Andy Holding gives us 20 horses to keep an eye on in the 2020 flat season
BRENTFORD HOPE – Richard Hughes
Richard Hughes has yet to get his hands on a so-called top-class colt in his fledgling training career, but there is a decent chance this son of Camelot will propel the Lambourn handler in to the big time. Green in the preliminaries and relatively easy to back as a result on his debut at Newmarket in October, he was given plenty of time to settle into his stride by Jamie Spencer and by the time he had reached halfway, he was still going well in the hands of the Irishman. Still travelling smoothly approaching the three-furlong pole, he was eased into contention shortly after and without his pilot resorted to rigorous riding, he just had to be nudged out hands and heels to record a facile success. Although he probably didn’t beat much on the day, the manner of his victory marks him down as a colt to follow and this Derby entry, who cost 130k as a yearling, will surely repay that healthy price tag with interest during the course of the season.
BORN WITH PRIDE – William Haggas
The mere fact connections pitched the daughter of Born To Sea into a listed prize at Newmarket towards the backend of the season suggested she was held in high regard, but to actually go and land the contest marked her down as a seriously useful prospect. Despite being up against several who had already shown decent form, William Haggas’ filly cast aside her inexperience by making just about all the running and considering the ground was particularly testing by the track standards, her performance is even more meritorious. Closely related to three smart types who all had middle-distance pedigrees, this classy three-year-old has all the attributes to feature in some of the better pattern contests against her own sex during the season.
COLD FRONT – William Haggas
Well-touted before his debut at Newbury (sent off 3-1 favourite in a 20-strong field), the Lope De Vega colt ended up being hugely unlucky not to justify his market position, not to mention the huge blow his defeat dealt to those who took the 1.01 on the exchanges to the tune of 10k. Setting out to make the running, William Haggas’ well-bred colt looked to have matters well in control as he travelled best down to the furlong pole and even though he found plenty for pressure, he just couldn’t quite resist the powerful late surge of the eventual winner. Nonetheless, this was still a hugely promising debut from a horse bred to appreciate much better ground than he encountered at the Berkshire venue (jockeys described it as “heavy, and hard work”) and it would come as something of a surprise if this classy individual does not end up contesting Group races before the season is out.
DOMINO DARLING – William Haggas
The benefit of using speed figures is most noticeable when the numbers help identify very good maiden races and that was very much the case when it came to a mile fillies’ contest at Doncaster towards the backend of the season. Despite being run in desperate conditions, the well-backed favourite, Gold Wand, made sure the pace was honest from the start and by the time she had got down to halfway, there was already quite a few feeling the pinch. Setting sail for home inside the final two furlongs, it soon became clear that only Domino Darling was good enough to go with the Roger Varian-trained filly and by the time the pair hit the line they pulled a long way clear of the rest. Showing great resolution to gain the spoils close home, William Haggas’ newcomer ended up posting a very fast time figure for the conditions and it was good see the well-beaten third home, Wonderful Tonight, go on to boost the form subsequently with a success in a decent maiden contest at Saint-Cloud next time out (sixth also won since). Given how strong she was at the finish and her pedigree, the daughter of Golden Horn looks certain to thrive when the emphasis is on stamina and she is very much one to bear in mind when drawing up a shortlist for the Oaks.
EMISSARY – Hugo Palmer
Based on the betting beforehand to the 1m1f novice stakes run at Wolverhampton on October 12, there were quite a few camps fancying their chances, so the form should turn out to be pretty reliable for future reference. It was also noticeable the pace was very strong from the outset and that resulted in the field being well strung out by the finish, which provides even more credence to the overall standard of the race. Understandably a little outpaced and green early on considering it was his debut, Hugo Palmer’s colt soon settled into a nice rhythm just off the leaders heading down the back straight and by the time the main players had swung for home, he had managed to work himself into a challenging position. Staying on in taking fashion in the straight, the son of Kingman proved too strong for several more experienced rivals to score in some style and considering his jockey never at any stage had to resort to the whip, his display had to go down as a sparkling one for the future. Half-brother to 2010 Derby winner Workforce, Emissary is one to look out for in early season Classic trials.
