It's now all systems go for the National Hunt racing season, starting on 11th November with the Paddy Power Gold Cup meeting at Cheltenham. A couple of days ago, I was at the London Racing Club preview night, and all the pointers are below.
It was a depleted panel, with the ailment-induced absences of Leighton Aspell (sore shoulder after not one but two tumbles earlier in the day) and an ATR presenter whose name escapes me. But with chair Andrew Barr in probing form, and William Hill's glamorous PR lass (and very knowledgeable racing nut, as it turned out) and a young Irish lad from ATR deputising for his channel-mate, we were both entertained and informed.
So, what did this 'brains trust' of racing info proffer to the listening hordes? Well, a fair bit! If you're into horses to follow then this might be up your street.
First up there was a look at the weekend meeting at Cheltenham. In the Paddy Power, there was some interest in Wishfull Thinking. He's expected to make up into a top horse this year, and could even end up challenging for Gold Cup honours in March.
It was widely held that, whilst Mon Parrain is a very good horse, 7/2 is not a price to be getting involved at in Saturday's big'un. I concur entirely.
Onto Sunday's Greatwood Hurdle, and the panel felt this was a sub-standard renewal, and that the ground may well have opened up after two and a half days of racing on it. As such, they were looking for a strong-staying type. All the more bizarre to my mind then that they made A Media Luz their charity bet.
She's a proper lay horse to me. She can pull hard. She doesn't finish off her races (at least partly due to pulling hard). And she's only ever won a novice hurdle at pan flat Huntingdon. She might win here, but I'd want about six times her current 12/1 quote to be tempted.
One that Kate was very sweet on which runs on Sunday, is Rangitoto. This Paul Nicholls-trained horse has had a wind operation (haven't they all at Ditcheat?) and is expected to make up into a smart chaser eventually, but should win races over hurdles between now and then.
Looking at seasonal picks, Wymott was quite well touted for the Hennessy Gold Cup and beyond.
Two trainers to follow were John Ferguson and David Bridgwater, the former having received some decent Sheikh Mohamed cast-offs, and the latter having changed his training regime.
Then there were three picks from Racing Post's Pricewise judge, Tom Segal, as follows: Al Ferof, Jessies Dream and The Real Article.
LRC secretary, Kate Austin, gave us a Lucy Wadham horse to look out for in El Dancer. He's been off for eighteen months but is close to a comeback start now and is one to keep on the right side of. (Kate has horse interests at Lucy's stable).
Chair Andrew Barr countered with a couple of whispers from a stable where he is represented - that of the excellent Lawney Hill. He gave us Universal Soldier and Super Villan. The former is entered over the weekend in a novices chase, and the latter has an entry next week in a novice hurdle.
Then came an array of horses to follow... In no particular order, Uponthe Hoof, who is owned by the golfer, Lee Westwood and trained by the trainer(!), Tom Taaffe; Spanish Treasure, who was 8th in the Supreme Novices last year and may now go chasing; Cross Of Honour, who bolted up in a Carlisle bumper and is bumper-bound at Cheltenham this weekend (13th Nov, 4pm); Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott for Gigginstown Stud; and, Going Wrong, which was felt to be an aptly named beast for the wily Ferdy Murphy yard, and who is expected to excel at 3m+ chases.
And yet, still there was more.
Our Irish correspondent rowed in with Macville, a four time winning mare last season, and one who is now getting her career back on track after a slight setback.
Finian's Rainbow was a less inspired pick but nevertheless a chaser for whom Champion Chase honours are hoped (8/1 for that prize at the moment).
Sword Of Destiny was an early shout for Albert Bartlett honours at the Festival, for which he is a 25/1 chance currently.
Then came a batch of Irish 'darkies' to look out for:
Dylan Ross - easy winner of a maiden hurdle and entered in a Grade 3 at Navan this weekend
Captain DancerÂ - another easy maiden hurdle winner, trained by Charles Byrnes
Lovethehigherlaw - Â winner of three bumpers last term, including a Grade 1 at Punchestown and expected to make a big impression over hurdles
Waaheb - One of the minimal Dermot Weld jumping team this Winter, and just touched off by Lovethehigherlaw in that G1.
Megastar - expected to make up into a decent two mile chaser.
Simonsig - trained by Foxhunters' Chase-winning trainer, Ian Ferguson, and winner of his bumper after two point-to-point wins.
Saint Are - Â winner of the Grade 1 Sefton Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Festival for Tim Vaughan, and expected to make a mark over fences this term (entered Saturday, 4.10pm at Cheltenham).
And that, my friends, is your lot! Your 26 to follow..!
If you want to be notified about these horses, there are 'nag me' services available from various places. If you have an account with horseracebase, then you can set these up in there. Alternatively, there is a facility at irishracing.com which is free to use.