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Ten To Follow subs

You would be forgiven for thinking that, with the ubiquitous Cheltenham Festival dominating talk and thought and column inches these days, the end game for the Ten To Follow competition is nigh.  On the contrary, however, we are not even half way there yet.

Admittedly, we are over three months into a competition that lasts less than five, but this competition is all about the bonus races.  There are 15 bonus races and only six of them have been run.  Of those six, neither the Paddy Power winner Little Josh nor the Totesport Trophy winner Recession Proof was in the original list of 400 horses available for selection, so there are effectively only four bonus races gone and there are nine to go.  With the bonus window now open, the chance to add two more horses to your lists, it’s time to get busy.

Contrary to popular perception, the bonus window is not an opportunity to fix your lists.  Some lists will inevitably be beyond repair.  That list that was made up of Kauto Star, Mad Max, Tell Massini, Cooldine, Joncol, Nacarat, Weird Al, Zaynar, Big Fella Thanks and Carruthers, the list that looked so good when you put it together in November, just hasn’t lived up to expectations.

This is a competition in which it is difficult to make ground quickly.   Remember that, when you have a winner, other lists will progress as well as yours.  If Kauto Star wins the Gold Cup, your list will gain 50 points plus the Tote return bonus, but so will 27,285 others.  If Binocular wins the Champion Hurdle, you and 33,670 others will gain points.  But how many of those 33,670 lists will also have Kauto Star?  And how many of the lists that contain both will also have the World Hurdle winner?  And the Champion Chase winner?  It is only through having the right combinations that you can make significant progress.

Even if you think that you are already so far off the pace that winning the overall competition is not a realistic aspiration, you should still avail of the bonus window to add two horses.  There is no downside, there is no additional cost, and you just never know.  If Chief Dan George did happen to go and win the Gold Cup, you’d be fairly annoyed if you hadn’t put Big Buck’s in as a bonus entry.

As well as that, even if you can’t win the £212,575 first prize, there is still plenty of prize money up for grabs.  There is a £25,000 Cheltenham Festival prize, and there is a new £10,000 prize for the list that accumulates the most points from 1st to 9th April, so if you think you have the Grand National winner lurking in one of your lists, it might be an idea to surround him with Aintree horses.

If you are within striking distance, however, the key with your two additional selections, as with your original 10 selections at the start of the competition, is to give yourself a chance.

It is still all about the bonus races. There are horses – like Golden Silver and Menorah and Master Minded – who have accumulated a significant number of points already without winning a bonus race, but they are more the exception than the rule. The percentage call, unless you have an angle, is to concentrate on the remaining bonus races now.

The horses that you already have in your list should influence your choices. So if you have ended up with Long Run (whom you included for the Paddy Power), Kauto Star (King George), Pandorama (Hennessy) and Imperial Commander (Gold Cup) in one list, you don’t want to be adding another Gold Cup contender. The key is to spread your list as thinly as possible, give yourself a chance of winning as many bonus races as possible, instead of trying to ensure that you win one or two of them.

You also have to consider the number of points a horse has already accumulated, and the number of lists in which he has already been entered. This competition is more about including the right combination of obvious horses than it is about using up entries to try to ensure that you include the next rising star, but do you really want to add Hurricane Fly at this stage, a horse who has already accumulated 100 points for 13,166 rivals?

Ideally you will try to come up with horses who have a chance of winning a bonus race and who wouldn’t have been in too many lists at the outset. Draw up a shortlist of those horses, and spread them around among your entries, fitting them in as above. Kempes, for example, was only included in 667 lists at the outset. You think he has a chance of winning the Gold Cup?   Of course, he will be included as a bonus horse by some, but every list can add just two horses at this stage, not 10. The total number of horses included cannot increase by more than 20%.

Finian’s Rainbow was in 2,369 lists at the outset, Oscar Whisky was in just 1,236, Mille Chief was in 912, Jessies Dream was in 1,282, Poquelin was in 2,373, Mourad was in 667. Do any of those appeal?

© The Racing Post, 22nd February 2011