicely into a promising fourth which was a great effort considering he was nearly out of shot on the TV cameras with a furlong left to run! Upped in trip to a mile and a quarter on his next start, Anzac Day this time was always prominent, but when let loose at the two furlong marker he readily drew clear and the race won a fair way out despite drifting over to stand’s rail which probably aided him if anything. From what I have heard Anzac Day will reappear in a Derby Trail before hopefully lining up in the main event itself on the first Saturday of June at a top price of 33/1 for the Derby; he could just be worth a tickle at that price.
Games People Play – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
This handsome filly by Sea The Stars actually debuted in the same race as Anzac Day at Goodwood and on that occasion had to give best back in third to the also Valmont owned Black Run. Another thing this filly has in common with Anzac Day she was sold at Book 1 in 2022 and was one of many lots I liked by the sire there. Sold for 170,000 guineas to the shrewd bloodstock agent Alex Elliott, she was always going to be one I kept an eye on. After a promising debut I then backed her on her second start on the all weather at Lingfield especially after seeing Anzac Day romp home at Newmarket. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until disaster struck with the Gosden trained Peaceful love unfortunately breaking down on the home turn and badly hampering Games People Play forcing her to go extremely wide on the bend. To her credit she ran on well in the straight but by that time it was game over and finished a luckless fourth. I’m sure if that horrible incident had not happened Games People Play would have won so I’m sure she can break her maiden when she reappears this season before going on to be useful filly for the Beckett yard this year.
Valvano – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
Valvano is another Valmont owned Ralph Beckett trained and indeed Alex Elliott bought (for 220,000 guineas at Tatts Book 1) In which I was very taken by him as a yearling coupled with a powerful walk and long stride he took the eye quickly . As he did on debut at Nottingham he was well backed overnight and ended up going off the 8/11 favourite and won easily after picking up instantly for his jockey Hector Crouch who afterwards said of the Night Of Thunder colt ‘he’s got a lot of natural ability and is very talented and an exciting individual’ . Further to this when Valvano’s trainer Ralph Beckett was asked who could be his derby horse next season on Luck On Sunday he nominated Valvano before any other of his many two-year-old winners he had last season in which we’ll discuss more of them here.
Meydaan – Trainer: Simon & Ed Crisford
Trainers are often a creature of habit and Meydaan winning on the 17th November at Newcastle was another case in point. As last year the same stable debuted Chesspiece in the same race in which he won. After flagging up Chesspiece for this last year and to see him have a good season was good but it alerted me straight away to the fact Meydaan could be useful and and he certainly looked it on debut when drawing away to win nicely from Mr Hamspstead who in turn was six and a half lengths in front of third. Incidentally, the fourth home that day was Tokyo Bay who had finished second to Valvano on debut at Nottingham and Meydaan beat him by a wider margin than what he did, but obviously had an extra two furlongs to exert his superiority. But it still all points to Meydaan been a top prospect for this season ahead and if that wasn’t enough he’s by Frankel and out of the Group 1 Pretty Polly winner of 2017 Nezwaah. He could be a potential classic contender for the brilliant Father and son training combination.
Night Raider- Trainer: Karl Burke
Many flat fans will keep their eye on the action at Meydan during the winter, but maybe not all of them tuned into Southwell in early December, however if you did you were served up a treat courtesy of this Dark Angel colt. It may not have been a strong race on paper but Night Raider was striking in quickly drawing nine lengths clear in no time at all without turning a hair under Danny Tudhope. However, looking at his pedigree he may not be a Guineas prospect as he is a half-brother to the Palace House winner Far Above and is out of a seven furlong winner so there is plenty of speed there. Even if he doesn’t stay the mile of the Guineas the commonwealth cup may become an option for him which his trainer has won before with Quiet Reflection and also saddled the third last year in Swingalong. Maybe this horse could be taking the prize back up north come late June.
