We are into September now and with the Listowel harvest Festival not too far away, the pace of the National Hunt season is just beginning to pick up. That calls for a change of tactic, as the early part of this series has focused on individual horses and has given me the dreaded “10 to follow”, but with so many horses to cover before we get fully underway the final few posts will be more generic.
As I discussed earlier on in this series, Willie Mullins has dominated the French Recruits this year, with almost half my list having his name next to them. They won’t all turn out to be the next Vauban or State Man, many of them look like longer term projects and given the embarrassment of riches that he already has in his Closutton yard, many of these horses are more likely to be beaten by their own stablemates throughout the season than they are to bump into a different rival. As I have said before, I have really fallen out of love with Ante-Post betting and so I haven’t specifically looked at any of these horses with Cheltenham or anything else in mind. I have rough ideas for which look like handicap prospects, which look like Graded performers and who are just biding their time before they go chasing, but that’s as far as I have got this year.
The hardest thing about writing this series every year is the research. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a published list of horses sold to the UK and Ireland. It’s a complicated game of noting good performances and then checking for horses who are marked as exported, waiting to see if they appear in the excellent Jour de Galop site and a few others or checking the latest registrations with the BHA or HRI. I am sure there are some that I have missed as there have been before, most notably State Man last year, but I can say with confidence that I have around 85% covered this year. If there are any I have missed, please feel free to reach out and ask as it will be very much appreciated.
HIP HOP DAVIS
An interesting 4-year-old by Martaline, he finished 2nd on her only start for the Menato team when chasing home Kim D’Or in a bumper at Senonnes in May. The winner has not raced since, but the pair had pulled readily 7-lengths clear of the rest and produced a decent time figure in the process. She descends from the family of 1996 Champion Chase winner Klairon Davis and showed enough speed at Senonnes to suggest that she will be able to make her mark at 2-miles, though a trip up to 2-miles 4-furlongs should at least be in range. In time she will probably go chasing, but for now she looks a decent Novice hurdle prospect and there should at least be a maiden hurdle for her this season. She will run in the colours of Susannah Ricci.
A half-brother to Il Etait Temps (5th in the Triumph hurdle in 2022), he comes from a family that all racing fans should know well, with Espoir D’Allen, Envoi Allen and Eldorado Allen all notable names on the page. After just 1 start, when 3rd in an AQPS bumper at Vichy, he could be anything. We can slightly upgrade the form of that race at Vichy, as he was short of racing room in the home straight, but kept on nicely to be beaten just 2-lengths. The form of that race is best described as mixed, but it was a good introduction to racing and he is open to any amount of improvement. He looks to be a decent Juvenile hurdles prospect and will also run for the Ricci’s.
Another recruit from the Menato yard, this 4-year-old son of Coastal Path finished 3rd on his only start over hurdles at Auteuil in April. Having travelled strongly, he hit the front at the 3rd last and looked the most likely winner turning in, but he tired after the last and drifted away from the rail, which is always a disadvantage at Auteuil. The 2 horses who finished ahead of him were more experienced and I don’t think he should be judged too harshly on his finishing effort as this was still a solid start to his career. With the benefit of this experience, he should improve and looks another promising type for a Novice hurdle campaign.
The Prix Grandak is one of the key trials for 3-year-olds every season and the 2022 renewal is no exception. The race was won by Bo Zenith (now with Gary Moore), but a close 2nd was Blood Destiny. Having raced in mid-division behind a runaway leader, he was left with a lot to do but made good late progress in the home straight. He finished ahead of 3 subsequent winners and the race produced a final circuit time 5-seconds faster than the very impressive Lossiemouth (also now with Willie Mullins) over the same course and distance. The Prix Grandak looks to be a very strong piece of form and on the evidence of his debut, he looks likely to be one of the leading Juvenile hurdlers in the yard.
A really exciting 3-year-old Filly by No Risk At All, she is 2 from 2 in her career so far after impressive wins at Nantes and Auteuil. She travelled very strongly throughout her win at Auteuil and hit the line well in a manner that would suggest she is easily capable of adding some Black-type to her CV in the near future. As a 3-year-old Filly she will need to be carefully campaigned, but there will be opportunities for her and she is a lovely prospect for JP McManus.
From the family of Roi des Francs (Gordon Elliott), this 4-year-old by Spanish Moon arrives with from Gab Leenders with a perfect record of 1 win from 1 race. The form of his win at Auteuil in June is up for debate and based on the ratings of those in behind, he probably didn’t need to run beyond a mark of 115 or so to win that day, but he did it nicely enough. The heavy rain on the day made a mockery of the early going description and the slow times of the later races on the card suggest that the storm really got into the ground, but Spanish Harlem travelled well enough in the difficult conditions and showed a good battling attitude to hold on in the closing stages. Probably a longer term prospect, he looks likely to stay well and will probably jump a fence in a year or 2.
He isn’t Vauban because he is already a 4-year-old, but he does have the same French rating of 46-kilos on the Flat that Vauban had before he left to join Willie Mullins. Placed at Listed level, he won 2 of his 11 starts for the Wertheimers and ran to at least the equivalent of 105 in his time with Carlos Laffon-Parias. Fastnet Rock has a limited number of runners over hurdles so it is hard to be certain that he will take to it. On the evidence of his flat form and pedigree, Absurde seems likely to stay around 2-miles, but he does have a decent turn of foot and looks just the type that the yard do well with at the major festivals. He went for €260,000 at the sales and Pierre Boulard, who completed the purchase told Jour de Galop “Willie Mullins customers love versatile horses that can succeed both over jumps and over long distances on the flat. Absurde has the profile to succeed on good ground over even longer than what he has run so far…” He could well become a dual-purpose type, but his strong travelling nature and decent turn of foot make him an ideal type for those big-field handicap hurdles in the Spring.
DADDY LONG LEGS
Another promising 3-year-old recruit, this son of Almanzor finished 2nd in a maiden at Saint-Cloud in May on his only start for Nicolas Clement. As a piece of form, that race is far from spectacular, but from a wide draw he did well to get into a decent racing position in mid-division and kept on very strongly in the home straight to be eventually beaten by only a short-head. Almanzor has had very few runners over hurdles, so it is far too soon to make any judgement over his ability as a National Hunt sire, but on the limited evidence we have, Daddy Long Legs looks to have enough ability to make his mark and will surely stay further in time.
I’m going to leave it there, because I don’t want this list to go on forever and I have already covered Lossiemouth, Zarak the Brave and Mister Policeman earlier in this series. There are other names that I could have added and there are also a few that I believe to be in the Mullins yard but that I have not been able to confirm. Not all of these horses will appear at Listowel or Down Royal in the coming weeks and patience is another key to researching this. Historique Reconce was on this list a year ago and she only made her Irish debut at Tramore 3-weeks ago, a winning debut I might add. As I said at the start, I won’t have them all covered, but there should be several winners on this page and in various forms, they are all worth looking out for.
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