MICHAEL BELL has made a lively start to the Flat season with seven winners from 28 runners so far this year and the signs are that he has a team that will be making plenty of inroads in the months to come.
Stable star Big Orange made a perfectly reasonable return when fourth to Vazirabad in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan last month and will be looking long term to gain a third Goodwood Cup which has this year been granted Group 1 status.
Batts Rock and Towerlands Park are back off the easy list and more than capable making their mark in big handicaps this time around and the like of Fabricate and Graceland will once again be endeavouring to prove productive for their owners once more.
The three-year-old brigade look an interesting lot with Comprise, Fire Brigade, Ice Dancing and Je Suis Charlie looking likely sorts and the buzz around Fitzroy House suggests that Her Majesty The Queen's Shimmering Light is a name we are all going to be hearing a lot of this term.
Michael kindly spoke to Tony Elves of ATR about those he hopes can prosper as the season progresses.
4 b g Fastnet Rock - Be My Queen
Winner of one of his 3 starts and currently rated 84. Off the mark in a maiden at Wolverhampton (1m 4f) in April of last year when beating Mawaany by eight lengths and third, beaten two and three quarter lengths, to Opposition on his only subsequent start at Newmarket (1m 4f) in May off a mark of 85.
"He is a lightly raced four-year-old gelding who could reappear quite shortly. He has a nice staying pedigree and I am hopeful that he will make up into an above average middle distance handicapper to compete at the featured meetings."
6 b g Duke of Marmalade - Mrs Brown To You
Winner of seven of his 22 starts and currently rated 117. Winner of the Group 2 Goodwood Cup at Goodwood (2m) for the past two years and beat Pallasator a length and a quarter in latest renewal. Finished creditable fourth, beaten two lengths, to Vazirabad in the Group 2 Dubai World Cup at Meydan (2m) in March on his reappearance.
"He has come back from Dubai in good shape and all the usual staying races will be on his radar. It would be lovely to think we could retain the Goodwood Cup but as it has been upgraded to Group 1 status it is likely to attract the big names but he is very much one himself."
5 b g Makfi - Flight of Fancy
Winner of three of his 10 starts and currently rated 102. Finished third, beaten a length and a half, to Cohesion at Wolverhampton (1m 4f) last month off a mark of 101.
"He is being aimed at a £85,000 handicap at Newcastle on April 14. He seemed to take to the polytrack at Wolverhampton last time when he ran a nice race to be beaten by two horses who had recent runs under their belts and he will strip much fitter and give a very good account of himself in what is likely to be a very competitive event."
5 gr m Mastercraftsman - Jeunesse Lulu
Winner of two of her 21 starts and currently rated 82. Placed in eight of her ten starts last season and came closest to adding to her score when beaten only a nose by Daphne at Goodwood (1m 6f) in September off her current mark.
"She has been kept in training and there is a staying race at Musselburgh I have in mind for her. It is a £100,000 handicap and she could well have an entry in that unless we aimed lower and stayed closer to home but she is in excellent health."
6 b g Peintre Celebre - Kotdiji
Winner of six of his 23 starts and rated 83 on the Flat and 132 over hurdles. Winner twice over hurdles this season at Stratford and Newton Abbot. Made a winning reappearance on the Flat at Kempton (1m 4f) in March when beating Safira Menina three quarters of a length off a mark of 80.
"He has been a great servant and he has won three times over hurdles in the past Calendar year and made a winning start to his year at Kempton one on the flat. He wants good ground over hurdles and he could be seen out soon before going back on the Flat."
4 b g Elnadim - Marhaba
Winner of two of his 9 starts and rated 89. Last success on his reappearance at Ascot (1m) last May when beating Banksea half a length off a mark of 83.
"He is an above average mile handicapper who I am hoping could be a Hunt Cup horse. He has won twice at Ascot and likes fast ground and I think he was slightly inconvenienced by the ground last year in the Britannia Handicap."
