Perhaps the greatest competition of all-time, it will capture your imagination, eat into your dreams, give you heartache and joy in the same race.
It is the return of the Tote Ten-to-Follow.
For newcomers to the competition, strategy is a major part of being involved to the end.
There are 15 bonus races of which 5 are handicaps, the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Grand National, plus the Welsh and Scottish Nationals, and the Bet365 Gold Cup. If you can include the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy in your entry then you will have a horse that is likely to be contesting graded races for the remainder of the season. Personally, I would not attempt to include any speculative horses that may have a chance of winning the next Grand National, or the other Nationals.
Irish races are included in the points scoring, which is very important. In the original competition, finding an Irish-based hurdler to mop-up a handful of Grade-1 hurdle races was a good tactic.
With 500+ horses in the list, you have to sort out the most likely highest point scorers, and you should consider the profile of a typical Grade-1 winning chaser (there are only 4 hurdling bonus races, the Irish Champion hurdle and the Champion Hurdle (at Cheltenham) plus the Stayers Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle). I would focus on chasers more than hurdlers as, for this coming season, the hurdling division could be under a state of flux.
Finally, there is a "transfer" period just before the Cheltenham Festival when you can swap a couple on your lists, and I would use this to remove any non-performers and replace them with a couple of novice chasers likely to win at the Festival and possibly follow-up at Aintree or Punchestown.
That is the other major change in this competition. It used to end with the Grand National, but extending to the end of the jumps season means that the Punchestown Festival is included.
Therefore it seems sensible, with the strength of the Mullins and Elliot stables in Ireland, to be overweight in their representatives.
As with all horseracing, there is no room for sentimentality, and this was proven yesterday when Altior was beaten by Cyrname at Ascot. Age catches-up with every horse and the number of Grade 1 races won by a 10yo or older at the Cheltenham Festival is tiny. So my first task is to delete from the list all horses aged 9yo or older (that includes Altior). I'm also not going to include any novice chasers - not until the transfer period, anyway.
For this competition, you have to focus on proven experience. You might strike lucky and find an Espoir D'Allen, but you are more likely to find a nil-points scorer. Every horse in your entry has to pull its weight and score points.
So, what to include in the entry?
Buveur D'Air - dual Champion hurdler and multiple Grade 1 winner, very consistent and the best 2-mile hurdler around.
Paisley Park - easily the best 3-mile hurdler in training, and could well with 3 or 4 Grade 1 races this season.
That's my hurdlers (for now).
As for the chasers:-
Defi Du Seuil - Since his chase debut, he's only been beaten by Lonstintranslation and Chacun Pour Soi, and looks destined to win a number of Grade 1 races at up to 2m5f this season.
Lostintranslation - Stepping-up to 3-mile has been the making of him as he beat the RSA winner Topofthegame at Aintree, and proved he is one of the best staying chasers in training by winning the Betfair Chase on 23rd November.
Delta Work - was considered the best Irish novice chaser going into the Cheltenham Festival, but probably came into that race a year too soon (he's a 6yo). He could improve considerably this season and provide Gordon Elliot with a Gold Cup winner next March.
They are my initial "core", and over the next few days I will return to this blog and add some more entries and notes.
Finding the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap run on 30th November would give any entry a flying start. However, be warned that including a horse that is not the eventual winner on Saturday will leave you at a disadvantage for the rest of the season. If you are having multiple entries, perhaps include a "Ladbrokes" horse in only 1-in-3 entries. T
hose that look best suited (at this time 24thNov) are
Champagne Classic - 8yo trained by Gordon Elliot, top-class 3-mile hurdler and decent novice chaser.
Talkischeap - 7yo trained by Alan King, won the 3m5f Bet365 handicap last April.
On The Blind Side - 7yo trained by Nicky Henderson, beat Talkischeap over 3-mile at Kempton on 28Jan19. Ran well at Ascot on 02Nov without being pushed.
Others to consider are:-
Cyrname - the highest rated chaser in training, and likely to dominate races at trips up to 3-mile. However, this favourite for the King George has yet to run over 3-miles, never mind win at the trip.
Clan Des Obeaux - Last years King George winner, so proven top-class at the trip, and may yet improve again on that level this season.
Altior - the 9yo was beaten over 2m5f by Cyrname and it's probable that he will return to 2-mile, but not before trying 3-mile for the first time in the King George on Boxing Day.
Al Boum Photo - the latest Gold Cup winner, he's likely to stay in Ireland until March and could easily win 2 or 3 Grade 1 staying chases there.
Chacun Pour Soir - I'm not so sure about this one, he easily beat Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown in April but he may have been flattered by that result - we shall see.
A better 2-miler may be Sceau Royal who is proven top-class and has won 5 of his 9 chase races.
Henderson always has a strong stable, and I've never not been impressed by Janika, and this 6yo could get to the very top this season over 2m5f.
One horse who has "Grand National" written all over him is Crievehill; already rated OR155 after winning twice this Autumn, he goes well fresh and could be put-away for the worst of the winter before emerging next April.
Don't forget the mares, as there are some top-class mares in Ireland such as:-
Benie Des Dieux, who can win multiple graded races over there.
We have had some late developments with the reinstatement of Kemboy, and the terrific performance of Kalashnikov in defeat at Newbury. If you combine the news about Kemboy with the likelihood of Al Boum Photo not running until February, it makes sense to include Kemboy rather than Al Boum Photo in the lists.
The revised "core" of the entry is:-
To be advised....
Welcome to the "World of Horseracing". This blog has been providing information, comment, and selections for horseracing in the UK and Ireland since March 2010.
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Sunday, 24 November 2019
Tote Ten to Follow #TentoFollow
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