EPONA PLAYS – Willie McCreery
Just the two starts for this daughter of Australia and both of them were etched with plenty of promise for the future. Firstly, she caught the eye finishing her race off with plenty of purpose on debut at Gowran and then even more so on her final start at Leopardstown a month later. Despite having the benefit of a previous run, she was noticeably still very green in the early stages at the Dublin venue and that sluggishness led to her being poorly positioned at the field turned for home at a course where track position is king. The way she came home in the final two furlongs, however, strongly suggested she has a tremendous engine and it is not difficult to draw to the conclusion she is the one to take out of the race. Bred by a Derby winner, Epona Plays is clearly going to come into her own over middle distances this season and she should prove another who her canny handler does really well with in stakes races.
GOLD WAND – Roger Varian
Although beaten on her debut at Doncaster, the daughter of Golden Horn still came out of the race with great credit and she is one to keep on side for the foreseeable future. Sent off a red-hot 6-4 favourite to land what looked a decent maiden fillies contest on paper, Roger Varian’s filly appeared to have all bases covered until the strongly-finishing Domino Darling came to upset the applecart late on, but the fact the pair pulled a long way clear of the rest in a smart time figure indicates she was more than a shade unlucky not to land the gamble. Whether she will improve enough to reverse the form with the winner should they ever meet again is open to question, but either way, she remains an exciting prospect in her own right and one that should easily be good enough to be considered for pattern prizes at some stage.
FIRST IN LINE – John Gosden
John Gosden’s chestnut enjoyed a pretty productive first season with three wins next to his name, but being a late-developing type, there is a decent chance the best is yet to come from this promising stayer. Sent off a warm favourite to land the competitive Melrose Handicap after two cosy wins previously, the son of New Approach was unlucky to bump into the well-handicapped Hamish on the Knavesmire and he ended up having to settle for an honourable second. Unsuited by very soft ground at Haydock next time, he then bounced back to something like his best form when chasing home the impressive winner Trueshan in what was probably the best three-year-old staying contest of the season at Newmarket. As it turned out, his concession of 7lb to the rapidly-improving Alan King-trained gelding proved too much, but as the pair were miles clear of the rest and the time figure was extremely good, it is probably fair to say his performance in defeat at HQ was his best of the season. Back on track with a comfortable success on his final start of the campaign at Chelmsford, First In Line goes into his four-year-old campaign as a stayer of some repute and although it is early days to suggest he will be a horse to step into the hoof prints of Stradivarius when he retires, it would come as something of a shock if he wasn’t good enough to work his way into the top echelon of stayers before too long for the same owner.
FLYING SCOTSMAN – Aidan O’Brien
Aidan O’Brien’s colt may have failed to trouble the judge on each of his three starts, but at the same time he showed enough to suggest he might turn out to be a good bit better than his current form figures indicate. Not knocked about when exhibiting a little bit of promise on debut in a mile maiden at Navan, the son of Galileo shaped with even more encouragement in what looked a stronger heat on paper at The Curragh next time out. Once again, he was subject to just a hands and heels ride to finish on the coat tails of the main players at the Co Kildare track and it was a similar story on his final outing at Dundalk, when he did all his best work at the end of a steadily run affair. Bred to get middle distances, Flying Scotsman is likely to come into his own in handicaps over 1m4f and beyond and even if he doesn’t live up to expectations, there is always the possibility of him becoming a useful recruit for hurdling next winter.
