Mark Howard: Taken by Token
Mark Howard, author of the Ahead on the Flat books, suggests five horses that he hopes it will pay to follow this season.
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Numerically, Luca Cumani had his best season for 22 years in 2013 with 69 winners and the Italian is blessed with a strong team for the 2014 campaign, too. Bedford House Stables looks particularly well armed in the older horse division with the lightly raced AJMAN BRIDGE appealing as a likely type for the top 10 and 12-furlong handicaps. Having skipped an engagement at Pontefract this month, due to soft ground, the son of Dubawi ought to be in action shortly and is one to bear in mind for races such as the Zetland Gold Cup, Wolferton Handicap or Old Newton Cup. It will be a surprise if he can't make an impact off his current mark of 92.
Warren Place may not house the same numbers since the sad death of Sir Henry Cecil last summer, but hopes are high that HAMELIN can win a big handicap before making an impression in Pattern company. Unraced as a juvenile, the Cape Cross colt looked a good prospect when winning at Kempton and Leicester during the Autumn. Ridden on both occasions by Richard Hughes, the champion jockey was reportedly impressed with the half-brother to Leger winner Sixties Icon and he starts his four-year-old career on a workable mark of 91. Twelve furlongs-plus on good or slower ground is ideal.
William Haggas is already considering the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June for the once-raced TOKEN OF LOVE. The Cape Cross filly must therefore be well-treated off 77 and is one to watch out for in a fillies' handicap when the ground dries out. A comfortable winner at Leicester last backend, she hails from the same family as Rebecca Sharp who herself won the Group One fillies' event at the Royal meeting in 1997.
Roger Varian is set unleash a useful filly in the seven-furlong fillies' maiden at Newmarket on Thursday in the shape of HADAATHA. A minor setback prevented the Sea The Stars filly from racing at two but she is held in high regard at Kremlin House Stables and, while it remains to be seen whether her Classic entries are fanciful, she is expected to start making up for lost time shortly.
Talking of the Classics, Kingman threw down a significant marker last weekend with a tremendous display in the Greenham Stakes and John Gosden's colt is surely the one they all have to beat in next month's 2000 Guineas. Looking further ahead, a dark one to consider for the Oaks is the Aidan O'Brien-trained RUBY TUESDAY. Beautifully bred, the Galileo filly is a half-sister to the likes of All My Loving, Quarter Moon and Yesterday. Unraced last year, she caught the eye in no uncertain terms on her belated racecourse bow at Leopardstown this month. Beaten a little over two lengths in fourth, she would have won with a more aggressive ride. Her former stablemate Peeping Fawn didn't run as a juvenile and yet came within half a length of winning the Epsom Classic in 2007. Currently available at 50/1, there will be worse ante-post bets this spring.
Mark Howard is the author of Ahead On The Flat and a regular pundit on Racing UK.
This year's edition of Ahead On The Flat is now available to buy from www.mhpublications.co.uk priced £7.99, including postage.
It includes stable interviews with Andrew Balding, David Barron, Marco Botti (New), Roger Charlton, Luca Cumant, James Fanshawe (New), William Haggas, Mark Johnston, David O'Meara, Roger Varian and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.