Horse Racing tips: Frank Hickey’s 15 horses to follow for the 2020 Flat season

Your tracker should be bursting right about now.

Navan Flat Races Frank Hickey


Gin Blossom (Joseph O’Brien)

A huge eye-catcher on her debut in a mile maiden on heavy ground at the Curragh. She found herself near last of the 23-runner field with a little over two furlongs to run but rattled home to be beaten a head. Her closing sectional compared quite favourably with the rest of the card and marked her down as a filly of considerable ability. On her second start she was put in her place by Lemista by just over four lengths. Initially that would have been seen as a disappointing effort, but that form got a strong boost in March at Naas when Lemista won the Group 3 Park Express Stakes, beating the strongly fancied Even So.

Gin Blossom looks certain to pick up a maiden early on this season and while an Irish 1,000 Guineas entry is a bit optimistic, I could easily see her bagging a nice handicap and progressing to black type races before the season is out.


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Ridenza (M Halford)

Only had the one start last season and won a Leopardstown maiden impressively enough from Tasalka with Mythic back in third. She’s a daughter of Sea the Stars and is bred to be very useful. The form of that maiden has worked out nicely, with the second Tasalka now rated 89, the fourth Lemista winning her maiden two starts later and then winning a Group Three on her first start at 3. The sixth, Deirdra, won her maiden, the ninth Peaceful won her maiden and was touched off at Listed level.

She had a small setback after that win but is back in full work and there was talk of the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh being a target on June 13. That’s a tall order but Ridenza should make her mark in good company before the year is out.

Violette Szabo (Nigel Tinkler)

UK trainer Nigel Tinkler is very underestimated as a trainer – particularly with his handicappers. Violette Szabo has shown a bit of ability in his four maiden runs and will start off in handicaps off a mark of 69 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he rates a fair bit higher before the season is out.

Her third start saw her finish third at Beverley, six lengths behind Freyja and Afraid of Nothing who are both rated 89 now. The fifth, High Flying Bird won a handicap off 74 at Newmarket and is now rated 80.

The yard’s Kaeso pulled off a similar feat when rated 66 a couple of seasons ago and then rose to a mark of 99 by winning four handicaps on the trot. I would be surprised if Violette Szabo doesn’t improve for handicaps considering her trainers record with that type.

Divina Gloria (Kevin Ryan)

Kevin Ryan struck at Group One level last season with sprinters Hello Youmzain and Glass Slippers , but if he’s to have another Group One horse this season, it may come in the form of Divina Gloria. A 230,000 Guineas purchase as a yearling, she is related to Listed winners on the continent and didn’t make her debut until the end of August last year over a mile at Thirsk where after initially running green, she eventually stormed home to defy her obvious inexperience and win nicely.

That form is nothing to shout about but she did beat a bunch of horses who are rated in the 70’s. She wasn’t seen again last season, presumably to give her time to mature and she could be underestimated in some nice races as the season progresses.

We should find out more on Wednesday as she runs in the 2.10pm at Kempton on Tuesday.


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Tabdeed (Owen Burrows)

Tabdeed could be one to strike in a nice handicap early in the season before going back into Group company. As a two year old, he only had one start where he beat Yafta well and won on his reappearance at three, before finding the Jersey Stakes too much of a test for him. He then had three months off before making his handicap debut back at Ascot over six furlongs off a mark of 96 and bolted up.

A further 10 months off saw him concede weight to two subsequent winners in a four runner conditions event at Doncaster, before the soft ground caught him out in Group company in the Bengough Stakes at Doncaster.  He starts this season on a mark of 103, has been gelded and has won first time out the last three seasons.

First time out on decent ground is the time to catch him and could be one for a top-class sprint handicap this season.

Caradoc (Ed Walker)

A progressive handicapper last season for Ed Walker, Caradoc won three times over 10 furlongs and looked a little unlucky not to win on his only start at 1m 4f at York, when probably given a little too much to do when beaten only two necks in third. His closing sectional in that race was easily the fastest of any in the race and he made no mistake when gaining compensation on his next start at Newbury off 1lb higher.

He was disappointing on the all weather at Listed level on his final start of the season (may have been the surface) but he is of definite interest when getting fast ground over trips ranging from 10 to 12 furlongs. The Wolferton Handicap was mentioned last season as a target but connections will probably feel that a mark of 100 is worth exploiting first before stepping back up in grade.

English King (Ed Walker)

This half brother to Group 3 winner, Pacifique, was a €210,000 purchase as yearling. Beaten just under five lengths in a Newmarket maiden last mid-season in a race that has thrown up a few winners, he then went to Newcastle for a 10f contest and came up against some nice horses that had finished second in Newbury and Newmarket maidens, in what looked a really strong maiden for the track.

English King gave the leaders a bit of rope entering the straight, but quickened up really nicely to win impressively without getting anymore than a shake of the reins. He is bred to stay further and he definitely falls into the ‘could be anything’ bracket.


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Davydenko (Sir Michael Stoute)

Typical of a Stoute two year old, Davydenko needed the experience when making his debut at Salisbury in late 2018 but quickly made into a nice horse, winning his first two starts at three, both over a mile. Prominent in the market for the Britannia at Royal Ascot, the occasion appeared to be too much for him that early in his career, as he was sweating badly before the race but made no real impression. The softish ground may not have been ideal for him either.

