Matt Chapman: These are my horses to follow this flat season - plus my top picks for Saturday (2023)

This time next week we'll be making Grand National crazy in The Sun - don't miss the best coverage of the world's most watched horse race.

By the way, I'm confident of fixing the Aintree Marathon!


However, now that the flat season is getting under way, it's time to take a look at the horses that should be taking center stage leading up to November's Breeders' Cup.

Let's start with my favorite of the Classics, the Qipco 2000 Guineas, and Aidan O'Brien pair Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear, who lead the markets about 3-1 and 5-1 respectively.

They have opposite properties. Vertem Futurity hero Auguste Rodin looks like a Derby guy hoping connections will be fast enough for the Guineas - O'Brien has already spoken of a possible Triple Crown bid.

Little Big Bear landed the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Phoenix at Curragh. It's hard to know if he'll stay a mile and come back soon after a setback.


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O'Brien said: "He's being trained for the 2000 Guineas. He's a very different type of horse to Auguste Rodin as he would be very comfortable and would love to sprint again although I think there's a very good chance." that he gets the mile.

"He's a very relaxed horse and has raced very relaxed. He should give himself a good chance."

Frankie Dettori can ride Andrew Balding's Chaldean - provided he's not in America - and Frankel's son has proven to be a super tough and talented youngster with success in Group 1 Dewhurst.

It's hard to see Chaldean out of the ordinary with just normal improvement, and a mile won't be an issue.

Noble Style is undefeated and super talented for Godolphin, while Sakheer and Nostrum have a lot more to offer.

Nostrum was only third in the Dewhurst for Sir Michael Stoute but I suspect he's better than that.

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Don't ignore Royal Scotsman either. His Dewhurst run has been huge and the connections expect him to be a better three-year-old.

That promises to be an incredible 2000 guineas.

As for the filly version, which is Qipco 1000 Guineas, a lot depends on what Dermot Weld does with Tahiyra, who looked very exciting landing the Group 1 Moyglare last year. Weld doesn't give anything away.

O'Brien has Meditate in the lineup and she's another one that must surely be right there after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' Turf in Keeneland.

There followed a nice second to Lezoo at Cheveley Park where it seems fair to point out that the six furlong journey was too short.

O'Brien revealed: “It's a very professional fully. She's not too big, but she's strong and versatile.

“She did a gentle bit of work at the Curragh recently as she had galloped into Tipperary a month earlier and came back a bit sore so we had to be gentle with her.

"It wasn't a disruption big enough to affect her preparation and she's still on track to go straight to Newmarket."

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With that in mind, it might be worth splurging a few pounds each way on the highly experienced stable companion Never Ending Story.

The latest trials winner from Leopardstown was third in a Group 1 at Longchamp in October and before that fourth behind Tahiyra at Curragh.

Dubawi's daughter is just the type of guy O'Brien gets along with in the 1000 guineas. She's not the most talented in the lineup, but she's tough and consistent. At 14-1, it's not a bad each-way bet.

The Epsom derby is wide open with Auguste Rodin the clear favorite at the moment but I'm excited to see how Silver Knott develops under Godolphin ownership.

He was slow going and then just ended up in the Breeders' Cup after landing the Autumn Stakes on his previous start. His pedigree gives hope that he will stay and the current odds of 20-1 could be generous.

2023 also has an abundance of older horses to delight us with, with brilliant Japanese horse Equinox topping the list, as does Coral Eclipse winner Vadeni.

But there's no doubt that many of us can't wait to see Stoute's Desert Crown again.

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Absent since a massively impressive Derby win last June, the son of Nathaniel could easily have more to offer as an older horse.


First things first, it's Aintree. However, the flat threatens to explode. Yeah!

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