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Ten To Follow

There are two major differences between last year’s Ten To Follow competition and this year’s: the Queen Anne Stake and the July Cup. Two new variables to throw into the delicate balance of a competition that is all about the bonus races, and it is time to tweak your parameters.

The change is subtle, but it is also significant. Last year, there were no bonus races exclusively for older milers. There was always the Sussex Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but both of those races are open to three-year-olds as well. Crucially, eight of the last 12 renewals of the former and 11 of the last 15 renewals of the latter have been won by members of the Classic generation, so you could have got away without having an older miler batting for you.

Significantly, last year’s winning list didn’t have one. Rip Van Winkle was on it but, although he went down by just a neck to Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes, he was included as a 10-furlong horse, not as a miler, and he gained 74 of his 86 points over the longer distance. The decision to leave out both Paco Boy and Goldikova was a difficult one, and it looked like a foolish one when both gained 25 points – Paco Boy dancing in in the Lockinge Stakes and Goldikova winning the Prix d’Ispahan – when the competition was but a pup, with the promise of much more to come.

As things panned out, Paco Boy didn’t earn another point, but Goldikova went on to accumulate 75 more. A total of 100 points is a significant total for any one horse to gain, and you could have argued last April that Freddie Head’s supermare would earn easy points in the French Group 1 mile races, which she duly did, and she won the Queen Anne for good measure. There will probably be a horse this season who earns a significant number of points without winning a bonus race; there usually is one every season. However, your bonus race horses will often be major players in some of the other Group 1 races as well and, with competition for places on every list of 10 at a premium, the percentage call is to concentrate exclusively on the bonus races.

The next step is to break your horses into categories and decide how many from each category to include in each list. Resist the temptation to front-load your entry. There is no point in including five three-year-old milers in every list of 10. You may win the Guineas (or you may not – remember Makfi?), but the chances are that your entry will perish after an early forward burst.

The categories are relatively straightforward: Guineas horses, Derby horses, Oaks horses, older milers, older middle-distance horses, stayers, sprinters. The weighting is not so easy though: 22 bonus races, 10 horses per list. It is further complicated by the fact that a 2000 Guineas horse could also be a Derby horse or a Sussex Stakes horse or even a July Cup horse. A 1000 Guineas filly could also be an Oaks filly or a Coronation Stakes filly.

Without getting too scientific about it, one way of getting some kind of a steer is to have a look at the last 10 renewals of each of the bonus races, and see what type of horse has been winning each race. 2000 Guineas, three-year-old colt, miler, 10 out of 10, easy. Derby, three-year-old colt, 12-furlong horse, 10 out of 10, just as easy.

Even the King George isn’t difficult. Eight of the last 10 renewals have been won by a four-year-old middle distance colt, so that category gets a weighting of 0.8 for the King George, while the other two renewals have been won by three-year-olds, Galileo and Alamshar, both middle distance colts, Derby horses at the start of the year not Guineas horses, so that category gets a weighting of 0.2 for the King George. Sussex Stakes: six of the last 10 winners were three-year-old colts (a weighting of 0.6), three were older horses (0.3), and one was an older filly (0.1), all essentially milers, not 10-furlong horses dropping down in trip or sprinters stepping up.

If you follow this process through for all the bonus races, making a couple of unscientific assumptions along the way (like that St Leger winners start the season as Derby horses, and that three-year-old July Cup winner Mozart started the season as a Guineas horse, but that fellow Classic generation July Cup heroes Oasis Dream and Sakhee’s Secret did not), you arrive at a situation whereby you should allocate two spaces each to Classic generation colt milers, Classic generation middle distance horses, Classic generation fillies and older middle-distance horses, and one slot each to sprinters and (new this year) older milers.

Interestingly, if you subscribe to this process there is no room for stayers, although, if you really wanted to, you could engineer a position for a possible Gold Cup contender like Fame And Glory or Sans Frontieres in the older middle-distance category.

Now, simply insert the horses.

© The Racing Post, 26th April 2011