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Racehorses to watch in 2014
As the New Year dawns, what better time to select a 10-strong team of Ryedale jumpers who, hopefully, will pay to follow for the remainder of the season.
A horse who won two from two in bumpers, Clever Cookie has yet to open his account over hurdles – but it is only a matter of time.
Runner-up at Musselburgh on his jumping debut, the five-year-old again found only one too good at Newcastle on his latest outing when going down by half a length to Full Shift in what appeared to be a fair race.
There is surely more to come from Clever Cookie, who can be placed to advantage as the season unravels.
FIVE IN A ROW
Having won a point-to-point before joining Brian Ellison this season, Five In A Row quickly made his mark for his new trainer when landing a bumper at Carlisle at the first time of asking.
He has had one run since, in a hot hurdle race at Newcastle, finishing fourth behind Ballyalton, Oscar Rock and Blakemount, three smart horses.
Five In A Row will ultimately come into his own when his attentions are turned to fences, but this lightly-raced five-year-old looks more than capable of making his mark over hurdles in the meantime.
Having won his first three races this season for Tony Coyle, at Bangor, Uttoxeter and Wetherby, it may be reckoned that selecting Flicka Williams for a list such as this is akin to closing the stable door after the horse has well and truly bolted. Maybe not.
His latest outing saw him stepped out of handicap company into Grade 2 class at Cheltenham earlier this month and he was well beaten – albeit after making a desperate blunder early on the final circuit which almost put him out of the race.
Rated 130, Flicka Williams can still be a force to be reckoned with in handicap company in the New Year.
Although his name hardly trips off the tongue of commentators, David O’Meara’s gelding is a very talented hurdler.
He proved as much last season when more than paying his way and he took a further step forward at Newbury last month when winning in Grade 3 company in what many still regard as the Gerry Fielden Hurdle but which now carries a different title. Raised 6lb by the handicapper on the back of that all-the-way win, Ifandbutwhynot is now rated 139, which means he may need to show further improvement if he is to bag another decent contest.
Progression may not be beyond him. Although he will be eight years old on January 1, he has had only 10 starts over hurdles, winning four of them. He is fancied to add to that tally.
Although he came up short when pitched into Grade 1 company at Newbury last Saturday, Oscar Rock remains a horse to keep on the right side of as the season rolls on.
A high-class bumper horse and Listed winner last season when trained by Harry Fry, Oscar Rock is now with Malcolm Jefferson, who placed him to win in runaway fashion at Wetherby on his hurdles debut.
The gelding then suffered a narrow defeat at Newcastle in a messy race won by the high-ranking Ballyalton, who has since franked the form by winning again at Cheltenham. Oscar Rock could finish only third to Captain Cutter in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury last weekend, but, after coming off the bridle turning for home, he stayed on well again in the closing stages.
The evidence of that performance was that he needs all of three miles.
Expect him to resume winning ways when he is further stepped up in distance.
An Irish recruit to John Quinn’s Highfield yard and a horse who could take high rank over hurdles this season before going on to a chasing career next term.
Winner of a point-to-point and a bumper before his transfer across the Irish Sea, Racing Pulse was hugely impressive over hurdles on his debut for Quinn at Newcastle, where he posted a wide-margin win without having to be asked a serious question.
He may go to Cheltenham this week, which would tell us much more about him. As things stand, Racing Pulse looks a horse capable of quickening the pulse of those closely associated with him.
RUN RUCTIONS RUN
Tim Easterby has a progressive mare on his hands in Run Ructions Run, who ran out a five-length winner on the second day of Wetherby’s Christmas meeting.
That was the four-year-old’s second success over hurdles, having scored on the same course last month.
In between those two victories she had been beaten a nose at Catterick.
Although no match for Oscar Rock on her hurdling debut, at Wetherby in October, Run Ructions Run has progressed with every outing since and has the scope to improve further. She can add to her scoresheet in the new year, especially in races against her own sex.
A decent stayer on the Flat before being purchased by John Quinn at the autumn sales for 40,000gns, Rutherglen has taken to hurdles like the proverbial duck to water.
He scored readily on his debut at Wetherby and followed up with a bloodless victory at Bangor where his main rival ran way below form. It was, nonetheless, an impressive performance by the winner.
Quinn is obviously looking towards the festival meetings at Cheltenham and April with Rutherglen and is aiming to get two more races into him into the interim.
One of those could be a Grade 1 race at Leopardstown in early-February, in which the now retired Countrywide Flame – subsequent winner of two Grade 1 events – finished third. Rutherglen faces a tough task to fill the shoes of his stablemate, but has plenty going for him.
Like Oscar Rock, Urban Hymn is another exciting addition to the Malcolm Jefferson stable this season.
He had previously won a point-to-point by a massive margin and it is over fences that he will properly come into his own, probably next season.
There are, however, decent races to be won with him in the meantime over hurdles.
A smart winner of a bumper on his first outing for Jefferson, Urban Hymn finished second on his hurdling bow at Haydock after being picked off by the winner having done much of the donkey work.
He remains a useful prospect who should have no difficulty getting back in the winning groove in the weeks and months ahead.
Previously trained by Micky Hammond, Yorkist joined Brian Ellison this season and came good at Catterick on Saturday when landing his first win over hurdles.
Significantly, it was also his first run since he had undergone surgery to correct a breathing problem, which had seemingly been preventing him from showing his true worth.
The style of his Catterick success suggested there may now be more to come from Yorkist. He may prove a money-spinner in forthcoming handicaps.
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