Ready to hit their stride

As the Flat season gets serious at Newmarket, Chris McGrath picks the dark horses to follow
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The Independent Online

1. Baralaka

3yo gelding by Barathea

Trainer Sir Mark Prescott

A familiar story, green and outpaced in three juvenile maidens and will no doubt be stepped up in trip when starting in handicaps this time round. But this one, besides being unusually eligible for improvement as he matures into his powerful physique, did show more than most stablemates in a similar mould and could turn out to be a cut above the average.

2. Commissionaire

3yo colt by Medicean

Trainer John Gosden

Every autumn dozens of well-bred juveniles win maidens for top stables, and it is impossible to say which will improve most. But this one has as good a chance as any, judged on the way he disposed of an odds-on favourite from the Stoute yard on his debut at Yarmouth; last early on but hurtling through the field and, by no means all out, won decisively.

3. Escape Artist

3yo gelding by Act One

Trainer Tim Easterby

Out of a Shirley Heights mare and certain to prove a different kettle of fish once stepped up in trip this season. Showed a bit more in each of three starts around 7f last term, gradually cottoning on without being given too hard a time. His dam is a half-sister to a couple of top-class performers in Barathea and Gossamer, and he can surely progress past his initial handicap mark.

4. Glass Harmonium

4yo colt by Verglas

Trainer Sir Michael Stoute

Down the field in the Craven a year ago but went on to win at Royal Ascot and, with only seven starts under his belt, looks a candidate to break into the elite with maturity. Disappeared for two months after Ascot, but two spins in the autumn suggested he will now relish middle distances. Investec Coronation Cup entry bodes well.

5. Layla's Dancer

3yo colt by Danehill Dancer

Trainer Richard Fahey

Scrambled home first time out in soft ground at Thirsk last September, but had plenty in hand judged on the way he travelled and then took charge of the race before idling. As it was, the handicapper could not react too severel, and a flying fourth in a Doncaster nursery, on his only subsequent start, confirmed that he will end up better than his present rating. Steps up at Beverley today.

6. Mistoffelees

4yo colt by Tiger Hill

Trainer Luca Cumani

Has needed time and patience but three quick runs to qualify for a rating at the end of last summer suggested he may yet prove worth the wait. Hopelessly green on his debut, he could stretch his legs over 12f next time and matched that midfield finish though dropped back in distance on his final start. Maturity and a test of stamina promise belated fulfilment.

7. Redden

3yo gelding by Pivotal

Trainer William Haggas

Too goofy to show what he might be able to achieve last autumn. He tried to dismantle the stalls on his debut, was then taught to race with a midfield finish next time, and lasted to the furlong pole in soft ground when qualifying for a mark at the final meeting of the year. Castrated in the meantime, he is bred and built to come into his own at three.

8. Ship's Biscuit

3yo filly by Tiger Hill

Trainer Sir Michael Stoute

From an excellent family that dependably progresses with time and distance, she showed luminous promise on her sole juvenile start, over a mile at Kempton in November. She finished powerfully for fifth behind another useful prospect in Aviate. This Investec Oaks entry will not be long in building on those foundations over middle distances.

9. Tootsie Wootsie

3yo filly by Sadler's Wells

Trainer Aidan O'Brien

St Nicholas Abbey, the champion juvenile, is unmistakably Ballydoyle's most important prospect. But keep an eye on this well-bred filly, who was palpably green for her debut at Leopardstown the other day but showed definite ability. She could make big strides once her stable hits top gear.

10. Wake Up Call

4yo filly by Noverre

Trainer Chris Wall

Mixed pedigree, she ended up winning a sprint maiden on her third start last term. Regardless of her ultimate trip, her trainer can be relied upon to place her profitably this term.