Zoum Zoum – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
This unbeaten son of Zoustar was gelded before his debut in October when downing the well fancied Imperial Guard (more on him shortly) after been outpaced and nudged along by Rob Hornby three furlongs out it didn’t look likely even with over a furlong out but with Oisin Murphy maybe going too hard to early on Imperial Guard allowed Zoum Zoum to fly past him late on to score by a comfortable one and a quarter lengths. Afterwards though it seemed like Rob Hornby was expecting a good performance from Zoum Zoum as he said ‘the stable have a high opinion of him but he still did well to mow down the second’. The next stop for Zoum Zoum was Newmarket for a Novice event in which we’ll be speaking a lot about this race, but after been well backed during the day Zoum Zoum was always prominent from his favourable high draw Rob Hornby quickly bagged the stands rail after Individualism capitulated and won comfortably again giving six pounds to some very nice newcomers. It was then off to France and more specifically Saint-Cloud in the Listed Prix Herod stakes for Zoum Zoum but despite looking in a touch of trouble two out he soon got his momentum going to land the spoils comfortably once again by one and three quarter lengths. He’s out of the mare Richenza who like Zoum Zoum’s sire Zoustar excelled as sprinters but it looks like Zoum Zoum is defying his pedigree and is one of many from the Beckett yard to be excited about this season.
Kikkuli- Trainer: Harry Charlton
Going back to the Newmarket novice that Zoum Zoum did win, this outstandingly bred Kingman colt was chasing him home in second. Out of the mare Kind which means Kikkuli is the incomparable Frankel’s half-brother. Kikkuli on debut was for most of his debut sat in behind Zoum Zoum but was never going to get past on him on the rail so had to give away his track position by his jockey Kevin Stott maneuvering him more towards the middle of the track which allowed the winner a two length run on him but Kikkuli kept on going to run a promising debut and looking a winner waiting to happen when reappearing in 2024 and I’d say he’s the three-year-old Harry Charlton will be most looking forward too in his debut season as the sole name on the license at Beckhampton.
Balmacara – Trainer: Eve Johnson Houghton
This gelded son of New Bay was also out of the Novice at Newmarket behind Zoum Zoum and finished off his race strongly to nearly deny Kikkuli of second place. Having been 50/1 for most of the day he was nibbled into 28/1 at the off which is always encouraging. I think a longer trip will suit Balmacara as well this season and was also not well drawn as the winner and second that day coming out of stall five (the winner coming from 12 and second from 13). Balmacara also was sold at Book 1 where I liked him as he had a long stride and a good walk but you could see there he was going to be more of a middle distance horse, which is typically what his owners Mick & Janice Mariscotti generally buy at the sales and very rarely get one wrong either and I think they have a potential good one.
Just as a footnote I could have easily included Economics into this ist from that Newmarket Novice as he was unlucky in the run but the I did see him as a yearling as well and wasn’t really that taken with him but he could easily prove me wrong judged by his debut so maybe put him in a brucey bonus!
Imperial Guard – Trainer: Andrew Balding
True to my word it’s time to talk about this son of Night Of Thunder who as aforementioned was second to Zoum Zoum at Kempton back in October, but rewind to October 5th of 2022 and I saw Imperial Guard being sold at Book 1 and he was my pick of the whole sale selling for 270,000 guineas to Joe Foley on behalf of Clipper Logistics. A full-brother to the unbeaten Electrical Storm, Imperial Guard made his debut at kempton in late September and after being a touch slow to break from the stalls he settled in midfield and seemed to be travelling well with over two furlongs to run. However Grand Karat and the debutant Orne where better positioned for when the race heated up with Imperial Guard making up at least four to five lengths to only be beaten three quarter of a length was a more than encouraging start. Then get onto the Kempton race in which Zoum Zoum got his measure, after watching the race a few times, I’m convinced Oisin Murphy pressed for home too early as after quickly establishing a four length lead off the home turn it allowed Zoum Zoum to get back into the race with Imperial Guard tiring close home and maybe under different tactics Imperial Guard may have won. As we know Zoum Zoum has gone one to win twice since one of which in Listed company and with Imperial Guard being highly thought off by the stable I would be disappointed if he didn’t turn out to be at least Listed level himself for the Kingsclere team.
A Lilac Rolla – Trainer: Paddy Twomey
Opera Singer may have been the highest rated two-year-old filly last year, however it’s not worth forgetting that this Harry Angel filly actually beat Opera Singer on her second start, and O’brien trained filly had already two runs prior to that. Given a confident ride by her ride Billy Lee A Lilac Rolla was tenacious in getting her head down when it mattered. Only beaten by half a length that day was the Dermot Weld trained Red Viburnum, who her trainer saw fit to run her in the Moyglare next time out where she ran with credit in fifth in behind Fallen Angel and Vespertillo so the form is very strong. As many people know I’m a huge fan of A Lilac Rolla’s trainer Paddy Twomey especially in how he buys his horses and this half-sister to the Listed placed sprinter Mutaaqeb looks like an outstanding bu for 40,000 Euros. With all her form it will be interesting to see how long A Lilac Rolla can stay unbeaten for but even if she does suffer defeat she’ll be worth keeping an eye on in 2024.
