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10 horses to follow for the 2023 Flat season

| 19.09.2023

With the turf campaign now in full swing, we’ve picked out 10 horses to follow for the 2023 Flat season.

Our list features potential Classic contenders, older Group-class performers, improving handicappers and a couple of youngsters worth keeping an eye on.

Auguste Rodin (Aidan O’Brien)

Not the most original place to start but it is hard to leave out the ante-post favourite in this year’s 2000 Guineas betting and early Derby odds.

After kicking off his juvenile campaign with an unlucky second at the Curragh, Auguste Rodin enjoyed a comfortable victory at Naas before landing a Group Two success at Leopardstown.

However, it was his dominant display in the Group One Futurity at Doncaster which really established him as an outstanding candidate for Classic glory, powering clear of a useful field in impressive fashion.

Runner-up Epictetus franked the form by landing a Derby trial at Epsom and we love this son of Rhododendron, who was second to Enable in the 2017 Oaks and claimed a trio of elite-level victories.

Update: Won the Epsom Derby @ 9/2, won the Irish Derby @ 4/11 and the Irish Champion Stakes @ 11/4

Noche Magica (Paddy Twomey)

This son of Night Of Thunder cost £230,000 as a yearling and might be good value at that judged on his opening effort at Cork, when he readily accounted for two other fancied runners in Sturlasson and Alabama.

Noche Magica was slow coming out of the stalls but Billy Lee didn’t panic and the pair made smooth headway before producing a neat turn of foot to pull nicely clear.

Twomey said: “Like plenty of mine on debut, he was green and fell out of the gates but once he was going and joined them, Billy said he was just going through the gears. Hopefully it’s onwards and upwards now and we’d love to go to Royal Ascot.”

Never Ending Story (Aidan O’Brien)

Didn’t quite kick on at two following summer strikes at the Curragh and Leopardstown, having to settle for place money when stepped up in class.

However, O’Brien was quick to insist that we haven’t seen the best of a filly which works supremely well at home and is “very much bred to be a better three-year-old”.

Never Ending Story backed up that view by landing an Irish 1,000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown on her seasonal reappearance, coming through to lead inside the final furlong and win going away, which suggests a tilt at the Oaks is also on the cards.

Light Infantry (David Simcock)

Twice a runner-up in Grade One company at Deauville last summer, failing by just a neck to catch Inspiral in the Prix Jacques le Marois.

Was then sent Down Under and went off favourite for the $6.5million Golden Eagle event at Rosehill, where he was far from disgraced as a close-up sixth of 20 and picked up nearly £100,000 in prize money.

Now back in Newmarket with David Simcock and the dogs have been barking about his early exploits on the gallops, so should pay his way in some top-class mile contests this term, starting out with the Lockinge at Newbury.

Emily Dickinson (Aidan O’Brien)

With last season’s star stayer Kyprios on the injured list, O’Brien needs a super-sub for the cup races and this daughter of Dubawi looks more than capable of stepping up to the plate.

She was competitive in some high-quality middle-distance events last season before getting better and better the further she travelled, signing off with a Group Three victory over two miles at the Curragh.

Returned to action with a visually impressive success at Navan, after which O’Brien beamed: “She loves a trip and she relaxes, that’s the key. She stays well and she has class as well. She’s an exciting filly, she has a big engine.”

That performance was good enough to see her promoted to favourite for the Ascot Gold Cup.

Update: Won the Curragh Cup @ 6/4

American Rascal (Wesley Ward)

It might seem strange to put an American juvenile in our list of horses to follow, but it would be a surprise if this colt doesn’t come across the Atlantic for Royal Ascot after romping home by more than 10 lengths on his Keeneland debut.

Ward is well known for raiding these shores with speedy youngsters, just as he did with American Rascal’s dam Lady Aurelia, who blitzed her opponents in the 2016 Queen Mary and the King’s Stand 12 months later.

Highfield Princess (John Quinn)

Connections didn’t duck any of the major battles with this mare in 2022 and their bravery was rewarded with five wins, including a Group One hat-trick in the autumn.

After landing the Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville, Highfield Princess dropped back down to the minimum trip in wins at York and the Curragh, highlighting her remarkable versatility.

A solid fourth at the Breeders’ Cup took her overall earnings past the £1million mark and there is nothing to suggest she won’t add to that tally as a six-year-old, with the Platinum Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot a probable target.

Update: Won the King George Qatar Stakes @ 4/9

Imperial Emperor (Charlie Appleby)

We’ve already identified one Derby contender in our horses to follow and now it is time for another in the form of this imperious son of Dubawi, who made a real statement at Newmarket on his racecourse bow.

Always travelling strongly in a one-mile maiden that has a decent record for churning out exciting prospects, he put the race to bed in style when asked to go forward by William Buick, handing a useful yardstick a three and a half-length beating.

His trainer was more than satisfied and immediately stated that would be job done for the year and he will return in a Derby trial where he will bid to make the starting line for Epsom.

Stamina shouldn’t be an issue, as his dam Zhukova won the 1m 3f Man o’War Stakes at Belmont Park in America and Imperial Emperor’s full brother First Ruler prevailed over the Derby distance at Meydan in February.

Update: Won Newmarket novice stakes @ 1/3

Coltrane (Andrew Balding)

Followed up a neck second in last year’s Chester Cup by landing the 2m 4f Ascot Stakes in game fashion at the Royal meeting and then stormed home by 10 lengths in Listed company at Sandown.

A step up in class looked well deserved and a neck defeat of Trueshan in the Doncaster Cup justified that move, with Coltrane signing off by finishing an unlucky head second to the same rival on British Champions Day at Ascot.

Balding is hoping to have a crack at the Ascot Gold Cup this season and this six-year-old should again hold his own in any staying contest.

Update: Won the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot @ 11/4 and the Lonsdale Cup at York @ 11/4

Atrium (Charlie Fellowes)

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing enjoyed some memorable days out with this gelding last year, including wins at Ascot, Newbury and Doncaster.

Atrium struggled on heavy ground in the Lincoln at the start of his four-year-old campaign but showed more encouraging signs in the Spring Cup at Newbury.

He may still need a couple more outings and some help from the handicapper before being a betting proposition, but there should be another decent success in him and we’re hoping it comes at a nice price for our horses to follow list.

Update: Won a Doncaster handicap @ 6/1

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Tony Kelshaw