Ten To Follow 2017-2018 National Hunt season by the ever brilliant @Chrisday100
Another fantastic season for jumps fans to look forward to and the Internet and twitter have been rife with previews and horses to follow almost since Enable was pulling clear of her field in Ascot's King George at the end of July.
As we enter Autumn, though, it's the jumpers our thoughts turn to and hopefully this year's Ten To Follow can provide us with another festival winner at least like last year's 16-1 winner of the Coral Cup, Supasundae.
The idea, as ever, is to achieve level stakes profit so a few of these won't be household names but are horses I either backed last season, saw run live or noted for some other reason with a view to trying to make some money under optimum conditions.
It goes against the grain to tip 146 rated 9 year old staying chasers as horses to follow but this horse first came to my attention in Navan's Troytown Chase at the end of November when an excellent second to the very well handicapped Empire Of Dirt, a horse I will always believed was robbed of his chance of Gold Cup glory by an inexplicable decision to miss the race last March. He traveled and jumped beautifully but was not seen out again until mid March himself when winning the Leinster National at Naas for Rachael Blackmore off a 6lbs higher mark. Still following him I made him a massive each way price in the Irish National and he came through going very strongly entering the Fairyhouse straight only to find a thrown in Our Duke always holding him. He may also not have truly stayed the extended trip as he faded into third after the last. He had a run over hurdles at Killarney in August wth Paul Townend on so may be heading to Listowel in the race earmarked for Coneygree's return in a couple of weeks.
Wherever he runs I believe he is an improving horse with room off his mark who is ideally suited to being ridden off the pace in big fields and expect him to run well in any such race he contests this season.
The first race run at Uttoxeter's New Year's Eve meeting was a 3 mile handicap hurdle run in traditionally holding ground and this horse showed himself ideally suited to such a test in staying on dourly after being headed 3 out to win from a well punted rival from a respected yard with 15 lengths back to the third. No surprise then he returned to the same venue in a novices handicap chase at the end of the month. He showed jumping fences over 3 miles on heavy ground to be a perfect test winning from a mark of just 102. Pulled up twice after in February and April when he drifted both times in the betting I'd be fairly sure the victories in heavy ground had taken the edge off him.
Still only 7 and with Oliver Sherwood just the man to give him time I reckon there is boundless room for improvement in him and can see him winning his share of staying chasers when stamina is at a premium.
Sedgefield racecourse staged one of the best novice handicap chases pre Christmas last year when this horse finished second to the now 150 rated Waiting Patiently who was racing off a mark of 123. Both horses traveled like they were in a different parish from the rest of the field but this horse, on just his fourth racecourse appearance, was unable to hold the subsequent Haydock Grade 2 winner getting just 3lbs. Another winner on Uttoxeter's New Year's Eve card, he jumped and traveled like a smart horse when winning with more in hand than the official margin off a 6lbs higher mark and, on Trials' Day at Cheltenham he was strongly backed in a race his trainer has a good record in but probably did too much too soon and was beaten 20 lengths into fourth behind Feltham winner, Royal Vacation and fell early in the Close Bros race in March when again sent off just 8-1.
Venetia needs no introduction as a trainer of improving chasers and she's got one who could be very good here, rated just 137 with only 7 racecourse appearances behind him and he could even be one for Cheltenham's BetVictor Chase in November if she can just get his mark up with a win beforehand.
Clan Des Obeaux
Paul Nicholls has always rated this 148 rated 5 year old chaser ever since we first saw him canter home by over 20 lengths on his British debut in soft ground at Newbury a couple of Decembers ago. Only 3 times raced over hurdles in Britain, his hurdles mark of 139 will tempt the trainer and I reckon he could go for Haydock's Fixed Brush Hurdle on Betfair Chase day although by then he could have won a BetVictor Chase and be Hennessy favourite.
This horse has all options open at this stage as he slightly disappointed in his first season over fences although there's not a lot wrong with his half length second to Whisper, especially when nearly stopping at the last at Cheltenham in the Dipper. If he's anywhere hear as good as the trainer believes then future victories lie ahead at a very high level.