Ocean Of Dreams – Trainer: Aiden O’Brien
This Fastnet Rock colt out of the Giant’s Causeway mare All For Glory made an impression not just on the track on his debut but beforehand as well as Racing TV pundit Fran Berry noted ‘ He looks a nice horse in the ring and the one I’d want to be on here’ . During his debut at Leopardstown Ocean Of Dreams settled in midfield amongst his fourteen rivals but then angled towards the middle of the track he took off with a furlong and a half to run to run out an impressive six length winner without being asked under maximum pressure and naturally displaying signs of greenness. This was backed up by his jockey Seamie Heffernan who was quoted afterwards in saying: ‘ He just needed two belts and he was gone; I was very impressed and I think he has classic potential. The Irish handicapper Mark Bird was also suitably impressed as when asked in an interview on Racing TV recently he said: ‘ Out of all the once raced winners from last year in Ireland I’d pick Ocean Of Dreams as my dark horse’. Can Ocean Of Dreams live up to the praise and promise? We’ll find out in due course but he’s definitely one that had to be included for this list.
Azada – Trainer: Dermot Weld
In the opening race on the day Ocean Of Dreams won at Leopardstown this Siyoni filly made her debut. Azada also raced more towards the middle of the track like Ocean Of Dreams did, and picked smartly when asked by Leigh Roche to run out a comfortable winner. Azada also showed signs of greenness but certainly left the impression that where was plenty to work on next season, out of the Aga Khan mare Azmiyna Azada is the a half-sister to The Autumn Sun who did incredibly well down in Australia by winning the Randwick and Rosehill Guineas, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Azada is pointed at a Guineas trail early on to see whether she’s capable of having a crack at a classic.
Porters Place – Trainer: Paddy Twomey
Keeping on the Irish trained filly theme Porter’s Place is another one to add to the embarrassment of riches that Paddy Twomey has and this one potentially could be the best of them. She showed an impressive turn of foot, when landing the odds after being well backed during the course of the day on her only start in a seven furlong Curragh maiden in October. Porters Place settled nicely before quickening smartly for a four length success in a sixteen runner field and had to come wide round a wall of horses in front of her which made it all the more impressive. In addition she has the pedigree to excel at middle distances. By Make Believe out of Shreyas, who was a high class Dalakhani half-sister to three time Arc runner-up Youmzain, she has every bit of potential to rate highly in 2024.
One Look: – Trainer: Paddy Twomey
This Gleneagles filly is certainly well named as one look is all we got to see of her last season but my goodness wasn’t it an impressive one? After being a touch keen in the early stages One Look sithed through twenty three strong field for the Goffs Million at the Curragh in a style that had a touch of Arazi about it, and in doing so was an easy six length winner over Lowther second Cherry Blossom. One Look was also excellently bought for 65,000 Euros at the Goffs Orby Yearling sale in 2022. What was also encouraging like most of Twomey’s horses is that if there is confidence about them especially on debut they are usually useful and One Look after being 12/1 the night before was a well backed second favourite at 5/1 and didn’t disappoint in the gamble. It’s hard to say how good she can be but if she can improve from two to three then the world is her oyster this year.
King’s Gamble – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
Like Paddy Twomey, Ralph Beckett has so many good three-year-olds to look forward to this season. However, this Kingman may just be forgotten about by a few people hence why I thought I’d include him here. His debut was as perfect as can be on the July course at Newmarket in which he travelled smoothly to lead over a furlong out and then easily dealt with the John Butler trained Zain Blue who then finished second in the prestigious Convivial maiden at York’s Ebor meeting. The next day at York King’s Gamble took up his second engagement in the also prestigious Gimcrack Stakes. Apparently well fancied beforehand the race but I don’t think the race panned out for him as he was on the wing all the way towards the far side and the race developed away from him down the stands side which the jockeys seemed to be favouring that day at York (god knows why). The winner that day was Lake Forest who funnily enough went off a short price favoured for the Novice that King’s Gamble won. Now Lake Forest may have underperformed that day, but if they ever meet again I’m not sure that Lake Forest would for certain come out on top against a horse that I have no doubt will improve as three-year-old.
