Eyecatchers and horses to follow - Thursday 11th July 2019

Red Armada

Three year old colt trained by Clive Cox. Undoubtedly RED ARMADA is on a decent official handicap mark of 85. 

He’s has had five runs to date. On his last outing he won a nothing race, it’s the form of his head 2nd to the Britannia winner Biometric in a Newbury Novice race that takes my eye. There’s depth to the Newbury race, with a couple of future winners in behind. 

Clearly having had just five runs to date Red Armada is open to improvement, but I don’t think he necessarily needs to of his current mark. If he runs to the level of the Newbury race then he’s capable of picking up a couple of handicaps before his mark is revised. 

Raced at 7 furlongs and a mile so far on ground no quicker than good, for now I be happy backing him if he races under these conditions.

Vardon Flyer

The race contested by Vardon Flyer at York looks an interesting contest. The first three came a little way clear of the rest of the field. Subsequently the winner and third have won again on their next runs. This could have been a better than average renewal of a race of its grade.

The horse who finished second VARDON FLYER looks a typical improver for his trainer and one to be interested in for nursery handicaps. Potentially given the way the York race is working out, he may have got in lightly with a handicap mark of 81.

He stuck on well over 6 furlongs at York, so while he has a sprint pedigree he may stay a bit further. His best two runs so far have been with a little cut in the ground but, limited evidence to base on firm preferences on.

Grenadier Guard

Thrice raced Mark Johnston three year old colt. GRENADIER GUARD has a lot of stamina in his pedigree,  his dam Another Storm foaled the Group One winning stayer Order Of St George and his sire Australia won the Epsom Derby. Not surprisingly Grenadier Guard looks like he will need a strong test on his stamina for him to be at his best. 

On his latest run over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Pontefract he put up a new best in finishing second to the very promising Dubai Tradition who set a decent pace from the off. Grenadier Guard was ridden along at various stages of the race, either still showing signs of mental immaturity or not having the inherent speed to keep up with the pace. 

In the final two furlongs, he stayed on very nicely. Backing up the impression that a longer trip would see him in a better light. 

As for his most suitable going conditions, it’s difficult to be too confident with just three runs to date. The ground was good at Pontefract and he looked a little uncomfortable at times, hanging a bit. Previously at Haydock and Ripon the ground had some cut in it. I’m not saying he might not prove equally effective on quicker ground, we won’t know until it’s been tested.

Being trained by Mark Johnston, I expect Grenadier Guard will get plenty of outings in the coming weeks and improve with experience and a step up in trip.

Normandy Barierre

Experienced handicappers who have dropped to a previous winning mark and have signalled a return to form is a bet I look for. NORMANDY BARRIERE fits this profile.

He hasn’t won for over two years, his last success was off an official handicap mark of 96. He showed a return to form when 3rd in a Haydock sprint on the 6th July. He now has an official mark of 87, one he is definitely capable of winning off. 

His best performances have been over a straight track 6 furlongs on good or quicker ground. Nigel Tinkler has his horses in fine form at the moment, 8 winners from 32 winners in the past 14 days. I think Normandy Barriere has a good shout of picking up a race in the next few weeks.


A similar profile to Normandy Barriere. Successful of a mark of 87 in the past, EXCESSABLE is now rated 80. 

He ran a fine race two weeks ago at York, showing he was approaching his peak again. A quick ground 5 furlongs at tracks like York and Musselburgh have suited him best in the past. He’s entered at York tomorrow and is primed to run to his best.


The Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot is traditionally a very strong race, I think this years renewal was a typically strong contest. There are several horses who contended that race entered for the John Smith’s Diamond Jubilee Cup Handicap (the Magnet Cup was a snappier title!) at York on Saturday.

The Hunt Cup and the Britannia at Royal Ascot have been key feeder races for the York race. Sadly not many three year olds are high enough rated to get in these days, so we don’t get many Britannia runners. 

Focusing on the Hunt Cup the horse I like is STYLEHUNTER. He ran a good race to be 4th behind AFAAK at Ascot. I think AFAAK is capable of winning at Group level now so I respect his chance on Saturday, I think he’s better at a mile with some cut in the ground than Saturdays 10 furlongs. 

Stylehunter put up a career best performance at Ascot, over a distance that might prove short of his best. Saturdays trip will be fine for him, he could improve again for the return to 10 furlongs. The Ascot run was on soft ground, all his previous bests had been on quicker ground so he doesn’t appear particularly ground dependant.

Relatively lightly raced with ten runs to date, further improvement is certainly possible.