It's last knockings if you're getting your Ten To Follow (TTF) entries in, dear reader, so in the spirit of the season, I present you with my tip top ten tips for top honours this term... if you see what I mean.
Long Run - duh! Obviously not the most 'under the radar' selection ever, but this chap just cannot be excluded from TTF entries. He won't have too many starts, but was ultra-impressive in the King George on Boxing Day, and even more so in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Hurricane Fly - double duh! And this is hardly a match-winning entrant either. However, not including the 'Fly could be a match loser. Basically, last term he ran five times and won them all, including the Champion Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. If he stays fit - could be a big if - he's going to be tough to beat all year.
Fingal Bay - ah, that's a bit more like it. The first 'interesting' contender. This fellow murdered a bumper field at Exeter on his debut in February before demolishing the oppo in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle atÂ Chepstow. He's beaten nothing of note yet, but given he's barely come off the bridle and is bound to improve with time, keep Fingal Bay in mind for staying novice hurdle events.
Menorah - Slightly disappointing when 'only' fifth in the Champion Hurdle, Menorah is being aimed at a fence or two this term. Indeed, he's already had a go at it but bungled the second last with the race in the satchel. Compensation awaits and he might run up a sequence of three or four en route to the Arkle, which has the promise of a fantastic race next March.
Big Buck's - OK, I know I'm hardly turning over any big rocks here, but this chap has been close to unopposable for a few years now over hurdles. He'll again target the World Hurdle unless owner or trainer have a brainstorm (he's not a very good chaser, so Gold Cup ambition is far wide of the mark). Having won all twelve UK hurdle starts, we can be pretty hopeful he'll take the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, the Long Walk Hurdle at the same track, and then the World Hurdle at Chelters and the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.
That's what he's done the last two years and, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Noble Prince - left me frustrated last term when connections re-routed to the race I didn't have a juicy ante-post wager in at the Cheltenham Festival, and promptly won. I did back him on the day and he was an easy winner. Bypasses the Paddy Power this weekend in favour of a softer looking Grade 2 at Navan (though Big Zeb is entered!), and should win races on his way to the Ryanair? Champion Chase? Gold Cup? I won't be betting him ante-post, let's put it that way!
Golden Silver - Willie Mullins' classy two mile chaser has never been top of the tree and, as such, has perhaps not been afforded the respect he should have. He won four Grade 2's last term, and there's plenty of softish races that he can farm again this season. He'll be ten on January 1st, so isn't getting any quicker, but he does know his way home at many of the Irish tracks and should win more races.
Oscar Whisky - won three of his four runs last year, including the Aintree Hurdle, and his only defeat - when third in the Champion Hurdle - reads well too. It's unclear where he'll go this season, with both novice chasing and distance hurdling mooted. Whichever, he ought to be tough to beat and will probably win at his owner's Ffos Las before the National Hunt year is out.
Quito De La Roque - progressive and versatile are a couple of great adjectives to describe this lad. Winner of six of his seven starts, with the only defeat being to RSA Chase winner Boston's Angel, QdlR will be aimed at the very top and could become a live contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's won on heavy and fast ground, so can run wherever, and there are plenty of three mile races for him.
He's already won a Grade 1 chase this season, when outstaying Sizing Europe and the rest in the jnwine.com Champion Chase, and I've backed him at 20's for the Gold Cup!
So Young - it was a toss up between this one and Bobs Worth for the final spot, and I've just favoured So Young. He was a bit of a hype horse last year, and he might be again this time. But Mullins has a fancy entry for him in the Morgiana (against stablemate, Hurricane Fly) and if he runs there it can be taken as a sign that big things are expected. It's a bit of a punt, but then you've got to have a punt if you want to win something like this.
Best of luck to all who are entering ten to follow competitions, and I hope you finish second behind me! 😉
Who are your key horses for this season? Let us know by leaving a comment, and we'll cheer them on for you!