War Rooms – Trainer: Owen Burrows
This Churchill colt was another who caught my eye at Book 1 as he did Badgers Bloodstock who shelled out 200,000 guineas for him. With the likes of Calyx, Fair Eva and Native Trail in his pedigree you may think that War Rooms maybe a speedy miler type but I don’t think that will be the case. However, on debut at Doncaster War Rooms won in the style of a nice horse over seven furlongs, coming more towards the stands side War Rooms picked up strongly and quickened away in no time to win by four and three quarter lengths. After that performance Owen Burrows nominated War Rooms as a horse to follow for the remainder of the season in a horses to follow piece in the Racing Post. He then decided to go back to Doncaster for the seven furlong Flying Scotsman Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting. Going off the 2/1 favourite War Rooms was under pressure out the back from an early stage but with over a furlong to go started to stay on again and finished a fair third given that he looked out of his depth early on. Therefore I think a step up in trip and maybe better ground which should suit him better given his pedigree could see a big improvement for a horse whose trainer clearly has a high opinion of.
Native Warrior – Trainer: Karl Burke
The day known as ‘two-year-old day’ at Newmarket in late October is usually very informative and this Wootton Bassett colt made his second start there after finishing being slowly away on debut when finishing third just under a month earlier also on the Rowley Mile. However, it was Native Warrior’s second run there that really alerted me to his potential after been well backed late on which is always a good sign from this stable he pushed the Charlie Appelby trained Point Sur all the way to the line but had to give second best, but they did pull over five lengths clear from the seventy seven rated Eulace Peacock, and the fourth home that day Strong Opinion was second on his next start to The Reverend (more on him later) so to my mind the front two could potentially be nice horses. However considering Point Sur wore a hood for both his starts last year you could argue he was the more racy of the pair and Native Warrior has plenty of horses within his pedigree who got better at three and I think he’ll do the same.
Harper’s Ferry – Trainer: Ed Walker
A couple of hours later this beautifully bred son of Lope de Vega out of 2013 Oaks winner Talent it was therefore a surprise to see Harper’s Ferry go off a seemingly unfancied 50/1 shot on debut. However, he certainly defied those odds coming from what seemed a difficult draw beforehand, despite been a touch slow to gather stride Harper’s Ferry’s jockey PJ McDonald was keen to give him cover out the back of the field but travelled nicely thereafter, before making a striking move down the outside to hit the front with just over a furlong to go, which maybe have been to early as it allowed the more experienced Feigning Madness who was also given a good mention by his trainer Ralph Beckett on Luck on Sunday saying : ‘He’s a nice horse is Feigning Madness and he’s still discovering what he’s about’. For me this bodes well for Harper’s Ferry who on debut gave a horse who is clearly well thought of by his trainer a scare and with more knowhow would have probably beaten him.
Almaqam – Trainer: Ed Walker
Now this colt was fourth in the same race as Harper’s Ferry and like him he’s by Lope De Vega and trained by Ed Walker. Almaqam went off a seemingly more fancied of the Walker trained pair but still at 25/1 you would have expected to maybe see an ok run, but we got more than that as after been hampered soon after the stalls opened he was always on the back foot and pushed along fairly early on in behind the winner Feigning Madness. With any chance of winning out the window and seemingly looking clueless throughout most of the race, the penny dropped with over a furlong to go and stayed on encouragingly for fourth place to be only beaten five lengths by the winner. The horse that split the Walker pair in third was Temple City who then went off favourite against our friend Lautrec at Newcastle but probably underperformed that day so I wouldn’t pour cold water on the form for that reason. In addition Almaqam is out of the Group 2 placed Talmada and she, like Harper’s Ferry, can give trainer Ed Walker a lot to look forward to this season.
The Reverend – Trainer: William Haggas
Again as promised this horse aforementioned beat Strong Opinion on debut in early November on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket. Now the winning margin was one and three quarter lengths but for me that would undermine the dominance of The Reverend who after settling in midfield under his pilot Cieren Fallon he was then pushed along to make progress but when out in the clear picked up well for his urgings and in the end was eased down before the line with Fallon having a cheeky look round to see how far he’d won by. By Lope de Vega (again) out of the Group 2 Italian winner Angel Power, you could argue that the fact it was heavy ground for his debut benefitted him given his breeding and that maybe the case, however I wouldn’t want that thought to take away from what a great start to his career and with owners stating recently that they will be expanding their flat string this season and looking to expand maybe The Reverend can answer their prayers by having a potential top class three-year-old to lay the foundation for their success.