4 b c Danehill Dancer - Strategy
Winner of two of his 4 starts and currently rated 91. Scored by a length from Coillte Cailin off a mark of 83 on his only start last season at Kempton (1m 3f) in December.
"He is a horse we like a lot and he is just on the easy list at the moment. When he is on song he is a high class horse over a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half
gr f Stay Thirsty - Primrose Hill
Winner of two of her 4 starts and currently rated 77. Comfortable two and a quarter winner from Spirit of Sarwan in an apprentice handicap at Lingfield (1m) last month and beaten a length and a quarter by Nick Vedder when odds on when unpenalised at Newcastle (1m) last Friday off a mark of 71.
"She won on her reappearance at Lingfield and went to Newcastle last Friday night unpenalised but there was a strong headwind and the surface was a little deep and she may have bumped into an improver. She ran in the Albany last year and the dream is that she could be aimed at the Sandringham but she lost nothing if defeat at Newcastle as she was giving 9lb to the winner."
b g Pivotal - Constitute
Winner of one of his 3 starts and given a mark of 74. Scored easily by two and three quarter lengths from Hungarian Rhapsody at Southwell (6f) last week.
"He made the perfect start to 2017 when gliding to victory in a maiden at Southwell which was admittedly an open goal for a horse of his class. I am hopeful that he will more than pay his way in six and seven furlong handicaps. He is a fine robust and good looking horse and he should have a fine season."
b g Firebreak - Island Rhapsody
Winner of one of her 6 starts and currently rated 71. Off the mark when beating Orithia a length and a quarter at Chelmsford (7f) in October off a mark of 56.
"He is a really bony three-year-old gelding who was unlucky not to win his last two races last year. I think he is going to end the season rated significantly higher than he is rated now. I would say he will be at his best over seven furlongs or a mile."
b g Compton Place - Angel Song
Placed in his first two starts and fourth at Southwell on Tuesday
"He is a bony horse who hasn't done much wrong in his first two starts and ran a reasonable race when fourth at Southwell yesterday. He should have a reasonable mark after that and should give his connections plenty of fun."
ch f Raven's Pass - Dancing Abbie
Winner of her only start at Wolverhampton (1m 1/2f) last month when beating Heartstone two and a quarter lengths.
"Despite being friendless in the market on her debut we all expected her to either win or run very well in defeat and it was a bit of a bonus for everyone that she started at 16-1 and won convincingly. Her mother was very useful and she is by a good stallion. I am hoping she can continue to work her way up the ladder."
JE SUIS CHARLIE
b g High Chaparral - Fin
Winner of one of his 3 starts and currently rated 75. Off the mark when beating Getgo a head at Beverley (7 1/2f) in September.
"Whatever he did last year was a bonus given his pedigree and I think he is hopefully an above average handicapper. He should be seen to good effect over ten to twelve furlongs and he should have a good year."
ch f Zoffany - Inis Boffin
Runner-up in two of her 4 starts and currently rated 71. Failed by only three quarters of a length behind X Rated at Wolverhampton (1m 1/2f) in November.
"She was unlucky not to win her maiden last year and finished second a couple of times. I am sure she won't have any trouble breaking her maiden this year. She hasn't come in her coat yet but she is healthy and well."
b g Oasis Dream - Momentary
Better second effort when runner-up, beaten a length, to Desert Skyline in a maiden at Yarmouth (1m) in September
"He met a good one on his second start last year and could run at the Spring meeting at Newbury in the maiden. He is very much ground dependent as he wouldn't want it too soft. If he didn't go there we will look for an alternative."
RAY'S THE MONEY
b g Dragon Pulse - Riymaisa
Winner of one of her 5 starts and rated 79. Gained his first success on his reappearance at Newcastle (7f) in March when beating Bonnie Gals two and a half lengths.