Only 6 and unraced since the end of 2016, Coney Island has achieved a mark of 157 over fences in just four attempts, the pick of which was his half length second to Our Duke, with subsequent Grade 1 winner, Disko the same distance behind in third at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting. That form line is as strong as any achieved in Ireland last season and he's clearly a horse with a big future who was put away after sustaining an injury in the race. He'd previously demonstrated a high level of form in winning Fairyhouse's Grade1 Drinmore Chase and has a second over hurdles to Bellshill in a Punchestown Grade 1 novice hurdle in the book from his first season jumping.
I admit to him being the only Ante Post bet I hold for the Cheltenham Gold Cup at this stage as he was a massive price on Betfair and, while I accept he has to show he's over the injury, the regard in which he's held and the strength of his form, means he will be a tough opponent in any top class race.
Debece started last Autumn in some races at Cheltenham and Aintree which might have indicated the opinion his trainer has of him but he took that to a new level when one of the easiest winners of a handicap hurdle seen all season sauntering clear by 19 lengths at Newbury off a mark of 121. He was raised in grade at Aintree in April when beaten half a length into third behind The World's End and can now boast some of the best staying novice hurdle form this side of the Irish Sea.
Still only 6 and built like a tank, he is probably the British staying novice chaser I'm most looking forward to and he could be aimed at a race at Newbury's Hennessy meeting at the end of November, a track which appeared to suit him admirably, before presumably going for Grade 1 contests at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring.
Kerry Lee has obviously had a meteoric start to her training career since taking over from father, Richard, with big wins in the Welsh National, Eider and other big marathon contest already on her CV. Richard used to train a horse called Le Beau Bai, who he said was suited to racing on ground just about race able and, in this strapping 9 year old, she may have that horse's replacement. Second in Warwick's Classic Chase in mid January, he beat stablemate, Mountainous, another Welsh National winner, in atrocious ground at Hereford in February with a distance back to the only other finisher. Thirteenth in the National after pulling up in Haydock's National Trial, he could be her Welsh National/Eider horse this season.
Wherever he goes he'll always be best on very soft/heavy ground and is betting material from his current mark over long distances.
Neil Mulholland has earned a reputation as one of the best young trainers around and this former Godolphin owned, Saeed Bin Suroor trained 4 year old is an interesting proposition for handicap hurdles if he can be taught to settle in his races. He won on his Wetherby debut by 28 lengths, showing no signs of stopping despite racing keenly early on and that trait looked to be hampering his development admittedly at a higher level before rounding off the season with a victory at Plumpton in April.
Now rated 129, he could be very interesting on flat tracks on decent ground and the trainer has a great record at Doncaster so he could well be seen at Town Moor soon and would be worth backing granted a decent price under optimum conditions.
Rock The Kasbah
Phillip Hobbs is one of the best placers of his horses and Rock The Kasbah kicked off his season beating the now 146 rated Our Kaempfer 2 1/2 lengths at Chepstow, a course he clearly likes having finished second in that course's big early season prize over hurdles, the Tote Silver Trophy in 2015. His record over the course now reads 2211. He put in some solid performances after culminating in a staying on sixth in Sandown's Bet365 Gold Cup confirming his stamina. His best hurdles run was over 2 miles 3 furlongs at Ascot in soft ground so lying up in big fields should never be a problem.
Indeed all of the above points to a well handicapped, 142 rated, second season chaser who thrives on soft ground, loves Chepstow and will improve the further he goes so I think we can expect to see him line up in the Welsh National at Christmas with a more than respectable chance for Hobbs and Richard Johnson.
For a 5 year old mare, to run third to Balko Des Flos from a mark of 142 in the Galway Plate, rates as very smart form. She had previously been running and collecting prize money in mares' novice chases but had also run a second of seventeen at Punchestown in a handicap at their end of season festival and she clearly goes well in either type of contest.
Going forward, 3 miles and further should be no problem and their should be plenty of opportunities for her in the coming months.
All the Best for the season ahead Chrisday100