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Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

Tuesday 26 March 2024
Seconds Out: Oli Bell's Monthly Blog

Firstly, once again a huge well done to Golden Maverick’s owners following his breakthrough hurdle win at Haydock the other day. He had promised in his two prior starts that a win was just around the corner, and he didn’t let us down! A big thanks to Jamie Snowden and Gavin Sheehan as well as all the staff looking after the horse – lots to look forward to!

I continue to see the ever growing RaceShare community of owners on the racecourse, and at Doncaster recently I saw a number of Scampi owners, excited, (understandably so) about the 2024 Flat season which launched on Lincoln day.

With that in mind this month's blog will be a look ahead to my 10 horses to follow for the Flat season – some will be fairly obvious, and hopefully some less so but with any luck they’ll all be worth following!

1 – City of Troy

Given this unbeaten son of Justify trained by Aidan O’Brien is the 4-6 favourite for the Guineas, you won't be surprised to know that this is the most obvious of all the selections on this list. You’ll probably all be aware of his talents and what he achieved last year – therefore, he’s obviously going to be a real force in the Guineas and all being well, the Derby. If he wins both of those races, which I truly think he has the talent to do, connections will have a real decision on their hands. Do they then stay in the UK and try and win the St Leger and win the Triple Crown here or, and this is probably more likely, do they take him to the States, race him on dirt and try and make him a turf and dirt champion in the same year. That would make him a history-making horse and commercially make him the most lucrative proposition in global racing moving forward into the breeding barns. At this stage, the world really is his oyster and whilst it is early days to be heaping this level of praise on him, I haven’t seen a 2yo as impressive as him since the days of Frankel. Here's hoping he can deliver what many think he can.

2 – One Look

Another unbeaten horse albeit just one win from one start but my word she was impressive. She won the 23 runner Goffs Million by 6 lengths on debut. It’s a race worth 610,000 Euros to the winner and I'm sure Paddy Twomey, her trainer, would have had this race in mind for her for a while. She couldn’t have been more eye-catching in her victory and on the back of it she earned quotes for the 1000 Guineas which looks as though it will be her early season target. The first fillies classic of the season has a very open feel to it and at the current prices One Look is definitely the horse I'd be most keen on siding with. The form has real substance to it with the runner up Cherry Blossom having finished 2nd in the G2 Lowther prior to the Million and 4th in the G1 Cheveley Park the start after the million. Paddy is one of the shrewdest operators around and knows what he's dealing with – if she lines up in the Guineas, I'd seriously respect it.

3 – Valvano

Next up another horse who is 1 from 1 and another (like City of Troy) who holds a Derby entry, this time it’s the Ralph Beckett trained son of Night Of Thunder, Valvano. He was hugely impressive winning his maiden at Nottingham in October on heavy ground by 6 lengths from Tokyo Bay – he’s out of a Duke of Marmalade mare and you'd imagine he will make up into a very smart middle distance performer this year.

4 – King Of Steel

What a horse this lad has turned out to be for Amo Racing and Roger Varian – sent off huge odds in the Derby he nearly got the better of Auguste Rodin before rounding off his season with a fitting farewell for Frankie with victory in the Champions Stakes. It’s a big season for David Egan in his new role as retained jockey for the ever expanding ownership group and he, and they, will be hoping King of Steel can cement himself as the middle distance champion this year.

5 – The Wizard Of Eye

A horse I, along with my ITV colleague Jason Weaver has liked for a long time is The Wizard Of Eye – formerly trained by Stan Moore he has since switched stables to Charlie Fellowes’ yard in the off season, where he was given a break and a gelding operation. He’s always shown himself a very talented horse and has been highly tried throughout his career, running with real credit in some very good races but perhaps with the change of scenery and visions of becoming a stallion behind him he could get his neck in front and capitalise on what looks a very reasonable handicap mark of 99. I don’t think it will be long before we see him back in Group races if he takes to his new surroundings.

6 - My Noble Lord

Now onto a slightly more unusual selection and one that I doubt many of you would have heard of but he could be a handicapper to have a bit of fun with. Trained by Michael Bell, My Noble Lord is a son of Noble Mission whose progeny tend to improve with age and I know from speaking to the team that this lad has done really well from 2 to 3. He has had three qualifying runs and will be sent handicapping this year off a basement rating. Given the improvement in him physically through the winter I would expect his handicap mark to be a good bit higher come the end of the year.

7 – Believing

Now we move onto two horses from George Boughey’s yard after a flying start to his training career! The first is Believing who runs in the Highclere silks, the same owners that George won the 1000 Guineas for with Cachet. Believing is a really likeable sprinter who will be aimed at the sprint races at Royal Ascot – according to her trainer she could run in both the G1 sprint races during the Royal Meeting. She is versatile ground wise, largely very consistent and in a division where they all seem to get their turn to win one of these races it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her involved in the finish of a Group 1 sprint this year.

8 – Hopewell Rock

Next up is a 2yo named Hopewell Rock who I must confess to not knowing a huge amount about myself but George assures me this is one to keep on the right side of. This horse is by New Bay from the Tattersalls Book One sale and according to his trainer will be a 7f/1m horse in time. He has been showing up nicely at George’s in his early work and could be a 2yo to keep on the right side of.

  1. Azada

Dermot Weld has been one of the world's best trainers for a number of years now and I think he may have another very smart horse on his hands this season in the form of Azada. She won her one and only start to date at Leopardstown by the best part of 3 lengths despite being slightly slowly away and running green. The way she hit the line was hugely impressive, winning with her head in her chest and I was seriously taken by the visual impression of that win. Looks can be deceiving but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dermot tried her in top level company soon and it may be that the Irish Oaks, a race which she is entered in, will be her main target.

  1. Henry Longfellow

Aidan O’Brien is seemingly blessed every year with superstar equine talent but I think the Ballydoyle 3yo’s this year are above average even by their incredibly high standards. Henry Longfellow is three from three as a two-year-old, and whilst all eyes were focused on City Of Troy – Henry was quietly but very stylishly going about his business. He may well go to France for their 2000 Guineas, thus avoiding a clash with City of Troy but at this stage it looks as though Aidan will have to map out the season of 2 exceptional mile/middle distance horses and I for one can't wait to see it unfold!

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18 November 2022
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