Stable guidance along the Flat's bumpy road

RACING: As the 1995 Flat season starts to gain momentum towards the Classics, leading trainers tell Greg Wood about horses from their yards which carry the burden of expectancy but can reward followers in the coming months
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"They're all going very well, I couldn't be more pleased with them," one trainer said yesterday when asked to nominate two horses to follow on the Flat. Then he paused for a moment's reflection, and pointed out: "of course, we all think that until some of them actually run".

True, but even at this early stage of the season, most good trainers will have a fairly shrewd idea of which of their charges will be the ones to go to war with. Twelve months ago, this survey of the major handlers produced the names of Distant View, then a maiden but subsequently a Group One winner in the Sussex Stakes; Mehthaaf, who took the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Celebration Mile at Goodwood; Lake Coniston, unraced at the time but later a winner in Pattern company and at double-figure odds; and the Norfolk Stakes winner, Mind Games. Other successes included Alqaswar at 11-1 and Persian Brave at 7-1.

Not every horse will realise its potential, of course, but with patience, following a list of horses can be a fascinating and profitable way to approach the season. Patience, indeed, is very important. For example, Decant, offered by James Fanshawe 12 months ago, ran five times without success before redeeming herself - almost - with a victory at 9-2 on her final outing of the year. Often, it is not hard to spot a horse with potential. What sets the best trainers apart is the ability to coax it out, and sometimes it will take a while to discover the secret.

The 32 horses listed here include unexposed handicappers, unraced maidens and potential Classic winners. Wherever possible, keep them on your side in the months to come.


Lochsong may have departed for the paddocks, but the master of Kingsclere is still expecting a few successes at the minimum trip this season, albeit in handicaps, thanks to Jayanpee. The four-year-old is "way up in the handicap but looks to have done awfully well''. At the opposite extreme of endurance, four-year-old Blaze Away is expected to pay his way in handicaps at around two miles.


Hinton Rock injured himself while finishing fifth in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and had several minor problems subsequently, but "he's come back and he's working nicely. He might start off in the Field Marshal Stakes at Haydock. Indonesian is a very nice maiden who's already been handicapped and I think he'll pay his way."


Nothing seemed to go right for Carlburg Stables last season, but whatever was ailing Brittain's string has clearly been eradicated over the winter and he may now reap the benefits as many of his runners will start the season on attractive marks. "Mister Fire Eyes is a handicapper who could win another two or three before the year's out, and Bin Nashwan showed good form last year and will certainly win some nice races for us.''


Twelve months ago, the Cockerham trainer selected Mind Games, who went on to take the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he sees no reason to change his mind as the colt sets out on his three-year-old season. "I would like to think that Mind Games might take Lochsong's crown now that she's retired. If there are any better three-year-olds around then I didn't see them. He a very fast horse." From his typically strong selection of juveniles, Berry selects Playmaker. "He's a big strong colt and I rate him."


More than 200 horses are currently vying for the attention of the master of Warren Place, from which the most successful trainer of recent years selects Clan Ben and Shapely. The former, by Bluebird, has yet to see a track, but it should not be forgotten that Distant View was an equally unfamiliar name when selected by Cecil 12 months ago. Shapely was a well- backed winner of her only start at two, a maiden at Leicester. By Alleged out of the dam of Wharf, she will surely add to her tally in the near future.


Manton rarely fails to provide a serious 2,000 Guineas contender, and Painter's Row will make his seasonal debut in the Craven Stakes with the colts' Classic very much in mind. Chapple-Hyam is also hoping that Close Conflict, just short of the best as a three-year-old last season, will be a genuine Group One contender this term. "He'll go for the John Porter Stakes first time up and I'd like to think that he could improve enough to be an Arc horse by the end of the year."


A trainer whose winning strike-rate is invariably one of the finest in the country expects to find worthwhile opportunities for Mystic Hill and Nash Terrace. The former, a four-year-old, will be campaigned in middle- distance handicaps, while Nash Terrace, a son of Nashwan, will contest good conditions races with a place in the Derby line-up still thought to be a possibility.


The last good prize of the 1994 season, the November Handicap, returned to Bedford House thanks to the impressive efforts of Saxon Maid. More of the same, and possibly better, are anticipated for that filly's four- year-old season - "I'd hope that in time she'd be able to graduate to Group Three races." A three-year-old with potential is Lucky Di. "He'll start off in maidens and hopefully graduate a bit higher than that."


If Sussex is to have a Classic winner this season, most backers would expect Lady Herries' Celtic Swing to be the horse concerned. Next door at Castle Stables, however, there is quiet confidence behind Nwaamis, a son of Dayjur who has contracted significantly in the ante-post market for the 2,000 Guineas in recent weeks. "He's a pretty serious horse and we'd be disappointed if he didn't do something this year," Marcus Hosgood, Dunlop's assistant, commented. Indian Light, who won two of his three starts last year, also holds several Group One entries and is another to watch carefully.


The master of Pegasus Stables has regularly suggested interesting dark horses in recent seasons. This year he chooses Barbason, an unraced three- year-old by Polish Precedent, and Staffin, a two-year-old who is looking fit and ready on the gallops.


Unlike some of the other big Newmarket trainers, John Gosden did not ease himself gently into the new season. A treble at Doncaster on the opening day was followed 24 hours later by the debut victory of Torrential, and this three-year-old, a son of Gulch, is expected to go on to better things. Gosden's second selection, the six-year-old Muhtarram, has considerably more experience, but the stable's followers will be delighted to know that he is still expected to pay his way in the good middle-distance races.


Marsoom has been a reliable stable servant, winning a decent handicap at the Ebor meeting at York last season at 16-1, and should continue to make his presence felt in good middle-distance handicaps. Dance Band, a three-year-old colt, won on his debut at Newmarket last year before finishing second in a good conditions event at Haydock.


Broadway Flyer, who so nearly gave Hills a first Classic success in last autumn's St Leger, will be in action again this year, but the trainer selects two less familiar names. "Al Safeer arrived hereonly at the end of last year, and he is looking a really nice horse. He's had just three runs so far and has got no real form to go by, apart from the fact that he ran in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot first time out. Divina Mia won on her initial outing last year from a bad draw at Kempton. She's rated 75 by the handicapper and she's got a good future."


Overbury, one of the yard's most reliable servants during the last two seasons, remains a horse to follow as a four-year-old, while Applaud is a juvenile filly who already has a significant target. "She'll start off in the next three or four weeks and we'll see if she's good enough for the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot."


Istidaad is still a maiden but his form implies he must break his duck soon. "He would be our three-year-old with the best form. He was second to Juyush at Ascot, and then second in the Acomb Stakes at York. He works like a nice horse and if he stays a mile and a half he could be useful." Stewart has also taken charge of Chatoyant, who showed useful form for Bill Watts last year before his season was cut short by injury. "He's a classy horse if he stays sound. He's moving well at the moment and I'd hope he'll stay a mile and a half eventually."


The Flying Phantom ran in the Derby last year, and while that engagement proved a little optimistic, he is expected to make his mark in staying events this term. Leontios, a three-year-old by Alzao, has wintered well and also prompts optimism at an up-and-coming yard which now houses more than 70 horses.