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Flat 10 to Follow – Joe Napier’s Notebook for the Season Ahead

Continuous

The flat season is fully underway but a large majority of the top level action is still to come. Joe Napier has picked out his ten horses worth following for your money this season, including some who could blossom in Group 1 and handicap company.

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Night Raider

Of this year’s likely 2000 Guineas runners, only City Of Troy has been more talked about in the build-up than Night Raider. This may not be a pick from left-field, but his profile is fascinating and makes for significant interest throughout the season regardless of his ultimate finishing position in the Newmarket Classic, should he take his chance.

He won by nine lengths on debut at Southwell in December, shooting into the racing consciousness at a time of year where few would otherwise have been listening. He followed that up with a five-length victory at the same venue on his return, winning at odds of 1/4 from a horse who had beaten a Group-placed runner-up on debut and was fifth himself in a York Group 3. Wherever he ends up after Newmarket, he will be an exciting colt to track.

One Look

Night Raider’s twin from a form and market perspective in the 1000 Guineas is One Look. Rarely do horses go off at 1/20 at any point in their careers, so for Paddy Twomey’s filly to have done so on just her second start tells you a lot about the ability she may possess. She is still as high as 20/1 for the 1000 Guineas at time of writing.

She took the Goffs Million juvenile race at the Curragh on debut by six lengths, an astounding performance that saw her post an RPR of 106. To do that on her first start was extraordinary, with the runner-up beaten only 2½ lengths in a Group 1 a week later. She still has to prove it at the top level, but like Night Raider, whatever happens in the Guineas may only be a prelude to an exciting season ahead for connections.

Continuous

A lot of focus will be on City Of Troy from within Aidan O’Brien’s ranks, but there is a chance one of his older horses may end up being a quieter one to watch for this season. Continuous took his time to make an impact at three, but once he had, he did so in some style.

After finding only King Of Steel too good at Ascot, he won both the Great Voltigeur Stakes and the St Leger in comfortable fashion, ensuring he went off just 14/1 for the Arc. He was O’Brien’s only runner in the race, but acquitted himself well to finish fifth, the second best of the UK and Ireland contingent. The way he improved throughout the season gives serious hope that he may be even better at four, and early prices have him at around 9/1 for the Coronation Cup, although connections could alternatively turn him into a stayer.

Montassib

The career of Montassib to date has been a bit of a paradox, seeming both longer and shorter than it actually has been. This is primarily down to his 598-day break between a debut success and his reappearance as a four-year-old, after missing his entire Classic season.

However, he has since taken a long time to fulfil the immense promise of his first three starts. Prior to a big heritage handicap success at York to conclude last term, he had won just once in 11 starts, but the drop to 6f seems to have invigorated him. Stepping up to Pattern company, he took the Listed Cammidge Trophy on Lincoln day at Doncaster in taking fashion and there may well be more to come as he inevitably goes up further in class this season.

Knight To King

Dermot Weld can usually be relied upon to unearth a secret talent every once in a while, and Knight To King is bred to continue improving with time. He may be a bit of a slow burner in terms of following him this season, but there is a chance we will see the upper limit of his ability before the season is out.

He won so takingly on debut that his RPRs have actually steadily regressed since. However, he is a half sibling to multiple Group 1 winner Ghaiyyath and his own yard’s Zhukova, another winner at the top level. Both horses only found their top stride at four and five, so there is reason to keep the faith in Knight To King after his quiet second on reappearance at Listed level, and he may swoop in a couple of domestic contests this term.

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Torito

Like Knight To King, Torito is by Kingman and related to numerous high quality horses. He last raced in June due to a setback, but had been on the upgrade, and once again there is reason to believe he may be a better four-year-old than a youngster.

His half-sister Journey won a Group 1 for the same yard, while both Indigo Girl and Mimikyu, full siblings of Journey and half-sisters to Torito, won Group 2s. This is therefore a family the Gosdens know very well, though being by Kingman may mean this youngest member of the line is kept to slightly shorter middle distances. HIs victory in an Epsom handicap last season was one of a Pattern quality horse and he could be up to big things this term.

Roi De France

Another for the Gosdens, Roi De France may yet become a high quality individual and even a Classic contender. He has only run once, being beaten into second by an odds-on shot who had already won, but was not defeated by far. More notably, he drifted markedly on the day, opening up at single figures in the morning before going off at 14/1.

In behind, the fourth, stablemate Majed, has won since and is now rated 88 having finished three lengths adrift of him. The fifth won immediately afterwards, while even the 250/1 last of eight won comfortably on his handicap debut in a small stakes affair. The form has substantial depth, and this son of Sea The Stars has Dante and Derby entries. Having made his first appearance over 1m, it is more than likely he will improve up in trip.

Uxmal

Soft ground may be crucial for him and he has had an unusual racing career to date, but Uxmal may be a quiet one for big staying handicaps either side of the Irish Sea this term. Many of his type would likely have gone hurdling by now, especially given he is trained by Joseph O’Brien, but he began to show substantial ability at the end of last term.

He possessed form of 4242 in his first four maiden starts before readily getting off the mark over 2m at Tramore. He quickly stepped up to Listed company at Saint Cloud, finishing a narrow runner-up over 1m6f on soft ground, which could well bring out the best in him for a race such as the Ebor. However, he has an entry in the Chester Cup over 2m2f and may prove a horse for even more marathon tests.

Tunbridge Wells

His full brother Blackbeard only ever raced as a juvenile, but he did so winning six of his eight races, concluding with back-to-back Group 1s. The Prix Morny at Deauville and the Middle Park at Newmarket both fell his way as he showed prodigious pace.

Tunbridge Wells has already been spoken about in positive dispatches from his yard and may well be targeting similar levels of race by the end of this season. We are yet to see him on a  racecourse, but it will be worth following him when he does: Blackbeard won his first three starts, so expect fireworks from the off.

Kalahari Blue

I wanted to include a juvenile of Ollie Sangster’s, the latest resident at the famous Manton stables. He enjoyed 13 winners from 81 runners in his first season in 2023, a strike rate of 16%, with his juvenile winners returning a profit of £11.61 to a level £1 stake, with the best of those, Shuwari, finishing second in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile.

One of his I would have on side throughout the season if making the racecourse is Kalahari Blue. She is a half-sister to James Fanshawe’s Archer’s Dream, who boasted a healthy strike rate and highest RPR of 109. Her full sister, Sweetest, was not among the highest rank of Aidan O’Brien’s juveniles last season, but she went off odds-on for her debut, so big things were clearly expected. The match of Blue Point/Badr Al Badoor can still bear fruit with Sangster’s filly, who is entered for Newbury’s Super Sprint in July.

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