Four Colts & Four Fillies to Follow for the Flat Season
Covid-19 has run riot on just about every single aspect of life. This virus has not discriminated with who it affects. Nobody has been spared. We do not know exactly when racing will return to our screens and that is not a priority in the grand scheme of things. However, when racing does return, these eight horses should be followed very closely. They should come into this season under the radar with a view to scooping some nice prizes throughout the summer and Autumn.
1. Etoile – 3yo Filly (War Front x Gagnoa – Aiden O’Brien)
It is very rare that a horse of any kind makes its racecourse debut at Group level, but that is what Etoile did in May of last year. Not only did Etoile take part, but she managed to win the Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies’ Sprint Stakes at Naas under a very educational ride from Seamie Heffernan. This is clearly a talented filly but after such a promising start to her racecourse career, Etoile was not seen again until the end of September, when she lined up in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes. Etoile only managed to finish eighth of eleven runners. Following this, Etoile struggled in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. It should be noted that there was four months between Etoile’s debut win and her second run, suggesting that something very likely went wrong during the summer with this daughter of War Front. Etoile definitely deserves some consideration going forward on the back of what she has shown and I would not be too put off but her runs in the Cheveley Park and at the Breeders Cup. Etoile will likely be seen over a mile in the immediate future as War Front was a fine source for speed, but Gagnoa, her dam, was a Group 3 winner at ten furlongs in France before finishing third in the 2008 Irish Oaks.
2. Even So – 3yo Filly (Camelot x Breeze Hill – Ger Lyons)
A Coolmore owned filly hailing from the Ger Lyons stable. Even So is the only horse on this list to have had a run this season, when finishing third in Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes at Naas. Even So was slightly impeded at the gates and proceeded to make her challenge on the far rail, a place which appeared to be avoided at all costs as virtually all of the winners on that Naas card came down the centre of the track. The daughter of Camelot managed to make significant headway on the farside rail to only be beaten around a length by Leminista and Hamariyna respectively. It should all be noted that Even So was backed as if defeat was out of the question. Having been 3/1 the night of the race, 6/4 was the best available price in the morning time. Even So was eventually sent off the 5/6 favourite to win. A step up in trip is virtually guaranteed to help Even So who carries an Irish Oaks entry. With plenty of half-siblings winning over a mile-and-a-half, it would come as little surprise if this filly improved significantly this season when she sees this trip.
3. Highest Ground – 3yo Colt (Frankel x Celestial Lagoon – Sir Michael Stoute)
This is a potentially high class colt. A son of Frankel, Highest Ground is a once raced winner of a Leicester Novice Stakes. This was an extremely eye-catching run. After falling out of the stalls, Ryan Moore shifted Highest Ground off the rail and into the middle of track. Moore then let his mount find his feet in his own time. Despite running green and behind the bridal for virtually the whole race, Highest Ground got competitive and bolted away from a respectable field in taking fashion. This is a three-year-old that on paper, will improve dramatically for a step up to middle distances. Sir Michael Stoute has given Highest Ground a Derby entry but not a Guineas entry. Now I would never question Sir Michael Stoute, however, Highest Ground is by Frankel, who never tried the Derby trip himself. Frankel himself is a son of the Derby winning Galileo. Frankel has also sired the likes of Anapurna, who won an Oaks and a Prix de Royallieu. Frankel can produce horses over these sorts of distances, but it should be noted, Night Of Light, who is a half-sister of Highest Ground, by the outstanding Sea The Stars was only a miler. So there is every chance that Highest Ground may well only want ten furlongs or possibly only even a mile. Highest Ground is in my opinion the most fascinating horse on this list in terms with how he will be campaigned.
4. Lavender’s Blue – 4yo Filly (Sea The Stars x Beatrice Aurore – Amanda Perrett)
Speaking of horses with middle distance pedigrees that only want a mile, look no further than Lavender’s Blue. This may be a filly that steals the show over a mile this year. Amanda Perrett’s filly was travelling all over the talented pair of Queen Power and Star Catcher in an Oaks trial at Newbury, before the petrol gauge went empty. Queen Power picked her up late on that day to win. Being influenced by the pedigree, connections took a shot at the Oaks and Lavender’s Blue was tailed off, finishing last. However, Lavender’s Blue Showed off her ability over one mile on her next start in Group 3 company at Sandown. Even though she was caught in a pocket, Jim Crowley was never in any real trouble two furlongs from home. Lavender’s Blue travelled incredibly strongly and picked up really well to take a small gap and win relatively easily by a length-and-a-quarter. The Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket was next for Lavender’s Blue. That particular test proved to be a little too much too soon for Lavender’s Blue (on only her fifth start). She found the vastly experienced Billesdon Brook, Veracious and Iridessa a little too good. A trio of fillies with seven Group 1 wins between them. The ground was also Good To Soft at Newmarket that day and Lavender’s Blue may be more at home on quicker ground. This is a filly that will improve considerably this year and a Group 1 of her own over a mile will be the aim, possibly something like the Falmouth Stakes may be the immediate aim.
