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The Horse Watchers: Why we bought them


Martin Dixon offers a guide to The Horse Watchers’ eight-strong team for 2021, explaining what the syndicate look for and why each horse made appeal.

When it comes to purchasing horses we look at racing in the same way that we do for our betting and form study. Strength of form is a key point we consider – identifying the level of form the horses have achieved and assessing the quality of the races they've been involved in. We're always on the lookout for untapped potential. It could be based on how the horses have been shaping, or whether they might want a different test to what they have faced, such as going up or down in distance. We're trying to identify horses that are well handicapped and can be placed to win races, win prize-money and improve their rating. Here’s why our current team appealed to us.


Raasel (Timeform rating: 92p)

We bought him out of Shadwell and we’ve had plenty of success with horses from them in the past. We’ve had Mithqaal, who won the Silver Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, Hakam, who progressed through the ranks and won a Group 3 in Norway, Saaheq, who won a big sprint handicap at Musselburgh, and Kasbaan, who landed the London Mile final at Kempton and won us plenty of prize-money. It’s been a source of good winners for us so, like a lot of people do with the well-bred horses from big operations, we have a good look at their horses in the catalogues.

Raasel has been off the track since November 2019 with a suspensory injury, which made him a high-risk purchase, but we deemed it a chance worth taking - our vet thought that with more time he would make a full recovery. We managed to pick him up for 10,000 guineas and had a budget for more than double that for him.

He’s in full training now and will be ready to run later in January. He only had two runs as a two-year-old for Marcus Tregoning, but won on debut at Bath, beating Amarillo Star, who has since done really well and is rated in the high-90s with the BHA (107 with Timeform). Raasel was too quick for Amarillo Star first time up at Bath and managed to beat him by half a length. Raasel then went to Newmarket and pulled too hard over six furlongs, not quite seeing his race out. We view him as a five-furlong prospect – he has a lot of boot – and if he stays sound we think we have a talented horse on our hands. Mick Appleby

Liberation Point (83p)

He only ran twice for Richard Fahey – once as a two-year-old, once as a three-year-old – and therein lies the risk with this horse, that an excellent trainer like Fahey only managed to get him to the track on two occasios. But when we had him vetted everything seemed okay and we were willing to take the chance at just 16,000 guineas. We expected him to be much more expensive than that but perhaps it was the fact we were buying him out of Fahey’s yard that lowered the price a bit.

He caught our eye on both starts. He shaped with real promise despite being green in a Newcastle novice on debut and finished second to a horse of Sir Michael Stoute’s called Hydros, who looks a potential Group performer, on deep ground at Pontefract in the autumn. He ran to a Timeform rating of 83 in that mile maiden at Pontefract, but is bred to be suited by a mile-and-a-quarter-plus as he is from the family of Torcedor and Yeats.

It’s a very stout, staying pedigree on the dam’s side and we’re hoping a step up in distance will bring about improvement. He’s been in training for a while now and we’ll look to get him going on the all-weather and then kick on to a full turf campaign. He might want cut in the ground as he handled heavy extremely well at Pontefract. Mick Appleby

Mahanakhon Power (77)

He was bought as a three-year-old entire, but we thought he would benefit from time, experience and a gelding operation. He ran five times for Andrew Balding last year but on each occasion looked green, and he had his five runs between the end of June and the start of October, so he didn’t have much time to learn his job.

He cost £380,000 as a yearling and when you see him in the flesh you can understand why – he’s a big, strapping individual, so that added to our belief he would benefit from more time. Giving him a break and allowing him to develop physically and mentally will hopefully enable him to take off as a four-year-old.