HAZARD – Edward Lynam
A list of this nature would not be the same without a good old fashioned ‘dark one’ from a shrewd Irish set-up and in this son of Slade Power, we have an architype model that fits all the criteria. Edward Lynam’s colt made his debut in a decent five-furlong maiden at Navan in October and sent off 25-1, clearly nothing too special was expected of him first time on a racecourse. However, to say he was a massive eye-catcher would be somewhat of an understatement and, as a result, he has to go down into any notebook worth its salt. Completely missing the break at the Co Meath venue, the powerfully-built youngster found himself still in last place as the field hurtled down to halfway, but despite meeting all sorts of trouble in running, he managed to somehow work his way into a very creditable fourth-place finish at the line. Indeed, had he received anything like a clear run, it is easy to draw to the conclusion he would have won, and considering how much ground he gave away at the start, his performance deserves even more praise. Sure to have learnt an extreme amount for that initial experience, Hazard rates an exciting prospect going forward and based on his pedigree and being housed at a yard who have traditionally come up trumps with their sprinters down the years, it would come as no surprise if he were to follow in the footsteps of his sire.
HIGHEST GROUND -Sir Michael Stoute
The record books will tell you that if a two-year-old of Sir Michael’s wins first time out, they must be pretty smart, so the fact this son of Frankel managed to achieve the feat on debut, and in the manner he did, bodes extremely well for the future. Very tardy out of the stalls in what looked a useful maiden at Leicester last September, the nicely-bred colt found himself with plenty left on his plate with three to run, but with a sustained effort approaching the final furlong, his relentless progress was maintained all the way to the line and he ended up pulling well clear to win by three lengths. Given how strong he was at the finish, he looks for all the world as though middle-distances will suit him as a three-year-old and even at this early stage, 33-1 looks a fair price for the Derby hailing from a stable who know a thing or two about preparing one for Epsom.
KAMEKO – Andrew Balding
Doncaster’s loss was very much Newcastle’s gain as the Gosforth Park venue ended up staging the first Group 1 to be run on the AW in Britain and as it turned out, the race threw up a highly impressive winner in the shape of Andrew Balding’s colt. Having already finished in the money in two Group races previously, the son of Kitten’s Joy had plenty of experience at the highest level, but against what looked a stellar line-up, no one could have expected him to score in the manner he did. Cruising through to pick up the running at the furlong pole, he bounded clear of his field to score by three lengths and with time figure adding plenty of substance to the visual impression of the victory, his performance has to go down as one of the best seen by a two-year-old last campaign. Entered in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas as well as the Derby, Kameko should turn out to be a serious player in all the big races for colts this season.
LITTLE BECKY – Ed Vaughan
Kempton can often prove a breeding ground for future riches and that could turn out to be the case where Little Becky is concerned based on her winning debut there back in October. In a race run at a sound clip thanks to the exploits of short-priced favourite, Sorrel, the daughter of Sir Percy was able to hold a good position on the inside rail and then once the cutaway appeared, she found a nice turn of foot to run down the market leader close home. On the evidence of just that one outing, Ed Vaughan’s filly seems to have a likeable attitude to match her undoubted quality and coming from a family laden with stamina, she should come into her own over middle distances this year.
MONTATHER – Roger Varian
There was plenty of chat prior to this chestnut colt’s debut at Chelmsford, hence the 8-11 starting price, and as things turned out he couldn’t have been any more impressive in justifying his skimpy odds. Settled just of the speed, Roger Varian’s son of Dubawi was produced with a well-timed challenge at the furlong pole in a race which was truly run and only having to nudged out in the closing stages, he came readily clear of the more experienced pair, Majestic Noor and Power Of Time. Strongly-built with a touch of class about him, this exciting three-year-old should be capable of rubbing shoulders with plenty of his peers in pattern races as the season progresses.
MOTAMAYIZ – Roger Varian
Although his form figures don’t look too pretty, Motamayiz has run better than his finishing position has suggested at least twice and he rates an interesting project for handicaps this season. An eye-catcher in a warm novice event on the figures at Newbury from a bad draw on debut, Roger Varian’s inmate was well-backed to vindicate the impression he created at the Berkshire track when sent to Chelmsford next time, but a bad break that led to a poor track position ended any hope of him being competitive and he trailed home towards the rear of the field. Sent back to the Essex venue for his final start, the son of Charm Spirit once again found himself in a hopeless position turning for home in a similar race, but this time he came home with a good deal more purpose which holds plenty of hope for the future. Indeed, the likes of Batchelor Boy, Millionaire Waltz, Light Lily, and Dark Phoenix have all won out of the same race since and having been given what appears to be a fairly workable mark of just 63 for the forthcoming season, there is every hope this hitherto slightly disappointing sort will improve significantly with time on his back as well as a gelding operation.
