Back In The Frame will be a popular horse with many punters. This February foal, a bay filly by Dutch Art, is a half-sister to the talented St Barts. She made a pleasing introduction at Wolverhampton giving the impression there would be more come. When analysing juvenile contest there are many variable to explore. Some are more common than others. However, this two-year-old caught my attention because Kingscote didn't take the ride on the more fancied, favourite, of the Dascombe's pair, which could well prove significant. What surprised me most of all wasn't this juvenile's performance but the physical conditioning of Back In The Frame. It's true to say that horses come in all shapes and sizes. However, unless this £40,000gns buy is a very unusual shape - she looked as fat as a pig! If you are able to review that first race and notice a new, svelte, slimline version at Pontefract then I would take that as a tip in itself. In fairness, the form of the Wolverhampton race isn't great. The winner, Coconut Kisses, is a speedy sort who knows her job. She ran well on debut showing an abundance of speed and, with hindsight, it was little wonder she had this field struggling to keep pace. Physically, she resembles a plater: small as a pony, lacking in scope, and most probably a short runner. Back In The Frame needed the run that day. I'm convinced the stable knew she was far from the finished article but fancied their chances of stealing a win. After a slow start, outpaced by a number of lengths, she progressed little by little and without question would have won in another half furlong. Taking everything into consideration, it was a fantastic debut. If coping with the soft ground, this filly will take all the beating, benefiting from from a low draw. It would be no surprise to hear she is held in some regard by connections.
The other form horses make little appeal and certainly need to improve.
Jamnean has an element of pace but - as seen last time - struggles to finish.
Princess In Exile was relatively fancied after George Foster sent out a 66/1 winner a few days before. This American-bred daughter of Bertolini trailed home second from last at Musselburgh. Horses can be forgiven a poor debut but one to watch today.
The last of the form horses is Lady Raffa. This daughter of Araafa was a cheap buy at 5,500gns. Although a fair-looking juvenile, she may need a test of stamina. I am a big fan of the Dods' stable but this chestnut filly drifted markedly in the betting just before the off. The Southwell surface can be indifferent to many horses and it wouldn't be impossible for a brighter performance today. On balance, one to watch.
Excel Yourself is an interesting debutante. This daughter of Exceed And Excel is a full sister to Taajub who was beaten in the Cornwallis Stakes (Group 3) when trained by William Haggis. Attaining an official rating of 108 at two with total prize money of over 100K, it would be foolhardy not to consider this bay filly. Tate, training at Hamilton Road, Newmarket, is the son of talented trainer, Tom, and worked as a senior equine vet for Mark Johnston for six years. Saif Ali is a significant owner and this 28,000gns purchase is ridden by Kieren Fallon who partnered the stable's first two-year-old at Newmarket. One of the more interesting in this field.
Kevin Ryan is a talented trainer. It was good to see he reverted back to his familiar type of juvenile last season, which saw greater successf. He has already notched-up two winners in the shape of Somethingboutmary and Run Fat Lass Run. His two-year-olds hold a particularly good strike rate at this course and impressive points profit. Lasilia is a particularly early foal (January) costing 16,000gns. A daughter of Acclamation, she is a half-sister to Silverheels, who won impressively on debut for Paul Cole and a consistent Group 2 performer at two. The stable have very few winners priced bigger than 13/2, although - in recent years - nearly half of all juveniles have started at those odds or shorter on debut. A trainer to respect, especially if well supported. A wide draw is not ideal but a significant two-year-old trainer who can unveil a talent.
Of the others, Modern Lady is a £16,000 yearling buy. Richard Guest's juvenile feature a poor win rate on debut and often make better nursery horses. [Update: just noticed that Guest's filly has been entered for a Stake race which could be a positive.]
Jadanna is an American-bred daughter of Mujadil who cost 25,000gns at the yearling sales, while the mare won on debut. Her owners, Danethorpe Racing Partnership, are a successful operation and Givens is a canny trainer. In general, the stable have a poor strike rate with juveniles making their race course bow, although can go well if strongly fancied in the betting. At present, this bay filly is weak on the exchanges and best watched unless very well backed.
David Griffiths' Mace The Ace was a cheap buy and bred to need a stiffer test of stamina.
Conclusion: This looks a three-horse-race. Back In The Frame ran well on debut when looking in need of the run. She looked positively fat and if a slimline version is seen it must a positive sign. Experience is a huge advantage and she is likely to fly from the stalls, making a bold show. She is the horse to beat. It is difficult to assess the quality of James Tate's juveniles as more time is needed but the breeding of Excel Yourself is interesting. If taking after her full brother - Taajub - she would be a force to be reckoned. However, I would take a watching brief and learn a little more. Kevin Ryan is a trainer to be feared at Pontefract, a place where his two-year-olds can go well. The stable have sent out a couple of winners and this filly is likely to be forward being a January foal. Inexperience can be costly, especially on turning tracks, and a wide draw isn't ideal. This daughter of Acclamation is well bred and if significantly backed could be a live chance. On balance, I would favour Back In The Frame but respect this filly as the main danger. The betting will tell the story for the debutantes, while Lady Raffa may be capable of better, has much to prove.
James Given said of easy winner Jadanna: "She's a level-headed filly and has taken everything well," said Given.
"We took her away to Southwell for a gallop once and she took that in her stride.
"Paul said she handled the ground but didn't necessarily like it. She's as green as grass still and Paul did well to get her across to the rail from stall nine.
"I think there's a lot more to come and we'll have to think about that Listed race for fillies at York in middle of May. Whether we find something else in between I don't know."