With Tote Ten to Follow open to Irish customers for the first time in six years, we’ve been talking to some of the nation’s biggest trainers to get the inside track on their leading-lights for the season ahead.
Cheltenham Festival winner Paul Nolan gives us an update on his Tote Ten to Follow runners, as well as a few who aren’t in the competition but are worth adding to your tracker.
We were very happy with Latest Exhibition’s debut over fences. He had a little bit of a look at the second but I thought after that he was very good for a horse who, despite his age, is relatively inexperienced. He had no point-to-point runs, was a late developer and he didn’t have that many runs over hurdles either. Really, he was still a baby when he went over to Cheltenham and I think he’s matured a good bit this season. Hopefully he’ll learn an awful lot from that latest win and can be even better on his next start.
The races we’re looking at next for him are the Florida Pearl at Punchestown and the Drinmore at Fairyhouse. We’re just trying to pick the best race for the horse and the best track for the horse. And as well as that possibly try to avoid Envoi Allen, who quite frankly looks unbeatable. We’ll certainly try and avoid him for as long as possible.
I think the break will have benefited him as he had a hard enough old season. He had a tough enough race in Galway. He didn’t know enough to race against Abacadabras the right way. We were tracking him, he was tracking us and we just couldn’t force the pace because he didn’t know how to. It just turned into a sprint which completely suited Gordon’s horse. Then we took on Andy Dufresne and we had a hard race against him, then we had a hard race at Leopardstown before heading to Cheltenham.
He’s a behind the bridle horse who shows you nothing at home, but he shows it in the right spot which is from the last ti the line and he has plenty of guts. We’re hoping he’ll be a better horse than we saw in the Albert Bartlett, because of course we were disappointed to get beat but we were beat fair and square. Bryan gave him a super ride and Willie’s horse was a little bit keen and made the odd mistake. I thought two out and at the last we were going to win but our fella will learn an awful lot from it. He didn’t eat great when we went over there and he should be a lot more streetwise this time.
Fitzhenry placed in the Troytown and Paddy Power at Leopardstown last year and it will be more of the same for him. We gave him a run over hurdles and I was surprised how unfit he was, the whole thing didn't suit him. The ground was a little bit nice for him and the trip, the track, everything, was just a bit too sharp and it possibly made it look a little bit worse than it was.
He's been a solid, old horse who's been very unlucky. He's only won two races in his life and he's high enough up in the ratings. He was very unlucky on his last start at Leopardstown before Cheltenham where a horse brought him to a stand still. I think that might've been that might've been his day otherwise. You might even say he was nearly mugged in the Paddy Power. So we always seem to find one too many too good for him, but hopefully he’ll get his day because he's been a good servant and he's won plenty of prize money.
Discorama is not an easy horse to place nowadays. He is rated 137 over hurdles, he's been second at Cheltenham over hurdles and second and third over fences and is 150 over fences.
He's only seven years of age, which means he's got a lot left in the tank and, touch wood, he's a sound horse. He's just an old gentleman and all at home are very fond of him. I think we'll enter him in the November meeting for the staying handicap chase at Cheltenham over 3m4f. We'll
All being well, he’ll then get an entry for the Welsh National and we'd probably go for races like that. I think it's easier to go over to England and carry weight in a handicap than carry top-weight in an Irish handicap. When you get up to that level of handicap, you'd want a Gold Cup horse to carry top weight.
We're finding it difficult with him but he was a little bit unlucky as against Milan Native at Galway. Penalties were for horses who’d won a chase excluding handicaps and he’d won a beginners at Naas a couple of years ago. Gordon’s horse had won the Kim Muir and got no penalty, so it was very strange to meet a horse like him and we lost by a nose. He’s not easy to place but he’s been a great servant to us and hopefully we can find a few races for him.
Tucanae possibly would’ve won a lot of maiden hurdles in the last month, even taking on the geldings. I think she met a very decent mare in Liz Lalor’s Carrigeen Lotus and there was a good mare of Declan Queally’s in behind.
She’s young, she’s got a lovely pedigree and we’re hoping she could compete in some of the mares’ novices this year. Once she gets her maiden under her belt I’m hoping there’s a lot more to come from her.
La Feline was terribly disappointing on her run in Galway but I just think that maybe the ground wasn't as testing as we thought it would be. She was just flat to the boards from the very start and even though she jumped, and it was her jumping that kept her in it, Bryan had to chase her along to get into a position coming down the hill. If you're not traveling coming down the hill at Galway, you're certainly not going to get up it.
I think she's put that behind her and she won her maiden hurdle very well at Limerick in very testing conditions over three miles. I would like to get her back up to that trip again and the more testing the ground, I think the better she'll be.
Valentina Lady won her bumper very well at Naas but she was terribly disappointing first time out at Ballinrobe, where I thought she would win but we have our reasons for that performance. She bounced back to form at Punchestown and ran very well against the geldings and I was surprised how well she stayed all the way to the line. I think two-and-a-half miles and even further will suit her and hopefully she's another mare that possibly might be able to compete at novice status against her own sex.
Mercury Lane finished second in a point-to-point and we were very pleased with his run at Wexford. He’s a nicely bred horse who is closely related to Mikael D'Haguenet. The one thing we all love about him is that he's a super correct jumper and if there's a jump in front of him I think he'll be better. We'll make our mind up whether we go for another crack in a bumper or not but more than likely he’ll go over hurdles at a track where a bumper winner will have to carry a penalty and it might give him a nice edge
Fire Love won her point-to-point in testing conditions on her very first run and I think she's going to be an awful lot better when she gets a nice bit of ground. There were terrible conditions that day between the flags. She's a lovely looking mare by No Risk At All and I think she'd be a lovely mare for the future.