The pedigree was eye-catching with the view of going up in distance as he’s a three-parts brother to Lord Lamington, who has won over a mile and three-quarters on the Flat and also scored over hurdles, while his half-brother The Last Debutante won over two miles. The dam was also a two-mile winner and it is a family choc-full of stayers, yet Mahanakhon Power was only tried at up to a mile and a quarter so there could be quite a bit more to come, with his physique and pedigree both pointing to longer distances suiting. He’ll be coming into Mick Appleby’s yard soon and will have a full turf campaign. Mick Appleby

Fenix (65)

She’s a four-year-old filly by Lope de Vega and, more than anything, it was her pedigree that caught our eye as a budget purchase. We thought she had potential to progress and, from a sell-on point of view, would make appeal to breeders if we could improve her rating a bit as Lope de Vega fillies are popular. She has surprised us with the speed she’s shown in her races and her work at home.

When we bought her we thought we’d go up in distance and that’s what we did at Chelmsford, but she over-raced, travelling well for a long way – she went odds-on in-running – before getting very tired, appearing not to stay the trip. It was a similar story dropping two furlongs to a mile on her next start at Southwell, where she raced enthusiastically, going odds-on in-running again, but she didn’t see her race out. She is dropping back to seven furlongs at Wolverhampton on Thursday as she seems to have more speed than we gave her credit for. Mick Appleby


Warrior Brave (90p)

He was in the August Horses In Training Sale but was withdrawn, so we ended up purchasing him privately. He had caught our eye a few times in Ireland, impressing with how he was travelling through his races, and he had been involved in some deep contests, notably at the Curragh in July. He looked to have a good level of ability, but it seemed like he would benefit from more time and strengthening up.

We gelded him after he arrived at Mick’s and he improved for that – he has filled out and has really developed into a strong-looking three-year-old. He was impressive on his first start for us at Wolverhampton, where he was a three-and-a-half-length winner in a fast time – he clocked a timefigure of 86, which is a real positive, considering he was out in front and idling for much of the final furlong. We were a bit disappointed when he got turned over at 2/1-on back at Wolverhampton on his next start but he was probably beaten by a talented horse in Water of Leith, and the timefigure of 88 gives us real hope that it was a good performance and that we shouldn’t take too many negatives, for all we expected to win. We think he could develop into a flagbearer for The Horse Watchers and he could be a very useful sprinter. Mick Appleby

Rhoscolyn (82)

We bought him out of Charlie Hills’s yard for David O’Meara to train. We had positive notes next to all his early starts as he shaped well at Doncaster and Newbury in races that threw up winners – the Newbury race in particular proved a strong piece of form – and he built on that at Haydock, making all of the running in impressive style, recording a timefigure of 89 which gave his achievement a bit more substance. The Haydock race hasn’t worked out that well but the time gave us encouragement and he has other strong pieces of form.

After that win you could say he was disappointing, but we felt he had excuses in his four handicap starts last season, such as running over too far or on softer ground than ideal. We think he has a lot of pace, and we could probably go back to six furlongs, or keep him to seven on a faster surface. He is going to have a little wind operation – he’ll have his palate fired – and he’ll be joining David O’Meara’s yard with the aim of having him ready for the start of the turf season. David O’Meara

Blue Hero (76)

He ran five times for Michael Bell as a two-year-old and caught our eye on a couple of occasions, including on his two starts on the all-weather, looking a little unlucky at Wolverhampton – he possibly would have won with a clear run. He then had excuses on his next couple of starts, when he over-raced a little, but he finished a solid third at Southwell on his final outing of the campaign, giving the impression that he handled the Fibresand surface really well, going through the kickback without flinching and travelling nicely.