5. Pondus – 4yo Gelding (Sea The Moon x Diablerette – Joseph Patrick O’Brien)
Next up on the list is a horse that has changed stables over the winter. Pondus has made the move from James Franshawe’s yard to the Joseph O’Brien stable. He will now run in the colours of Lloyd Williams, who also has had success with Joseph O’Brien with the likes of Rekindling and Latrobe. Last year, Lloyd Williams purchased a horse called Master Of Reality, before sending him to Joseph O’Brien. O’Brien improved him immensely. Master of Reality went on to finish third at odds of 66/1 in the Ascot Gold Cup last year. Pondus is a ground versatile sort who can be quite keen in his races. Outside of his first three starts, Pondus has raced exclusively in Group company and this is why he interests me so much. Off a mark of 107, Pondus may well be trained for a shot at the Ebor Handicap and then a tilt at the Melbourne Cup. Being by Sea The Moon and out of a Green Desert mare, a step up in trip may not suit Pondus, especially as he is a keen sort, but there is absolutely no harm in trying, as he possesses a tonne of ability. What a pity it is that you can have an antepost bet on the 2021 Gold Cup with any Bookmaker you please but not the One Million Pound Ebor Handicap, bar SkyBet, who offer odds on half a dozen horses, including 12/1 about Goshen (God give me strength). That is a discussion for another day, however. For now, watch Pondus incredibly closely with an eye on the Ebor.
6. Positive – 3yo Colt (Dutch Art x Osipova – Clive Cox)
Here is a colt who has been totally disregarded in the 2000 Guineas picture due to one poor run. That horse is Positive. Out of a mare who is a half-sister to the talented Zonderland, Positive made a successful racecourse debut when winning a Salisbury novice in late June by five lengths. Positive was the well backed 6/4 favourite to win that particular race, suggesting the Clive Cox team knew what they had on their hands. Positive was pitched right into the deep end following his debut. The son of Dutch Art ran a five length second to the exceptional Pinatubo in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. There was absolutely no disgrace in that. Positive was sent off as the 4/5 favourite to win the Solario Stakes on his next start, he only did so by a nose, but the horse that nearly beat him was the subsequent Group 1 winning Kameko. In third place was the now 112 rated Al Suhail, who was second to the promising Military March on his next start in the Autumn Stakes. Positive had a tough race at Sandown and the soft ground likely did him no favours when he finished a lacklustre sixth in the Dewhurst Stakes, again behind Pinatubo. As stated earlier, Zonderland is in the family and fast ground was vital to his success. Positive should come back this year and with the aid of quick ground, he may well make some noise. A mile may well stretch him out, however at 50/1, a flyer on him for the 2000 Guineas (whenever that may be) would not be the worst shout. For all we know, Pinatubo may have peaked and you can never be afraid of one horse. In all likelihood, however, Positive may turn out to be a high-class seven furlong specialist.
7. Santiago – 3yo Colt (Authorized x Wadyhatta -Aiden O’Brien)
Santigo is a three-year-old colt by Authorized. A son of Authorized in the Aiden O’Brien yard in 2020 is about as common as finding a penguin in the South Sahara. Nonetheless, Santiago has shown himself to be quite useful. Having been utterly friendless on his racecourse debut, Santiago was perhaps a little unlucky not to win, finishing second to the decent Howling Wolf. Santiago then went to Galway and finished second to the Group 2 winning Alpine Star. Longclaw, who is a respectable performer himself, was third. Santiago made no mistake at odds of 1/2 at Listowel, beating a subsequent winner in the shape of Sunchart (who is now rated 95). Santiago is a very promising three-year-old who will benefit greatly when seeing a longer trip this year and while he may not be at the top of the Ballydoyle pecking order, that may not stop him from having a very fruitful campaign. Do not be surprised to see him in the colours of JP McManus in late 2020 with a view to a juvenile hurdling campaign. That sort of discipline may well show him to be very smart indeed, given that he is by Authorized (same sire as Goshen and Nichols Canyon just to name a few).
8. Star Catcher – 4yo Filly (Sea The Stars x Lynnwood Chase – John Gosden)
Last, but certainly not least, the list is rounded off by the exceptional three time Group 1 winner, Star Catcher. In my opinion, Star Catcher was the best three-year-old in training last year. All she did was improve and the reason she makes this list is because you can freely have 33/1 about her chances to win the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe. You can get between 50s and 55s for pennies if you play on the Exchanges and this filly has definitely been kept in training in order to take on the colts. Star Catcher wears her heart on her sleeve which was highlighted in her battling performances in the Irish Oaks, Prix Vermeille and the British Champions Fillies and Mares last year, the latter performance also showcased Star Catcher’s ground versatility. Granted, Enable is her stablemate, but one has to remember Enable will be a six-year-old and it is highly unlikely there is any more improvement in her. Star Catcher, who has only had seven career starts is nowhere near her ceiling and 33/1 about her chances for Europe’s open showpiece is ludicrous. It will be interesting to see if John Gosden campaigns Enable over ten furlongs instead of twelve until October due to the emergence of Star Catcher. Time will tell, but I will make a bold claim right here. By season’s end, Star Catcher will be Europe’s highest rated racehorse.