OTTOMAN COURT – Charlie Appleby
Runner-up in the infamous clock watchers race won by Visinari at Newmarket on his second outing, Charlie Appleby’s charge then had the misfortune to bump into another top-notcher in the shape of Quadrilateral at Newbury on his next start. Despite being expensive to follow (beaten favourite on his opening three starts), it didn’t stop his legion of supporters going in for the fourth time on his AW debut at Chelmsford and this time he finally repaid the faith. Off the back of an 84-day break and a gelding operation, the son of Shamardal proved a revelation by making all the running at the Essex track and in scoring by a wide-looking six lengths, he also posted a very smart number. As with all good speed figures, it was good to see the runner-up, King Ragnar, boost the form next time with a victory at Newcastle and with the pair 10 lengths clear of the rest, there is every reason to believe the authenticity of the clock. Now connections have finally worked out the inner mechanics of this pacey type, the levels of improvement could go off the scale and it would come as little surprise if he were contesting Group races at some stage this season after burning a hole in his current rating of 95 in a handicap.
THUNDERING NIGHTS – Joseph O’Brien
Joseph O’Brien’s filly didn’t exactly set the world alight on her first two starts, but once given a stiffer test on her final outing of the campaign, that is when she really came into her own. As we know, Galway on heavy ground towards the backend of the season is always a fair test, especially for a two-year-old, and the daughter of Night Of Thunder really relished the examination placed at her feet. Staying on extremely strongly off the home turn, she was able to run down her main two rivals in the market with some ease and with the time figure pointing towards it being a fair race of its kind, there appears to be plenty of substance to the performance on all levels. Whether she will always require plenty of ease underfoot to be seen at her best only time will tell, but that aside, she looks a filly who will almost certainly be well-suited by middle-distances and maybe beyond, and she should be followed accordingly.
THUMUR – Owen Burrows
Making his debut at Kempton towards the backend of the season, clearly Owen Burrow’s colt had been late to come to hand (also had a wind surgery), but the patience shown by connections was rewarded with a performance of some promise for the future. Slowly away and behind at halfway, it soon became apparent the son of Golden Horn had little chance of scoring at the first time of asking, but in finishing off his race best of all from the rear of the field, he left the distinct impression he was the one to take out of the 13-strong field. The way he hit the line suggested the penny was really beginning to drop as the race progressed and he might have even pushed the front two close had he not been so tardily out of the gates. A good-bodied colt with a touch of quality about him, Thumur should turn out to be a penalty kick in a maiden at the beginning of the season and this Derby entry could end up justifying that sort of lofty entry at later date.
TRUESHAN – Alan King
Victory for Trueshan in a hugely-competitive 1m6f handicap at Newmarket towards the backend of the season rubber-stamped him as the best stayer of his generation and that notion was backed up when he defeated the equally smart Hamish on his final outing of the campaign at Newbury. On each start, the son of Planteur displayed stamina and a willing attitude in equal measures and he goes into this season with a great amount of anticipation surrounding his prospects in the staying division.
WITH RESPECT – Hughie Morrison
Sent off a relatively unconsidered 22-1 shot on debut in a 20-strong maiden at Newbury last October, Hughie Morrison’s colt cast aside his position in the market with a performance of some quality. Set a task with two furlongs to run, the grey son of Gutaifan came with a withering late run to cut down the well-backed Cold Front in the shadows of the post and with the time figure pointing towards the race being a very useful one of its kind, his effort deserves even more praise. Clearly well-suited by testing ground, With Respect is always one to consider when similar underfoot conditions arise and he could easily make into a pattern-race performer granted just normal improvement throughout the campaign.