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My 5 to watch for 2017

3 Jan 2017

Oisin Murphy - Lightning Spear

Happy New Year, guys, and here’s hoping for a great 2017!

You’ll have seen already that I’ve chosen my top five moments of 2016

, but now it is time to look forward to the year ahead and, with a bit of luck, these are the horses who will hopefully be providing me with some more magical memories this year. I have to say, though, that it was a difficult task narrowing down my top five prospects….

5. Count Octave

I know this family really well and this son of Frankel was quite weak and immature at home before he made his debut. He’s tall, has plenty about him and I can’t wait to see him again. He certainly showed enough in that one run at two years to get excited about.

4. Belle Diva

She’s quite a tall and light filly and was very immature as a two-year-old. Unfortunately I was suspended and Silvestre (de Sousa) picked up the ride to win her maiden at Kempton. She has a very good pedigree, was an expensive yearling and hopefully she can progress to pick up some black type this year. She’s exactly the type that her trainer (Ralph Beckett) excels with.

Belle Diva and Silvestre De Sousa win the ApolloBet Maiden Fillies Stakes at Kempton. 19/9/2016 Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Belle Diva and Silvestre De Sousa win the ApolloBet Maiden Fillies Stakes at Kempton. Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

3. Horseplay

She shocked me when she won so well at Nottingham and I have to say that I was struggling to pull her up afterwards in soft ground! She showed an awful lot there, already has a fairly high Timeform figure and should get a mile and a half. Andrew Balding knows what it takes to win an Oaks and fingers crossed I can maintain the partnership in 2017!

Horseplay wins Maiden Fillies Stakes Div 2 at Nottingham.

Horseplay wins Maiden Fillies Stakes Div 2 at Nottingham. Pic: racingfotos.com

2. Mountain Bell

I’ve never questioned her ability and she could well make a name for herself this year if returning to her best. She handles soft ground well.

Mountain Bell and John Egan beat Desert Encounter in the Betway Stand Cup at Chester. Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Mountain Bell and John Egan beat Desert Encounter in the Betway Stand Cup at Chester. Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

1. Elm Park

Those of you who saw my Instagram takeover in the build-up to Champions Day will know I love this horse [see video below]. It was gutting to be on board when he picked up his injury as I’m convinced that we haven’t seen the best of him. Andrew’s horses tend to get better with age and he remains a very exciting horse. At three everything went wrong in the Derby, but then he ran well in the Champion Stakes despite taking quite a keen hold. It would be great to see him back in the mile race at Sandown in late-Spring and the Diomed at Epsom could also be a good stepping stone for him. We won’t rush him, though I can’t wait to see him back on the track!