Fancy free as the Flat moves to centre stage

RACING: On the eve of a fresh season on level turf, the top trainers tell Ian Davies of their horses that should be followed

It's time to talk turf. The Flat turf season starts at Doncaster tomorrow, the Lincoln is on Saturday and the Craven meeting is just 27 days away. Trainers are getting serious with their strings and already have a shrewd idea what 1997 will hold for them. Some believe the next few months will bring Classic success, others hope to stage coups in big - and small - handicaps. Game plans are being drawn up and stratagems devised. Following a list of horses is a fascinating alternative to form- book study - and can throw up big-priced winners. The Independent's trainers' list of Flat horses to follow in 1996 ran 144 times, winning 25 Flat races - and two over hurdles - and showing a pre-tax profit of pounds 43.16 to a pounds 1 stake. They included Royal Ascot's King Edward VII Stakes winner Amfortas (66-1), Nunsharpa (14-1), Jumairah Sunset (12-1) and Tarawa (10-1).

JACK BERRY

"Somosierra, a two-year-old colt by Paris House, should go well in the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster [tomorrow]. The string isn't as forward as usual but my yard has a reputation for having its horses ready early and I feel that, if I don't get mine as fit as possible, I'll be letting the punters down. Somosierra has been showing speed at home and, although I'm in the dark as to how he will compare with other trainers' two-year- olds, I'm hoping he'll give a good account. Hey-Up-Mate [named after the trainer's method of expressing salutations] is another likely early sort, who should soon be running."

CLIVE BRITTAIN

"Fantastic Fellow has done extremely well over the winter and I'm aiming him at the Greenham Stakes at Newbury en route to the 2,000 Guineas. A big strong colt, he won a York maiden before finishing fourth to Desert King in the National Stakes at the Curragh. He led until near the finish when fourth to Bahamian Bounty in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. He will need a mile. Air Express is another who has wintered well. He's very sturdy and did well last year, despite a cracked hoof. He will be aimed at the Free Handicap at the Craven meeting before going for the 2,000 Guineas."

NEVILLE CALLAGHAN

"Danetime has come on over the winter. He won a maiden as a juvenile over six furlongs and was second in the Houghton Stakes but will want seven furlongs or a mile this year. Chieftain is a two-year-old I like. He is by Indian Ridge and has been showing ability. He will be ready to run in April."

PETER CHAPPLE-HYAM

"Revoque is in great form. He has wintered very well and has grown about half an inch, which is about right. I have kept him on the go and he has just done his first serious piece of work. He will run in a Classic trial only if the weather gets bad and he is held up in his work. Otherwise he will go straight for either the 2,000 Guineas or the French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp, where he enjoyed so much success as a two-year-old. I hope Revoque will be a Derby horse but, while I'm sure he'll stay 10 furlongs, I can't be sure about him staying a mile and a half. Royal Court has strengthened up really well and I think he has a big future. He ran a terrific race when two lengths third to Dushyantor and Mons in the Great Voltigeur Stakes and I reckon he had simply had enough for the year when he was fourth to Wall Street in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes on Frankie Dettori day at Ascot."

ROGER CHARLTON

"King Alex had some problems last year and ran only twice, winning a Leicester maiden and then finishing second to Dr Massini at York. He has come on over the winter and I will be looking to start him off in a conditions race over 10 furlongs in April. He will stay a mile and half and should develop into a pattern-race performer. He would not want the ground too firm and might prove suited by an easy surface. Wixim is another lightly- raced sort, who should progress. He won a Ripon maiden last year and runs in the Doncaster Mile [tomorrow]."

PAUL COLE

"Yorkshire had physical problems last year and was prone to scarring easily, but he has come through the winter extremely well. He won easily over a mile at Salisbury and [he is by Cole's 1991 Derby winner, Generous] is going to need every inch of a mile and a half this year. I'll start him off in one of the Derby trials. Merit will again be trained for the Chester Cup - which he won by six lengths last year. He goes well on soft ground."

LUCA CUMANI

"Man Howa has done very well and should achieve things this year. He showed promise as a two-year-old, finishing second to Yashmak in a six- furlong Newmarket maiden before winning a similar race in July. Having had only the two runs he is very fresh and could improve a lot. He will be ready to run in April and will be suited by seven furlongs to a mile. Jaunty Jack ran three times last year, finishing second each time and the form of those races looks good. He is going to stay a mile and a half but I will start him off in a maiden over 10 furlongs in April."

ED DUNLOP

"Generous Gift is a three-year-old who has matured in recent months and should stay a mile and a half. He was a close second in a mile maiden at Thirsk and will start off in a mile and a quarter maiden at the Craven meeting. Jamrat Jumairah has had lots of problems. She ran once as a two-year-old and again made only one appearance last year when winning a Pontefract maiden by five lengths. Although that was on a fast surface, I think she needs give. The plan is to get her some black type [awarded for winning or being placed in a pattern race - which enhances stud value. She won over a mile but might have the speed to prove effective at seven furlongs."

