Paddock Picks: Developing horses which have impressed in recent months

By Andrew Ayres

KEMPTON December 26 (good)

3m novice chase (Class 1)

Well contested race

MIGHT BITE (Nicky Henderson) grabbed the eye when winning over hurdles here last term and looked in magnificent shape again. Talk, dark and handsome, he has a touch of the Sprinter Sacre’s about him. He put up an outstanding performance too, making most and having his rivals stone cold before taking a heavy – and undeserved – fall when clear at the final fence. Might Bite would have clocked a time similar to Thistlecrack in the King George had he completed and is clearly an exceptional novice. Granted a full recovery from his heavy fall Might Bite should go close in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March.

PLUMPTON January 2 (soft)

2m novice hurdle (Class 4)

Useful race for the track

ACTION REPLAY (Philip Hobbs) looks a chaser in the making and stepped-up on his previous efforts to chase home the well backed Golden Birthday. He’s improved with every start and will surely win a novice hurdle or two before developing into a better horse over fences.

LINGFIELD January 4 (standard)

1m4f handicap (Class 4)

Impressive winner

PETITE JACK (Neil King) is only small but looked in tremendous shape and bolted-up to remain unbeaten in four starts here. Jockey Martin Harley believes he will stay 2m and suggested connections try to win a fast track qualifier before aiming at the Marathon on Good Friday. Petite Jack’s sharp turn-of-foot will make him a real handful for the established AW stayers and he must be followed.

SANDOWN January 7 (soft)

2m four-year-old hurdle (Class 3)

Uncompetitive race

ROYAL RESERVE (Ian Williams) was a capable but inconsistent performer on the Flat and showed definite signs of ability on his first two starts over hurdles. The handsome gelding was all at sea on this rain-sodden surface but has the scope to improve and could pop up at a big price on faster ground this spring.

Royal Reserve (A Heskin)

FONTWELL January 8 (soft/heavy)

2m1f110y mares’ novice hurdle (Class 5)

Front two pulled clear

LITTLE MISS POET (Philip Hobbs) looks the part and ran a nailer on her hurdling debut, losing out narrowly to the useful My Khaleesi (placed in a Listed race on her previous start) after a protracted duel from the second last. She jumped better as the race progressed and is certain to win races judged on this promising effort.

2m3f handicap hurdle (Class 3)

Useful winner

WALT (Neil Mulholland) is a chaser in the making but has the pace to win decent races over hurdles and was quite impressive here. He seems to be maturing mentally – he has raced keenly in the past – and should pick up another race at this level before moving up a grade.

LINGFIELD January 9 (standard)

1m2f fillies and mares maiden (Class 5)

Fair form

UTOPIAN DREAM (John Gosden) looked a size bigger than most of her rivals and caught the eye finishing fourth under a considerate ride. She’s bred to stay further (dam won over 1m6f) and will surely be placed to advantage by her top class yard this winter.

KEMPTON January 11 (standard-slow)

1m3f handicap (Class 5)

Modest event

THAHAB IFRAJ (Ismail Mohammed) had been heavily backed through the day and was just about the paddock pick. Held up in rear – surprising tactics as he looked a stayer when placed at Chelmsford and Southwell – he didn’t find his legs until inside the final furlong and came home strongly to finish second. Thahab Ifraj needs further or a more enterprising ride and, granted that, will win races at this level.

6f stakes (Class 2)

Impressive winner

PRETEND (Charlie Appleby) is a magnificent specimen and just about king of the AW sprinters. He probably needed the run on this return from a 164-day break, but was in a different league to his rivals and produced a superb turn-of-foot to run out an emphatic winner. Connections will presumably aim Pretend at the Sprint final at Lingfield on April 14 and he will be mighty hard to beat there.

LINGFIELD January 13 (standard-slow)

1m three-year-old handicap (Class 6)

Above average race for the grade

OURMULLION (John Best) looked well on this return from an eight week break and attracted heavy late support. He duly produced an improved performance, travelling strongly throughout and running on stoutly to finish second behind the well-treated Tisbutadream. Ourmullion has improved since being gelded in the autumn and should be hard to stop next time.

1m handicap (Class 6)

Modest event

ATHLETIC (David Evans) was thrown-in on his best form and promised to be improved by a recent move to the shrewd Evans yard. The race did not pan out ideally – Athletic is best ridden patiently behind a fast pace – but he showed enough in finishing third to suggest some of old ability remains. The eight-year-old looked in good shape and can pick up a low grade handicap soon.

LINGFIELD January 14 (standard-slow)

1m handicap (Class 2)

Muddling race

MR BOSSY BOOTS (Amanda Perrett) continues to impress in the paddock and shaped well to finish second after rearing as the stalls opened. He’s run a series of good races in hot handicaps this winter and will surely strike soon. It’s worth noting that both his victories have been gained over 7f and a return to that trip could suit.

Mr Bossy Boots (P O’Donnell)

1m three-year-old maiden (Class 5)

Run-of-the-mill contest

WHOSYOURHOUSEMATE (Ed Vaughan) looked well but fluffed the start and was palpably green through the early stages. He came home best of all though, nabbing third spot behind the aggressively ridden winner Blaze Of Glory. Whosyourhousemate is bred to stay further (half-brother to the middle-distance AW winners Starlit Cantata and Sky Khan) and should go close next time.

ROCK N ROLL GLOBAL (Richard Hughes) is a big, heavy-set individual who had shaped encouragingly on his debut at Kempton. Well-backed despite looking a shade burly, the big chestnut was basically outpaced from halfway and did well to finish fourth. Handicaps over 1m2f or beyond beckon for Rock N Roll Global and he will be worth supporting when moved into that sphere.

1m three-year-old maiden (Class 5)

Fair form

OPINIONATE (Amanda Perrett) really is a good-looking sort and totally outshone his rivals in the paddock. Well placed throughout, he kicked for home off the bend and overcame inexperience to run out a decisive winner. Connections are reportedly looking for a handicap at Kempton before the turf season begins and it will be disappointing if Opinionate fails to progress.

TRADE ROUTE (David Elsworth) definitely looked in need of the outing and shaped better than his finishing position (fifth) suggests after running green. He’ll sharpen up for the outing and is certain to improve.

DAMO (Simon Dow) is a well-made individual who needed the run. He was never sharp enough to get competitive but showed some ability before blowing-up and could develop into a fair handicapper for his under-rated yard.

A-Z of Paddock Positives

ACTION REPLAY (Philip Hobbs)

ATHLETIC (David Evans)

DAMO (Simon Dow)


MIGHT BITE (Nicky Henderson)

MR BOSSY BOOTS (Amanda Perrett)

OPINIONATE (Amanda Perrett)



PRETEND (Charlie Appleby)

ROCK N ROLL GLOBAL (Richard Hughes)

ROYAL RESERVE (Ian Williams)

THAHAB IFRAJ (Ismail Mohammed)

TRADE ROUTE (David Elsworth)


WALT (Neil Mulholland)


*This article was set to feature in the February 2017 issue of Racing Ahead but was wrongfully omitted.


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