Regal Jubilee – Trainer: John & Thady Gosden
A day after The Reverend’s victory at Newmarket this Cheveley Park owned homebred by Frankel won the Listed Montrose Stakes there too, however after her debut when finishing last of nine you wouldn’t have thought that was possible but she did suffer interference in running according to her jockey Kieren Shoemark, but was outpaced and under pressure before that so it wasn’t a great start. But most Gosden newcomers nowadays do need their runs on debut, and Regal Jubilee but that debut run well behind her by bolting up by seven lengths from the 1/2 favourite Faayzah. She then went back to the Rowley Mile to win the Montrose by two lengths in the style of a progressive filly and I’d be royally surprised if she can’t go higher this term.
Golden Myrrh – Trainer: Ralph Beckett
From late November back to early June we go here as that is when this Frankel filly made her debut at Newbury. She got some cover early on by jockey Jim Crowley but after a furlong was running very green and became detached from the main group but with two furlongs to go Golden Myrrh got back with them and then with over a furlong to go picked up well under hands and heels riding on the more unfavoured part of the track near the stands side to finish a promising fifth. The winner that day was none other than Rosallion who ended up been one of the highest rated juveniles from last season, but with more knowhow you could argue that Golden Myrrh could have got a lot closer to Rosallion, however the question mark is why haven’t we seen him since? This is something that I’m not privy to but if and when we do see her she’ll be worth keeping a close eye on to see how she performs given how she ran on debut.
Champagne Prince – Trainer: Jane Chapple-Hyam
This unbeaten son of Lope De Vega also caught my eye at the Book 1 sale in 2022, so much so that I advised my friend to buy the lovely looking grey. However, he was out of our price range going for 230,000 guineas to Stroud Coleman Bloodstock on behalf of former trainer Peter Harris. In addition Stroud Coleman Bloodstock also went to 220,000 guineas this year to secure Champagne Prince’s half-sister this year by Night Of Thunder so that points to connections thinking highly of Champagne Prince, and why wouldn’t they? As he got off the mark in grand style in a future stayers Novice at Chelmsford in which it could be said the favourite (Fun Loving) underperformed but it was still an impressive performance nonetheless. When interviewed afterwards trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam said: ‘he’d worked nicely during the summer but then like a lot of ours during the summer got mucus in his lungs so that delayed his debut but his work had been good before coming here’. Jane herself then travelled all the way up to Newcastle to see Champagne Prince’s second start there in which he went off a heavy odds on favourite and led all the way to win easily by three and a half lengths. I was intrigued to see how Champagne Prince would get on at two after seeing him as a yearling and now I’m very excited to see what he can do as a three-year-old, I just wish my friend had bought him!
Mystical Maria – Trainer: Richard Fahey
Now this is one I did end up helping to buy at Book 1 but initially it was trainer Roger Varian who bought her from vendors Carisbrooke Stud. However, they decided that 100,000 was not enough to sell her to the Newmarket handler, therefore straight away I got in touch with my friend and told him to buy her in which she did so. After showing promise early on the Musley Bank gallops it was decided to leave Mystical Maria alone for a while to allow her to grow and strengthen up. But even on debut, reports beforehand from the stable where that she would need the run badly and was still a touch weak. This probably explained the fact that she drifted from 6/1 the night before all the way out to 25/1, with Matt Chapman stating: ‘Mystical Maria may as well not even turn up as no one in the Fahey yard can fancy her’. This was indeed true to an extent but I couldn’t let her run unbacked at such a big price. During the race itself Mystical Maria travelled well next to the favourite Tournelle and behind the second favourite Absolute Star. When the taps were turned on though, Mystical Maria couldn’t take advantage of a gap and then soon came under pressure and ran green, but then came back on the bridle and pricked her ears before staying on into a promising third. Now given the fact she needed the run badly against horses from yards who can easily ready newcomers that of Boughey and Watson. I think we are a bit excited about this Lope De Vega filly but I would rather her kept to ground no quicker than good given her action and sire.
Topanga – Trainer: Andrew Balding
This was another filly I liked at book 1 despite the fact she wasn’t very big. That didn’t stop her being bought for 230,000 guineas which didn’t really surprise me. However, she was bought by Saleh Al Homazi who it later turned out didn’t pay for any of his purchases which totalled a whopping £20 million! Therefore it was decided that her breeders St Albans Bloodstock & Fittocks Stud would jointly own her, and she made a good start from a poor draw in fourteen over the seven furlongs at Kempton to be only beaten a head by the 6/4 favourite Enchanted Life. Topanaga then got the job done next time out back at Kempton on the 1st November when odds on from Tiaraqueen who then disappointed when last on her next outing at Lingfield, but it was revealed later that she had an issue after stopping quickly. Personally I would like to see Topanaga grow a bit more from two to three but I’m still intrigued to see how she gets on.
