It's that time of the year, dear reader, when the world and his wife (and his sister, and her aunt, and her dustman) try to pick ten horses to win a million quid. Yes, it's the Tote Ten To Follow, and entries close next week for that.
However, I'm much more interested in backing winners than entering a lottery like that, so I'm going to pick ten horses that I reckon will leave us in front at season end.
First up though, I'd like to offer a very warm welcome to new readers, who have signed up as part of the great horse racing giveaway offer. You're very welcome aboard, and I hope that in the coming days, weeks and months, you'll find a few snippets of value as well as more than a winner or two.
And, of course, to those who have been with me a while longer, you are as cordially welcome as ever too.
For the benefit of new readers, allow me to spend a couple of lines explaining the drill:
- You will receive fairly regular emails from me advising that I've posted to this 'ere blog, on matters equine or otherwise sporting.
- You will also receive email telling you that Gavin has posted to Geegeez' sister blog, NagNagNag.
- You will not receive any other email from us. Ever.
- If the subject of a post is of no interest to you, feel free to ignore it. I'll not be offended. ;o)
- Er, that's it.
OK, enough of the formalities and on to the action.
The Tote Ten To Follow is a tricky competition where a number of tactics need to be employed. It's a bit too competitive for me, especially when I have the chance to get paid out on every horse I back that wins, and not just if my combined total beats about 700,000 other people!
So eyes down, look in, for Geegeez' Ten To Follow:
Surprisingly beaten on debut, Alan King's hurdling superstar will clearly be aimed at the Champion Hurdle. He loves Cheltenham and has twice won at the Festival. He is entered on Saturday at Wincanton.
2. Sizing Europe
The way this horse traveled in his races last year marked him down as a serious contender for the top hurdle crown. Alas, he seemed to go wrong in the big race in March. He'll likely mop up a few decent races in Ireland en route to the West Country. He's entered in the Morgiana on 16th November, as are all the main Irish protagonists and, if he runs, he'll take some stopping.
(It should also put a line through Jered as a serious Champion Hurdle contender if they both start. Jered's odds are quite simply preposterous based on what he's achieved so far. If you want 6/1 about a horse that needs to improve two stone to get competitive, even before young hurdlers like Sizing, Katchit and Osana have improved themselves, then stop off at Ladbrokes on the way to the funny farm. Not for me...)
3. Alberta's Run
Winner of both the Reynoldstown at Ascot and the Sun Alliance at Cheltenham, Albertas Run is clear best of last season's crop of staying chasers and, with Denman sidelined until February (and possibly a doubtful runner), and Kauto unconvincing to this spectator (he beat a tree in Ireland the other day), the race is wide open.
Add to that the fact that Neptune Collonges needs a flatter track (doesn't really stay) and Tidal Bay will be aimed at the Champion Chase, and I reckon Albertas Run is a very solid each way ante post option for the Gold Cup.
I've backed him at something approaching 50/1 (see screenshot) and, while he needs to improve his jumping, he is guaranteed to stay and will be trained for the race. 28 on betfair still looks reasonable.
Forget his run at Aintree - the track was too sharp and the trip was way too sharp. He'll be ready for the Hennessey at the end of the month.
4. Tidal Bay
A machine. Ten wins and five second place finishes from 15 starts is a record that very few animals can boast. Strolled to imperious victory in the Arkle last year, and followed up at Aintree, before cruising home on his seasonal debut in the race that Albertas Run finished fourth.
TB will presumably be aimed at the Champion Chase and the question is whether he will be kept clear of Paul Nicholl's brilliantly precocious Master Minded prior to the Festival. Either way, I reckon he'll keep on winning. Whether he's a backable price remains to be seen...
5. Blazing Bailey
For one so young, this horse has achieved stacks already. Tough, consistent, very genuine and would definitely have been placed in last season's World Hurdle had regular dance partner Choccie Thornton not decided to tango with My Way de Solzen instead. I don't think he'll make that mistake again, and I don't think My Way will ever finish in front of BB again (not that he did at Cheltenham either!).
Curiously, he marked his return to action with a win in a 0-75 lady riders' handicap. He won going away without recourse to the whip. I'd have expected nothing less.
6. King's Revenge
None from nine last season, but finished placed (first four) on seven of those occasions. He was also not beaten far in the County Hurdle in March, and a good second the other day in another competitive handicap - despite his trainer's horses not currently firing - marks him as one to follow.
I think he might pop up a couple of times at nice prices this season. He's entered in the Greatwood at Cheltenham on 16th November (doesn't get any easier for him!).
David Pipe's old man, Martin, farmed the Paddy Power Gold Cup with an astonishing SIX wins in the last ten years, and you can bet that Pipe Jr. will want to join dad in winning this race.
Pipe has a host of entries, but I think the one to look at is Abragante. He had a troubled trip last time out, but that run will have served to freshen him up for this.
I'm pretty sure he'll win this season, even if not in the PP Gold Cup and, if he does, his odds should cover the times when he's beaten.
Nicky Henderson is just a brilliant race horse trainer. His Terramarique has a phenomenal win record (9 wins from last 13 starts), and is entered tomorrow.
He's no world beater, but has been expertly placed to pick up race after race. The race he's entered in tomorrow is a little warmer than previous runs, so one of two things will happen. Either, a) he'll win and we'll get paid, or b) he'll lose and the trainer will lower his sights, and we'll get paid next time. I hope...
9. Ballygowan Star
Jim Best may not be the top training name on everyone's lips but he's a pretty shrewd cookie, and places his horses very well. In amongst his motley stable of selling platers and low ranking handicappers, he seems to have picked up a nice sort in Ballygowan Star.
Twice raced in Ireland in B-list bumpers, he ran creditably to finish runner up on the second of those occasions. He's got a few entries this week, and I reckon he might win a couple of novices before too long.
Completing the line up is Trainer Track Stats trainer, CC Bealby, who is ticking along nicely this season, and looks to have a horse who will win in turn at fair prices in Thistlecraft. Although he's only won 2 of his 13 chase starts, he has been in the first three six times - and often at decent prices.
Thistlecraft won't set the world alight, but he will likely allow us to cash a ticket this season.
So there you have it - my ten against the field: a mix of top class horses and basement scraping nags. But, I believe, most will reach the winners' circle, and I'll be following them with a combination of hope, expectation, and cold hard lucre!
Finally, I just wanted to say that I've now added the Fancy Fillies lay selections to my personal punting portfolio, and two losers out of two so far this week is a natural enough continuation of the fine form it showed during the trial. The link to my review is here, and you can go directly to the Fancy Fillies page here (should you so wish).
That's all for today - good luck if you're wagering.