Given a little mid-season break, he bolted in at Newmarket off a mark of 90 and that form looks reasonably solid. He was raised eight pounds for that win and headed to Doncaster for his final start of the season at Doncaster over ten furlongs. Making the running stepped up in trip for the first time, he made light work of fending off the field to win nicely off the revised mark of 98. He is now up to a mark of 105 but he might be able to win a nice handicap but you’d imagine he could improve plenty now as a four year old and Group races might be on his agenda before the season is out.

Rovaniemi ( David Simcock)

Cost 320,00 guineas as a yearling. Went to Lingfield on debut and was punted off the boards but got done for a lack of experience after travelling like the best horse for most of the race. The winner of that Johan followed up next time at Musselburgh for the William Haggas yard before being outclassed when sixth to Military March at Newmarket in a Group 3. Rovaniemi went to Lingfield and won very easily on the all-weather and could be one for a decent handicap before the year is out.

I don’t know what sort of campaign connections have in mind for him but the way he travels powerfully through his races suggests he definitely looks worth following and he could make up into a horse capable of landing a big handicap when getting a really strong pace to aim at.

Trefoil (Ralph Beckett)

Trefoil already looks like she will make up into a better horse than any of her siblings based on her debut win in a five runner 1m Newmarket maiden at the tail end of last season. While her overall time was nothing special (she was over a second slower than the 83 rated Be More who won the previous race over the same course and distance carrying 2lbs less) the form has worked out well already.

The third, was touched off in a maiden, the fourth and seventh won maidens and the horse that finished last won a handicap off a mark of 67. In that Newmarket race, she pulling for her head before settling better when let dispute the lead, found plenty under pressure and was very strong in the final furlong, shaping like middle distance will really suit her this season. It actually took the jockey quite a while to pull her up. She has an Irish Oaks entry and an Oaks trial could be her starting point soon.


Huboor (Mark Johnston)

Relatively progressive as a two year old, she progressed for a debut defeat at Yarmouth to win her maiden on better ground at Chepstow over 6f before stepping up to 7f seven furlongs on her handicap debut at Newmarke off 78 to win nicely in a fast time. The form has worked out as follows:
• 2nd Separate – touched off in a Group 3 and now rated 98
• 3rd Last Surprise – 2nd on next start off 87 and won at Jebel Alil
• 5th Onassis – Won next start at Newcastle off 75, up to 81
• 6th Elegant Erin – 2nd next start off 75 at Newmarket
• 7th Hashtagmetoo – 3rd on next start at Newmarket off 71
• 8th Mild Illusion – 2nd in Sales race, before winning a Listed race, both at Newmarket. Now rated 96
• 9th Picture Frame – 2nd on next start in a Kempton handicap off a mark off 81

Huboor got a fair rise for that win and is now rated 90 but I think she will progress again at three and there is every chance she will get a mile this season. Wouldn’t be surprised if they aimed her at the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.

Brentford Hope (Richard Hughes)

Cost €130,000 at the Araqana breeze ups last May, but wasn’t seen on the track until the end of October at Newmarket where he justified market support at the overnight prices to run out an extremely impressive five length winner.

It looked a useful maiden but Brentford Hope was different class and should improve as a three year old. He’s bred to get middle distances and could well develop into a Group class performer for trainer Richard Hughes.


Celtic Art (Paul & Oliver Cole)

Celtic Art gave the impression last year that he would be the type to really appreciate the strong pace you get in a big-field handicap. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being aimed at the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot or the Goodwood Golden Mile.

Down the field on debut at Newmarket, he came for a mile back to finish second to the 99 rated Persuasion at Goodwood, with numerous winners in behind. It was a strong maiden. He then finished a neck second at York to the now 102 rated Molatham before eventually breaking his maiden tag at Goodwood, before finishing the season when second in a Deauville Listed event to end the year rated 101.

Streamline (Clive Cox)

Picked up for the measly sum of £13,000 from the Goffs Breeze Ups in April last year, that now looks like an amazing piece of business. Off the mark on debut at Bath, Streamline had no issue defying a penalty at Kempton on his second start, winning easily.

Streamline was stepped up to Listed company at York on his third and ran really well to only be beaten a length by the very speedy Alligator Alley and subsequent Group 3 winner Dr Simpson. He appreciated the step up to 6f in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes to win nicely. While it probably was a sub-standard renewal of the race, he is rated only 100 and that looks like a mark he could take advantage of in the early part of the season.

He is definitely one to keep in mind in those big field sprint handicaps this season.

Starcat (Hughie Morrison)

Cost 125,000 Guineas as a yearling and Starcat made quite an impression on debut when winning at Kempton over a mile. Settled in midfield he showed an impressive turn of foot to run down the leaders in the last furlong. The time and sectionals were very good and points to it being a well above average maiden for the track. Prince Of Eagles (4th) has won both starts since, Summit Reach (5th) won his next start very easily and even the eighth who was beaten over 15 lengths has won two nurseries off marks of 56 & 62.

Starcat has entries in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Epsom Derby and while that might be too much too soon for him, he is definitely a colt of significant ability.

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