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Paddy Flood talks exclusively to the Tote on the National Hunt season in Ireland so far and looks ahead to the Tote Fortria Chase this weekend.

The Irish National hunt season really jumped back into life at the weekend at Down Royal. With a lot of the big names present that punters have been waiting to see.

The Storyteller put in an excellent performance under Keith Donoghue on Saturday to win the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase. People have been asking if this means there is much more to come from the Storyteller. I think he was the fit horse on the day and this was his best. If you were to re-run the race in a few weeks’ time you might see a different result. While I’m sure he will remain competitive, I don’t think he will go on to deliver any big surprises in the future.

By contrast Presenting Percy and Delta Work probably needed the run and have more improvement to come. Both horses should improve and pick something up along the line.

I would favour Delta Work out of the two of them. He should win a Grade 1. If we are looking for a Gold Cup horse this far out though, it is Al Boum Photo for me. Delta Work may be Gordon’s best prospect for the Gold Cup but I think Al Boum Photo is possibly just a grade above and a more straight-forward horse.

Sir Gerhard’s win in the bumper also caught my eye on Saturday. I saw him win his point to point last year by what must have been twenty lengths on the bridle and I also got to see him up close after the race. He’s definitely a horse to keep an eye on, he could be very good. He’s a very good animal and one I’d stick in my Ten To Follow.

Tote Fortria Chase

When you see the Tote Fortria Chase at Navan come up on the calendar, you know you are getting into winter. A two-mile race on one of the best chase courses in Ireland. Ballyoisin won the last two years but he seems very unlikely to be there this year.

As a race it takes a fair bit of stamina. When you turn down the back in Navan and get your horse rolling, you can get into a lovely rhythm and then up it a gear but then you face into a strong hill from the 4th last to the 3rd last. This is followed by a straight, and horses which have got going down the back can find this a bit daunting.

The race could well sign post a prospect or two for the season as in the past it has thrown up some proper Grade 1 horses. Moscow Flyer won twice with Barry Geragthy onboard and last year’s runner up A Plus Tard, went on to win a Grade 1 at Leopardstown the next month.

A Grade 2 around Navan is as good a test as you’ll find, so, the winner is certainly one to keep an eye on and one to consider for your Ten To Follow.

It’s a great start for a horse’s winter campaign, so, hopefully recent rain will mean the ground will attract a good field next Sunday.

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