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Ten To Follow

It’s a fantastic competition, the Ten To Follow. You get as much of a kick out of compiling the lists as you do out of following your horses through the season. And that’s the thing about your horses – they are your horses, they are on your team, and you follow each one as a Drumcondra resident follows the Dublin football team.

Unsurprisingly, the most important ingredient is luck. It’s not rocket science, and luck plays a huge role. That said – and this is the important part – it is easy to compile an entry that gives you no chance of winning. The trick is to compile one that does give you a chance. Then roll the dice.

Experience tells you that to specialise in the Ten To Follow competition is to graduate with a degree in the bleedin’ obvious. Have a look at any winning list, or any list that went close, have a look at the top point-earning horses at the end of any of the recent competitions, Flat or National Hunt, and you will do well to spot more than one or two horses that shouldn’t have been on your list at the start of the season. There is no point in leaving Kauto Star out in order that you can take a flyer with a promising novice hurdler.

Get the Racing Post Guide to the Jumps 2010-11 if you can, get your hands on Timeform’s Chasers and Hurdlers, if possible read the Racing Post every day for the next two weeks, read the stable tours. Start a longlist of horses that you will potentially include, note their potential targets as you read about them, and sort them into categories. You can whittle your longlist down to a short one later on.

Sticking with the aforementioned bleedin’ obvious for a second, it’s all about the bonus races. There are 15 bonus races in the National Hunt competition, and you really have to focus on the horses that have chances of winning them. As well as being candidates for the bonus races, the majority of these horses should also have chances of winning other high-scoring races, Grade 1 races and the big handicaps, races that are worth more than £30,000 to the winner.

If you are submitting multiple entries, you also have to give yourself a chance of having as many bonus race winners as possible in the same list. At its extreme, there is no point in having 10 two-mile hurdlers in one list. You will probably win the Champion Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle, but you won’t get even close in the overall competition.

If you are thinking of including a horse who is not a candidate for a bonus race, stop and think again. You have to have a solid reason for so doing. There are any number of exciting novice hurdlers or progressive handicap chasers that you could include this year, but the chances are that the vast majority will not score highly. The percentage call is to target the bonus races, and this competition is all about the percentages.

The problem with the bonus races is that there are 15 of them, and you only have 10 horses, rising to 12 just before the Cheltenham Festival, so you have decisions to make. It is probably best to put a line through the Totesport Trophy, the Racing Post Chase and the Grand National. They are just too difficult to predict this far out, it is difficult enough to know what is going to run in them much less win them, and there is a chance that one or two of your other bonus race candidates will end up giving you a chance in one or more of them anyway.

The Ryanair Chase is also difficult, so you might want to leave that out as well as a bonus race, again safe in the knowledge that there is a chance that one of your Gold Cup or Champion Chase candidates will end up running in it. The Ryanair may be a race that you can cover with your bonus selections in February, even though that is a dangerous strategy given that you only have two bonus selections, and it may be that you simply have to include the new odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle at that stage.

That leaves you with 11 bonus races, which can be reduced to 10 categories by putting the Irish Hennessy in with the Gold Cup, or the Irish Champion Hurdle in with the Champion Hurdle. If you are submitting multiple entries, you should give a weighting to every horse that you are including, which will determine the number of entries that each one gets.

Chances are, you will have lots of high-points-scorers in your longlist. The trick is to have them on your shortlist as well and, if you are submitting more than one entry, to have the right ones in the same entry. That’s where luck comes into it. Now roll the dice again.

© The Racing Post, 2nd November 2010