Immortal Knight – Trainer: Roger Varian
This well bred Saxon Warrior colt didn’t make his debut till early December on Kempton’s All -weather track. Having cost 300,000 guineas as a yearling you’d have been hoping for a good start and after always sitting in the first four he was then pushed along and given reminders over two furlongs out but then picked up again strongly down the centre of the track to overhaul Fighter Command. Immortal Knight certainly impressed commentator Alex Fussey with him saying after line ‘SMART START’. I would imagine that a mile and a quarter would be well within Immortal Knight’s compass and it will be interesting to see how Roger campaigns him this year.
Fighter Command – Trainer: John & Thady Gosden
This Dubawi colt was second to Immortal Knight on debut, but earlier in his life went to Book 1 in which I saw him but the vendor was not pushed to sell him for 500,000 guineas and therefore ran in his breeders colours of Lordship Stud. Out of Bound who ran plenty as a two-year-old I was glad to see Fighter Command make a pleasing debut as for my liking he was left in front too early after the favourite Mina Rashid fell away and he still showed bags of promise to be second to what could potentially be a smart horse. Furthermore, the third home that day Cool Legend went onto win next time out over a mile and three furlongs to give a form boost to both Fighter Command and Immortal Knight. Therefore they are both worth following thi season in their respective campaigns.
Alhattan – Trainer: George Boughey
George Boughey has sent a few nice sorts to Newcastle over the winter and I’m saying this is the best of them. As soon as the betting market opened the night before Alhattan was instantly backed from 15/8 into 4/5 before going off the 8/13 favourite, it’s always a positive sign when a horse is backed like that, especially a newcomer, and she didn’t let her backers down. Settling on the stands side rail in around fourth spot but then with just over two furlongs to go a gap opened invitingly for Alhattan and her young jockey Billy Loughnane, and despite been a bit green and edging off a true line she confirmed market expectations by winning readily by three lengths. The second Crimson Coronet had also shown up nicely on her debut when fifth in what looked a good fillies maiden at Kempton so she set a fair standard. Therefore with improvement to come I’d say Alhattan is in the could be anything category, but she’s certainly a big girl and the more time she has to grow into her frame the better.
Imperial Sovereign – Trainer: Karl Burke
The final horse entry for this year’s list is this wonderfully bred Frankel colt who is a homebred of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. As mentioned it’s always a good sign for when the market is strong on one from the Karl Burke stable and after opening up 7/4 the night before he went off the strong 8/11 favourite. After taking up the lead early on he let the Charlie Johnston trained Open Secret go on but was back in front of that rival again with a furlong and a half to go and kept going strongly to the line to win comfortably from market rival High Order by a length and a quarter. I would say that a mile and a quarter will be well within Imperial Sovereign’s compass and he’s one of many exciting prospects for the Burke stable this season.
Trainer and Jockey to follow:
The South African born trainer had sixteen winners in 2023 and a good prize money haul of £205,976. This will be mainly down to stable star Silver Sword who won at this year’s Ebor meeting. After the race Cunha was interviewed by Lydia Hislop for Racing TV and Cunha said: ‘ He’s been a funny horse we had a good bet on him at 33/1 when he went off 13/2 for his debut but he refused to race then we went in again and he refused to race again, but it was great to say him do that’. This tells that not only is Cunha a good trainer in sorting horses minds out, it also says that he likes a bet and therefore I will be taking great interest in when money comes for his horses especially with the likelihood he may get better stock to train this year.
This nineteen year old apprentice jockey had a great year last term with thirty five winners and a pound stake on all of his mounts last season would have seen you make a profit of £8.67p. However it was his ride on Palamon at York in late September that really impressed me. With most jockeys electing to come more towards the stands side rail at York (the unfavoured part of the track) Voikhansky decided to stay as near to the centre without being too far away from the main group. He then hit the front on Palamon he kept towards the centre of the track and let his mount hang towards the far side which was the best ground anyway to romp away to win by six lengths. To me this was a young lad doing his homework against other jockeys who should know better and if he can improve his knowledge of other tracks like York I’m sure he’ll have a bright future and is one man to keep onside from the saddle this season.
That is the 50 done for this year thanks for taking the time to read it and any feedback will be greatly appreciated.