JOHN DUNLOP

"Bahhare has done well physically over the winter. He has strengthened up and my intention is to run him in the Craven Stakes rather than the Greenham at Newbury, where the ground is sometimes soft. Bahhare has never run on anything but fast ground and I don't think he'd like it soft. He will then go for the 2,000 Guineas. Timeform seems to think he might stay the Derby trip, but I have my doubts. His half-brother Bahri didn't and I'm inclined to think he will be a miler. Silver Patriarch is a stayer.

He won a listed race over a mile and a quarter at Newmarket and will start off in a Derby trial simply because, having won that pattern race, there's nothing else for him. He could run in the Derby but, even at this stage, I think he might be more of a St Leger horse."

WILLIE HAGGAS

"Yeast is a thoroughly genuine horse who I'm lucky to have. He's high in the weights for handicaps now and we're hoping to turn him into a pattern- race performer. He'll need to progress again and we will have a lot more idea of how he's shaping after he runs in the Doncaster Mile [tomorrow]. If he wins that, he may go for the Sandown Mile although he is best on a straight track. Royal Crusade is a nice colt by Diesis who won the Chesterton Maiden Stakes over a mile at Newmarket. He has done well since and, while he isn't a strapping horse, he is imposing in a finely-made, polished, way. He won't take much getting ready and I intend to run him in a Derby trial. He'll get a mile and a quarter and I'm hopeful he may stay a mile and a half."

JOHN HILLS

"Crimson Tide finished second in a 7f Salisbury maiden and then won the Houghton Stakes. He was a baby last year but has improved a great deal through the winter. By Sadler's Wells, he is bred to stay a mile and a half standing on his head and he will start in one of the Derby trials at Sandown or the 10-furlong race at the Guineas meeting. He holds an entry in the 2,000 Guineas and, as he shows plenty of speed, might just take his chance. Reunion is a three-year-old filly who won at Redcar in May but then had a setback. We got her back on the track in September when she finished last of three, beaten only two lengths in a conditions event at Leicester. Having won and then gone close in a conditions race, the Handicapper won't rate her lower then 85, so I'm forced to start her off in another conditions event. Although I'd like to go to Catterick or somewhere like that with her, the only such races for three-year-old fillies in April are the Nell Gwyn Stakes and the Fred Darling Stakes. We'll have to throw her in at the deep end but at least we'll have an idea of how good she's going to be. She might be a likely sort for the Italian 1,000 Guineas."

MARK JOHNSTON

"Double Eclipse was unbeaten in three races last year, including the Prix Victomtesse Vigier at Longchamp, and he may start off in that again and then go for the Gold Cup. I really do think he is in the same class as Double Trigger but I don't want them clashing in anything other than a Group One race. One race I have in mind for Double Eclipse is the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp in October as Double Trigger has never done any good there. Fly To The Stars missed most of last season. He was unlucky in both races we did manage to get into him. He delighted me by finishing four lengths third of 23 in a 6f maiden at Newbury and finished strongly when second in a 16-runner 7f maiden at Redcar. He should lose his maiden tag at Doncaster [he runs in the Melton Wood Maiden Stakes (4.40) tomorrow] before going on to better things."

LYNDA RAMSDEN

Jack Ramsden, the trainer's husband and highly respected professional gambler, said: "I'd better be careful what I say because the Handicapper reads these articles, you know. Epic Stand ran six times as a two-year- old, winning on his final outing in a mile nursery at Redcar. He's not badly handicapped and, while he's no star, he should pay his way at up to a mile and a quarter. Fame Again is a five-year-old sprinter who was very badly handicapped last year. However, she is now on a reasonable mark. She is best at six to seven furlongs, is suited by a bit of cut and needs to be held up."

ALEC STEWART

"Gharib ran only once last year, finishing fifth to Happy Valentine in a seven furlongs maiden at Yarmouth. He is in good shape and will be ready to run by mid-April. He will start in a maiden and his trip is going to be 10 furlongs. Shilling is a cheaply-bought filly who had a problem last year which prevented her from running. That has now been rectified. She will also stay 10 furlongs but I shall start her off over a mile."

MICHAEL STOUTE

"Great Child is a good tough sort with plenty of ability who has really come to himself. He was big and undeveloped last year but still managed to get in the frame a couple of times. He is the sort who will thrive on a lot of racing this year. he will be ready to run by April and will want distances in excess of a mile. Desert Story is a genuine colt who ran some good races last year, finishing second in the Royal Lodge and winning the Horris Hill. I'm training him for the 2,000 Guineas and he'll run in one of the trials. It's hard to know if he'll stay further than a mile. He's by a sprinter, Green Desert, out of Aliysa, who stayed a mile and a half."

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