"We found a bit of an open goal for him at Newcastle where it was also a £10,000 bonus race so it was a good bit of placing. It was a seven furlongs race but it was run in a slower time than the following mile handicap but it didn't take a lot of winning in that he had been placed at Ascot and Goodwood. He has done well from two to three and could be a real fun mile handicapper and could be one for the Britannia Handicap."
ch c Nathaniel - Amazon Beauty
Winner of one of his 3 starts and currently rated 85. Scored by a length and a quarter from Jumira Bridge at Yarmouth (7f) in July.
"He got struck into at Salisbury last year having been impressive on his second start at Yarmouth. He hasn't moved into fast work yet but he is a horse with a lot of natural speed and ability and provided he channels his energies in the right direction he could have a stellar 2017."
b f Dubawi - Summertime Legacy
"She is a daughter of a Group 3 winner and a sister to two Group 1 winners. She is a very nice filly and will start in the mile and a quarter maiden at Newbury provided it is not bottomless. She is a filly I like a lot and owned by Her Majesty The Queen. We haven't pressed any buttons at home but I am getting quite excited about her and it is so far so good."
THE GLASGOW WARRIOR
b g Sir Percy - Sweet Cando
Unplaced to Dubawi Prince on his debut in a maiden at Doncaster (1m 2 1/2f) last Saturday.
"He made his debut at Doncaster on Saturday and needed the experience. He is a staying handicapper in the making and hopefully will give his owner breeders a lot of fun."
b f Dutch Art - Three Ducks
Winner of one of her 6 starts and currently rated 71. Off the mark on final start in a maiden at Newcastle (1m) in October when beating White Chocolate three quarters of a length.
"She got off the mark last year having run a couple of good races in defeat and she has done well from two to three. I think she will have a productive 2017 and is well capable of winning another couple of races this time around."
b c Rip Van Winkle - Pitrizza
Winner of one of his 2 starts and currently rated 77. Winner on his debut at Yarmouth (7f) last August when scoring by three quarter of a length from Fortune of War.
"He has been off the track and had a little injury after his last run at Newmarket and came back a bit sore. He won well on his debut and has been given plenty of time off but is moving like a dream. I'm not quite sure of his optimum trip just yet but there is more to come.
WONDER OF DUBAI
b c So You Think - Ruby Suesday
Better effort on debut for stable at Lingfield (7f) last week when beaten a length by the odds-on Hajjam.
"He ran a good race in defeat against a horse with slightly better form that him last week and it is possible he could have another entry next week or may wait a little bit longer. He is well capable of winning races.
b f Red Jazz - Queen Of Rap
"Relatively speaking, she cost a round of drinks. She has a nice pedigree and is a good advertisement for her sire Red Jazz. She should come to hand very early."
b c Oasis Dream - Filia Regina
"He is a beautifully bred Oasis Dream colt out Filia Regina who is a daughter of Ouija Board and full sister to Australia. We like him a lot.
b c Swiss Spirit - Dimensional
"He is by Swiss Spirit out of Dimensional who has a very nice pedigree. He looks very sharp and will be ready to hit the track imminently."
b f Poet's Voice - Unex Mona Lisa
"She is a nice big scopey filly by Poet's Voice out of Unex Mona Lisa, She has done nothing but improve since she has been here. She is a very good advertisement for her sire."
BIG ORANGE - stable star whose season likely to be geared to a third successive Goodwood Cup but can add to his score on the way.
TOWERLANDS PARK - lightly raced but plenty of untapped ability that will hopefully bubble to the surface this season.
COMPRISE - hasn't been crucified for an easy Southwell maiden success and can prosper off a mark of 74.
ICE DANCING - likeable filly who has plenty more wins in her.
RONALD R - eyecatching effort when winning his maiden at Yarmouth and can hit the heights this term.
SHIMMERING LIGHT - unraced filly who is starting to keep her trainer awake at night and can win her maiden before going onto much better things.