The 2020/21 Tote Ten To Follow competition is now open, with players able to submit their stables for the £150,000 prize pool up until Saturday 14th November.
But what does winning the competition feel like? And more importantly, how can you do it?
We spoke to Sam, who landed the competition back in 2009 to get his thoughts.
Recalling his victory
“I used to do the Tote Ten to Follow every year with my dad, we would share a stable and even if you were doing terribly it is a great way to hold an interest in all the big races throughout the season.”
Sam is now in his thirties and the way he speaks of his victory in the 2008/09 season still brings excitement to his voice. Winning the Tote Ten to Follow is all about the bonus races but it wasn’t until Punjabi’s Champion Hurdle win that Sam really knew he had a chance, and here’s why:
“I got off to a cracking start. Not many people had Madison Du Berlais in their stable and he went and won the Hennessey at a Tote price of £33.90. That’s already one bonus race in the bag.” Madison Du Berlais would go on to secure two more Grade 2s (The Levy Board Chase at Kempton, and the totesport Bowl at Aintree. He was a huge foundation on the way to victory.
Madison Du Berlais
“Punjabi had one of those seasons where he won everything the year before but just couldn’t get it right the next. He fell at Wetherby in the Christmas Hurdle and then was third in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. He went and won the Champion Hurdle at something silly like £25.80 on the Tote which just goes to show how important that Tote win price is.”
That victory on day one of the Cheltenham Festival was then followed up with wins for Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle and Imperial Commander in the Ryanair. It was at this point he started looking at his competitor’s stables, trying to work out where he had the edge. “My rogue choice was Voy Por Ustedes. He won the Ascot Chase, then got the runner-up points in the Ryanair, and then won the Melling. You need luck to win this, but everything seemed to be going my way.”
Voy Por Ustedes
Like most things, the ‘unknown’ was the worst part of it. “I didn’t know if I had done my maths right but I wanted to hedge my bets in the Grand National. It was quite a strange feeling cheering on a horse to lose that I had also backed.”
Thankfully for Sam, the Grand National winner, Mon Mome, was not included in the list of original horses, so that was the moment he realised it was all sealed. “I felt sort of embarrassed at the time because I was quite young, but to win these things you just need a tremendous amount of luck and still to this day it has to be one of the best moments in my life.”
Sam ended up winning £440,000 and loves that the Ten To Follow has made its belated return last year.
Tactics ahead of the 2020/21 season
Who else to get inspiration from than a previous winner?
Target bonus races
“I mean, it sounds quite obvious but you have to target the bonus races. But there is a way to target horses that can win a bonus race and go on to other things. Find the winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup or the Ladbrokes winner and they could go on to do other things.” Obvious selections here look to be Topofthegame, Vinndication, or even Copperhead.
Use subs wisely
“Another one that may sound quite obvious, but there aren’t any bonus races for staying hurdlers until Cheltenham, so if you are targeting the Stayers, wait till the Transfer Window to bring in a horse that has a chance.” Paisley Park is only going to feature in one Bonus race, The Stayers. If you are worried that he may not be back to his best, why not wait and you can use him as a sub?
Novice Chasers that run plenty
“There are some trainers out there where Cheltenham isn’t everything, so it is possible to find some Novice Chasers that run plenty of times.” Envoi Allen who’s chasing debut was brilliant is a clear choice, but even those further down the novice races at Cheltenham such as Unexcepted and Pic D’orhy.
Horses to keep an eye on this season
Banker: Envoi Allen
Overlooked: Sporting John
Very left-field: Edwardstone
Improver: Aye Right