He went up our pecking order at the sales as he was a tall, scopey horse with a lot of strengthening up and filling out to do. He was also a good-moving type, really fluent when we trotted him up, and we felt that he would stand a lot of racing based on his physical assessment. We also felt there was potential for him going up in distance as, while he’s by a stallion in Air Force Blue who imparts a fair bit of speed, he’s from a good American family that includes some middle-distance winners

He ran at Wolverhampton last week and made a promising start for us, finishing second to Final Voyage, a horse who is really on a roll and has won his last three starts. Blue Hero tried to come from the back of the field in a race that wasn’t strongly run and he finished to good effect, so we expect him to build on that and he should be winning races sooner rather than later. Mick Appleby


Hot Streak – Beldale Memory 

We bought this colt at the yearling sales last season and the reason he appealed to us was because of his quick and precocious pedigree. Hot Streak was obviously a sharp, fast juvenile and the mare was the same, winning her first two races as a two-year-old, starting off with an impressive win in a Bath maiden before landing the listed Marygate Stakes at York. She was a proper two-year-old and comes from a quick family, being out of a two-year-old five-furlong winner.

It was a sharp, precocious pedigree that made plenty of appeal to us as when we were looking at yearlings we wanted one with that brazen early speed. He’s already cantering at David O’Meara’s yard and looks a sturdy, compact colt –a proper sprint type in appearance –  so, if all goes well, he should be ready in the early part of the season. David O’Meara

Also read:

Q&A: Martin Dixon

Q&A: Richard O'Brien




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Monday 25 January
Hollie Doyle silk Hollie Doyle
Archie Watson
6. ZAMAANI (IRE) 110
Jack Mitchell silk Jack Mitchell
Simon & Ed Crisford
2. BRAVADO (FR) 108p
Joe Fanning silk Joe Fanning
Mark Johnston hot trainer
Go to full race



1st Kieran O'Neill silk 9. POWER OVER ME (IRE) 5/42.25f
2nd Daniel Muscutt silk 7. GARTH ROCKETT 8/19
3rd Hollie Doyle silk ½ 10. GREY GALLEON (USA) 8/19
9 ran. NRs: 2 


1st Liam Keniry silk 2. BREATH OF SUN 9/25.5
2nd Thore Hammer Hansen silk 7. MUMMY BEAR (IRE) 10/111
3rd Rossa Ryan silk 1. THE HULK 2/13
J: Liam Keniry  
T: Clive Cox  
All 8 ran.


1st Alistair Rawlinson silk 2. WARRIOR BRAVE 1/21.5f
2nd Jonathan Fisher silk ¾ 3. A PINT OF BEAR (IRE) 7/18
3 ran. NRs: 1 

15:00 PAU

1st Kevin Nabet silk 9. AJAS (FR) 26/10f
2nd Angelo Zuliani silk 4 11. EDDY DE BALME (FR) 54/10
3rd Bertrand Lestrade silk 12. DEO GRATIAS (FR) 16/1
J: Kevin Nabet  
All 13 ran.


1st Jack Mitchell silk 1. BORN TO FINISH (IRE) 3/14f
2nd Luke Morris silk sh 6. TRIXIE WATERBURY (IRE) 9/25.5
3rd Daniel Muscutt silk 1 7. KYLLA LOOKS 8/19
T: Ed de Giles  
10 ran. NRs: 2  4 


1st Laura Pearson silk 7. CATCH MY BREATH 7/42.75f
2nd Cieren Fallon silk 1 5. THRILL SEEKER (IRE) 7/24.5
J: Laura Pearson (5)  
T: John Ryan  
7 ran. NRs: 3 


1st William Humphrey silk 6. MYSEVEN (IRE) 7/24.5
2nd Billy Garritty silk nk 3. FURZIG 10/34.33
J: William Humphrey (7)  
4 ran. NRs: 1  5  7 


1st Hollie Doyle silk 8. ZAYRIYAN (IRE) 15/82.87f
2nd Tom Marquand silk 4. GLOBAL STYLE (IRE) 5/23.5
J: Hollie Doyle  
T: Ali Stronge  
6 ran. NRs: 10  11  3  5  6 


1st Adam Kirby silk 3. DELEYLL 17/29.5
2nd Tom Marquand silk 1 4. NARJES 5/23.5
3rd Luke Morris silk dh 10. THE BULL (IRE) 14/115
J: Adam Kirby  
T: John Butler  
8 ran. NRs: 12  2  7  9 
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