The Grand National is over for another year and thoughts turn to the Flat season. What better time to introduce the new ten-strong list of Ryedale horses which, hopefully, will pay to follow during the next seven months...
Bogsnog – Kristin Stubbs
A horse who won a couple of weeks ago on the Polytrack of Wolverhampton, Bogsnog can be relied upon to find another race or two on the turf this season. He won at Newcastle last April and, in the process, helped launch Kristin Stubbs’ training career. Consistent and versatile, he can continue to do his trainer proud.
Can You Conga – Mick Easterby
Winner of two of his six races, at Newmarket and Doncaster, when previously trained by Kevin Ryan, Can You Conga has had only one run for Mick Easterby, an unplaced effort under an inexperienced apprentice, at Doncaster’s opening meeting, where he showed a hint of promise. He may need another outing or two before he hits form, but it will be no surprise to see him pay his way as the season unfolds.
City Zen – Tony Coyle
Having provided Tony Coyle with his first York winner when breaking her maiden on Knavesmire last autumn, City Zen might well take the Norton trainer back to the county’s most prized venue this season. She was placed in Listed company at York last August and enjoyed a consistent campaign. Even off a mark of 90, she should continue to prove competitive in her second season.
G Force – David O’Meara
A son of Tim Easterby’s former top-notch mare Flanders, G Force is a new recruit to the David O’Meara yard, having previously been trained by Richard Hannon, who ran him just once last autumn. He showed plenty potential in finishing second in a Newbury maiden and looks an interesting horse for this season when he should be much more the finished article.
No Leaf Clover – Ollie Pears
No Leaf Clover may have won only one of his four juvenile starts, but he created an excellent impression. Successful in a Carlisle maiden, he was beaten only a whisker in a hot nursery at Ayr in September and then failed by only a head to win a Listed race at York’s closing meeting the following month. He rounded off by being beaten little more than four lengths in a Group 2 race at Maisons-Laffitte in France on very testing ground, which was against him. Rated 99, he may not be easy to place this year and Ollie Pears may well start him off in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury this weekend to see how he fares in that traditional 2,000 Guineas Trial. He looks pretty useful.
Pull The Plug – Declan Carroll
Anyone who had doubts that there was some semblance of fluke about Pull The Plug winning at 66-1 on her debut at Wolverhampton in July, would have had to have a re-think the following month at Carlisle when she followed-up in a nursery. They were her only two outings last season and Declan Carroll can find further winning opportunities for this speedy filly this season.
Sandiva – Richard Fahey
Sandiva goes into her second season with excellent credentials. The Malton filly won three of her five races as a juvenile, which included successes at Listed and Group 3 level, and her two defeats were a runner-up effort in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and an unplaced performance in Group 1 company at Longchamp in October when she was beaten only five lengths into seventh on unfavourably testing ground. She may reappear in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket next week and, depending on how she fares, could then be aimed at either the English or French 1,000 Guineas. She is in at the top end, but she is very smart and is not to be underestimated.
Soul Brother – Tim Easterby
Although following in the distinguished hoofprints of his hugely talented sister Body And Soul, a massive earner, may be beyond Soul Brother, there are surely races to be won with him. Tim Easterby ran him only once last year as a juvenile when he finished unplaced, after showing promise, in a York maiden in the summer. He again showed promise when finishing second at Newcastle last Saturday, an outing and an experience that will not have been wasted on him. It is only a matter of time before Soul Brother gets his head in front.
Top Notch Tonto – Brian Ellison
A revelation last season when he elevated himself from smart handicapper to Group-race performer, Top Notch Tonto is back for more this term. The Lockinge Stakes at Newbury next month is a likely starting point for the gelding, who won at Listed and Group 3 level last year for Brian Ellison before being supplemented – at a cost of £70,000 – into the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth ll Stakes at Ascot in October. In finishing second to Olympic Glory, Top Notch Tonto won prize money of £227,000 and justified owner Keith Brown’s decision to fork out such a hefty entry fee. Now rated a lofty 118, Top Notch Tonto faces a challenging campaign ahead in formidable company. But, granted his favourite soft ground, he just might be able to bag a major prize.
Villoresi – John Quinn
A decent second over hurdles at Wetherby recently, Villoresi will be of additional interest if John Quinn switches him back to the Flat. Formerly a decent handicapper on the level with James Fanshawe, the five-year-old has had a light winter campaign and looks the type to keep on the right side under either code, but particularly in the coming months on the Flat at up to a mile and a half.
* Mark Walford, having spent more than two months trying to gain his first winner as a trainer, has sent out three in three days!
Having taken over the licence from his father Tim at Cornborough Manor, Sheriff Hutton on February 1st, Walford had gone close to getting off the mark several times over jumps, but it was on the Flat, at Newcastle last Saturday, that he finally broke the ice with a wild odds triumph. Not only did he score with 25-1 shot Barleycorn Lady, the mount of last season’s champion apprentice Jason Hart, Walford’s other runner in Newcastle’s opening maiden, Missy Wells, finished a half-length second at 66-1. A £1 Exacta bet on the two horses to occupy the first two places paid £576.90 on the Tote!
Walford missed Newcastle as he was attending a stag party in Dublin, but he was back on this side of the Irish Sea on Monday when he sent out Cornborough – another success for Hart – to win at Redcar and followed-up with the Jake Greenall-ridden Fentara in the feature chase at Kelso. However good the stag do was, it couldn’t have been better than the celebrations at Sheriff Hutton!
* Ian Brennan, who was going great guns as an apprentice with John Quinn before quitting the scene after opening the 2011 campaign with an early winner, is back in the swing with his former Norton boss.
Brennan resumed winning ways at Newcastle on Saturday aboard Forced Family Fun, trained by Quinn, and followed-up on stablemate Elusive George at Redcar on Monday.
Brennan, who rode 36 winners in Britain in 2010, spent a year in Australia after leaving and has spent the last two years riding in his native Ireland, where he rattled-up 28 successes. He should not lack for opportunities back in Ryedale this season.
* Mick Easterby has a useful sprinter on his hands in Aetna, who set herself up nicely for the season ahead with a win on her reappearance at Newcastle on Saturday under Graham Gibbons, who completed a quick double on David Barron’s Estreaming half-an-hour later.
* David O’Meara’s Rose Of The Moon was a faller four from home in the Crabbie’s Grand National, but not before running a highly creditable race for a 50-1 shot before fading inside the final mile.