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Ten To follow

It is not worth a half a million any more – it’s a sign of the times – but Betfred are very generously and astutely guaranteeing a first prize of a quarter of a million, so the Ten To Follow is still the talk of the town.

As ever, it is all about the bonus races. Steps To Freedom and Fingal Bay are exciting novice hurdlers, but there are no bonus races specifically for novice hurdlers, so the percentage call is to leave them out. As things stand, their earning potential is much lower than those horses who are being targeted at the bonus races.

Resist the temptation to include a horse that you like unless you can see him or her winning one of the bonus races. And it is important to differentiate between horses that you want to back ante post and horses that are genuine contenders for inclusion in your list. Rigour Back Bob may look over-priced at 50/1 for the World Hurdle, but do you really want to include him in a list in front of Big Buck’s?

Fifteeen bonus races, 10 horses, the perennial problem. It is probably wise to leave out the Betfred Trophy and the Racing Post Chase. You would do well to pick a runner in one of those races at this stage not to mind the winner. You should probably also leave the Grand National alone. Of course, it would be lovely to be going into the final weekend of the competition with a chance of winning and with a runner in the final bonus race, but the Grand National is obviously very difficult at this stage and, if you are including a horse who is going to be handicapped to win it on the day, the chances are that he will be campaigned sparingly between now and the time that the weights are published in February. A Grand National horse is a waste of a bullet at this stage, and you only have 10.

That leaves 12 categories, but still only 10 horses. Given the way the bonus races are shaping up, there are a couple of ways to reducing the number of categories this season. You could put the Irish Hennessy and the Gold Cup together, and include a horse – like Quito De La Roque or Bostons Angel – who is on track to contest both. You could do the same with the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle, including Hurricane Fly or Oscars Well.

Other possible combinations of categories include the King George with the Gold Cup, as is the case more years, the Paddy Power Gold Cup with the Ryanair Chase and even the Paddy Power and the Hennessy this year. There are a couple of horses who could potentially win both.

Don’t be afraid of the obvious. This is a competition for the percentage play. In all probability, Hurricane Fly and Big Buck’s and Long Run will not all go back to Cheltenham and successfully defend their respective titles in March (just over 16/1 the treble at best prices), but you probably can’t afford to be without any of the three of them in your list. Hurricane Fly also covers the Irish Champion Hurdle, Long Run also covers the King George.

As well as being a real live Champion Hurdle contender at this stage, Oscars Well is also a good back up plan for Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Possibly the best novice hurdler in training last season, it was surprising that bookmakers extended his Champion Hurdle odds on the back of a most encouraging seasonal debut at Down Royal on Friday.

Noble Prince for the Paddy Power Gold Cup. He is still not a certain runner, but if Paul Nolan does allow him travel, he has a huge chance, he is proven over the course and distance, and he will be 4lb better off with Wishfull Thinking for beating him by four lengths in the Jewson Chase last March. As well as that, even if he doesn’t run on Saturday, he is the horse you want on side for the Ryanair Chase at this stage.

Wymott for the Hennessy – Donald McCain’s horse is potentially exceptionally well-handicapped on a mark of 144, 4lb lower than his hurdles mark – the continually under-rated Bostons Angel for the Irish Hennessy and potentially the Gold Cup, and impressive Chepstow winner Tataniano, a horse who is laden with latent talent, for the Champion Chase, in a year in which several of those at the top of the market are getting on in years.

The novice chasers are tricky, but top class hurdler Menorah, who jumped so well at Exeter last Tuesday until the second last fence, just shades it in front of Peddlers Cross and Sprinter Sacre for the Arkle, while last season’s Neptune Hurdle winner First Lieutenant, who has plenty of experience over fences under his girth already this season, and who should be even better than he has shown so far on good spring ground, gets the nod for the RSA Chase.

Now just sit tight and wait for the bonus window.

© The Racing Post, 11th November 2011