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AHEAD OF THE GAME Born To Run in Newmarket on EDWARD WHITAKER (RACINGPOST.COM/PHOTOS); Richard Griffiths hears that the filly we've followed since birth is growing well and showing signs of being an early two-year-old.

Byline: Richard Griffiths

* OUR yearling fillies on a cold, blustery Newmarket morning is not a cue for tranquillity. There is plenty of bucking going on as the wind whips around their whithers. It is testament to each horse's rider that not once do they look like being dislodged, remaining tight in the saddle with balanced calm and a hard-held rain.

One of the fillies is not quite as distracted as the others and only really messes about as a sign that she can play up, too, if required.

Otherwise she is relaxed and untroubled, as if bemused as to why anyone would want to make a scene when there is work to be done, improvement required.

She always has been, and so she remains, an eager, willing neophyte athlete. Who else could we be talking about but Born To Run? Even on first sight of her in her new residence, the Newmarket stable of Hugo Palmer, and even allowing for the thick blankets that keep her warm overnight, you can see that Born To Run now has more presence about her.

That becomes much clearer as Palmer and Born To Run's short-term groom Emily Toner start to slide the rugs off and prepare her for morning exercise.

What you see is a more complete filly, who has levelled out quite a bit since her pre-training stint with Geoffrey Deacon in Berkshire. The front of her has grown to leave the backside only a little bit higher, the legs look strong and sturdy and there is an increased gathering of muscle around her shoulder. The tummy, while by no means showing any ribbiness at this stage - and nor should it be - looks tighter and more tucked up. Her coat has been clipped below the saddle area but kept nice and thick on her backside to keep her warm. As ever, her ears are always on alert and she remains a kind, gentle filly, albeit one who would feel great triumph in nibbling a button off your coat.

No-one is saying she is the finished product; come her racecourse debut she will be a very different animal.

But the way she has grown is very satisfying; it has been even, not unbalanced; steady, not rushed and awkward.

"We are of course still at a very early stage but right now there is nothing that she could be doing better," Palmer says. "She is growing and strengthening in a level way. Sometimes when horses grow they can become weak but I'm pleased to say that, for the time being at least, the opposite is the case. Her growing has taken nothing out of her."

So much so that a May racecourse debut is being considered, assuming Born To Run doesn't become involved in a dramatic growth spurt - it would only take an inch or two - to knock her development off-kilter.

"If she stays as she is now and it continues to go smoothly, she will be early," Palmer says. "When we step her work up she could still get sore and that would delay things by a month or two. She is not going to be all out to run in the Brocklesby but at the moment I would have thought she would be an early two-year-old."

While it is possible for a young horse to sail smoothly to its racecourse debut, Palmer adds: "It would be unusual for a two-year-old to go through the season without showing some heat or soreness in a joint or a knee or a shin - sore shins are one of the most prevalent difficulties with training young horses.

"In a way they are such an important part of training young horses because that is how bone strengthens and becomes more robust, by tiny little micro-fractures and damage to that bone. It's rather like muscle, when you go to the gym you are basically tearing muscle in a micro sort of way to make it re-grow and be stronger. It's very much the same with a horse's bone."

Palmer describes Born To Run as "ahead of the game at the moment" and points to another yearling filly who arrived at his Kremlin Cottage stables at the same time. Once the smaller of the pair, Born To Run is now bigger and stronger. "She is never going to be a giant," he adds. "But giants can take forever [to develop]. I think Andre Fabre has said in the past that champion racehorses are small ones."

Once Born To Run is tacked up, she and her three work companions gather on land outside the barn. There is much flightiness but Born To Run is never the instigator. "Any issues she has had have been about exuberance," Palmer says, "whereas the others are a bit more nervous."

Even walking alongside traffic on her way to the Severals gallops she is all calm. Some trotting and a walk through an oversized starting gate are taken smoothly, then comes a fourand-a-half-furlong canter. The work is easy but she is manifestly more purposeful than when we saw her do her playful, introductory canters at Deacon's.

At Newmarket Born To Run is relaxed and easy, sticking her head down in a nice, even, balanced, purposeful way. Just as the Tweenhills team liked to see this approach when preparing her for the yearling sales, the head-down gait will help with Born To Run's development and build up the muscles in the right way.

Work-rider Emily Toner notes how even in two days Born To Run feels a more balanced filly and how keen she was this morning to please and do things the right way.

"I am really pleased with the progress Born To Run is making," Palmer says. "She continues to do everything that is asked of her and most importantly she really appears to enjoy her work and has a natural easy movement. She carries herself well and displays great balance."

Before a festive break at Christmas, Born To Run will step up her work on the famous uphill Limekilns gallops, graced by legends such as Frankel.

Exciting, isn't it? Want to get involved in the Born To Run story? Go to hugopalmer.com for more details

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Born To Run in Newmarket on our latest visit: with trainer Hugo Palmer (above) and with work-rider Emily Toner for morning exercise and stalls practice
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2011
Words:1060
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