The turf

The art of picking winners

14 May 2022

9:00 AM

14 May 2022

9:00 AM

‘Some of our players can hardly write their names,’ moaned one leading football manager. ‘But you should see them add up.’ With soaring energy prices and grocery bills going up, up and up, we are all getting better at maths. My monthly energy bill has just risen by more than I paid for my first car so I need to find a Twelve to Follow this summer that will have the bookmakers making a contribution to the difference. After his domination of the early Flat scene, the most logical option would be to slip on a blindfold, poise a pin over the list of Charlie Appleby’s Godolphin stable inmates and take the first dozen it pierces. But there are more fun ways.

Some urge combing through Sir Michael Stoute’s yard for unexposed four-year-olds or the few older handicappers he has retained in the hope they will be Group horses. This year that would put Bay Bridge and Hasty Sailor on your list. Surprisingly, since the death of Hamdan al Maktoum and his family’s trimming of the Shadwell Estate operation, Sir Michael no longer trains any of the Shadwell horses. But system backers will look to see which horses Shadwell has retained. That would already have given you winners like Al Aasy (6-4) and Alflaila (8-1).

Those in my Twelve have earned their places in different ways. Often I shy away from brilliant and popular trainers such as John and Thady Gosden in search of better prices but I am starting with their Oaks filly Emily Upjohn who Frankie Dettori says has the wow factor. ‘Not many horses take my breath away,’ he declared. But she did. Potentially classy, too, is Westover who won the bet365 Classic Trial in the hands of Rob Hornby for Ralph Beckett. His jockey called him ‘a beast, a serious unit’.

Darryll Holland, known as ‘the Dazzler’ in his globetrotting jockey days, has settled into the training life and looks to have a potential Royal Ascot two-year-old in the filly Primrose Ridge, the scorer from a near-impossible draw at Beverley last month. Another two-year-old heading there is the painstaking David Loughnane’s Omniqueen, an impressive Ascot winner last Saturday. Michael Dods has done us well before with sprinters and I would have included his Blackrod until he over-advertised himself by winning a big Newmarket contest recently. Instead I will include the stable’s filly Azure Blue as a likely sort for 6f and 7f races.

At Goodwood recently Hughie Morrison was beaming after his filly Mrs Fitzherbert had won the Listed mile race. She was progressive last autumn and is clearly improving still. Charlie Appleby is not the only Appleby making strides. Mick Appleby (no relation), who trains near Southwell racecourse, had 99 winners two seasons running before he beat the century last year with 109. I like his sprinter Boundless Power who won last season at Nottingham, Doncaster and Ascot. If need be he can cope with softer ground.

Ed Walker advanced into the top ranks last year partly thanks to his speedster Starman, now at stud. He looks to have a worthy successor in Great Ambassador who was placed both in the Ayr Gold Cup and Goodwood’s Stewards’ Cup last year. Harry Herbert’s Highclere syndicates, having won the 1,000 Guineas with the George Boughey-trained Cachet, look set for a bumper year and their Hebrides, with William Haggas, looked promising in winning a novice stakes at Nottingham. I was impressed with the toughness shown by Andrew Balding’s Spirit Mixer who fought his way through a narrow gap to win at Bath. We must of course pay attention to Irish threats too, not just from Aidan O’Brien but also from his sons Joseph and Donnacha. Joseph’s filly Above The Curve was beaten by one of his father’s at Chester but looks good for the longer term. On that same card Rajinsky’s jockey had trouble pulling him up after the Chester Cup and he will win staying races.

So what of our winter Twelve to Follow? A frustrating tale. Most ran in the best company and from 34 runs five of them won races: Skytastic and Third Time Lucki both claiming two victories and Royale Pagaille, Peking Rose and The Edgar Wallace each scoring once. But the prices were miserable and to a £10 stake we showed a loss of £164. Apologies. We had no fewer than eight seconds and Royale Pagaille, who only once got his ground, was narrowly run out of third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 20-1. Christian Williams’s Kitty Light, still only six, was second at 16-1 in a three-mile chase at Kempton, was beaten only by his stable companion Win My Wings in the Scottish Grand National and in the bet365 Gold Cup, backed down to 4-1 favourite, he finished third to Hewick. I would love to see the little fellow in a Grand National but Christian told me they are having too much fun with his other appearances to plan a season around Aintree’s big contest as they would have to.

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