Building up a good mix of chasers and hurdlers is vital for any Tote Ten To Follow campaign in order to attack as many Bonus Races as possible.
Furthermore with four of the top five scoring horses last season competing over the smaller obstacles, giving extra focus to the hurdlers is advised,
But which of those tackling the timber should you side with?
We run through five to consider for your Ten To Follow stables...
We simply have to kick off with the current Champion Hurdler. Nicky Henderson’s mare wasn’t widely picked at the start of the season for last year’s competition, but that will probably change this time. Taking advantage of a middling division, the 6yo swamped all before her, both at the Festival and in her two runs prior.
Even with a few more decent opponents in the division this term, she is still a force to be reckoned with getting her 7lb mares’ allowance from the boys. She racked up just over 100 points last year, and another clear run at things can easily see her match, and even surpass, that tally.
Last year we saw Envoi Allen progress from Champion Bumper winner to exciting hurdler carrying the Cheveley Park colours, and this year it might be the turn of Ferny Hollow. This time in the care of Willie Mullins, the 5YO improved for the application of a hood after Christmas last season with two wins culminating with success at the Festival.
The form of that win looks strong with the horses in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 13th and 22nd all winning their only start since, while sixth-placed Ocean Wind has up a hat-trick on the flat. Paul Townend had to come from a long way back and didn't enjoy the best passage in the race, but his partner was seriously impressive in the finish. If he follows Envoi Allen's lead and translates that to hurdles, we’ll have a serious Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender on our hands.
The fact that only Envoi Allen and Shishkin have beaten Abacadabras over hurdles pays him serious compliment, and with that pair off over larger obstacles this season, it’s two fewer challengers standing in the way of a Champion Hurdle bid.
Likely to lead the Irish challenge for the day one showpiece at the Festival, Gordon Elliott’s charge was a runaway winner of a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last Christmas and looked the winner of the Supreme Novices until Shishkin got up to deny him by a short head on the line. His trainer has stated that he has improved over the summer, something that should make Ten To Follow players stand up and take note.
It took a few runs for Paul Nicholls’ imposing sort to follow on from his impressive Grade 2 bumper win in 2019, but his form this year marks him out as a hurdler going places. He signed off the last campaign with a commanding win in the Grade 3 EBF Final at Kempton, beating the useful Severano by 6½ lengths.
He returned this season in the Persian War at Chepstow and looks a seriously improved horse. Harry Cobden didn’t have to ask for much for the nose-banded son of Milan to pull clear of a decent field in south Wales, landing the race by an eased down 3 lengths. He could develop into a Stayers Hurdle candidate before having a crack at one of the two Ten To Follow Bonus Races at Aintree.
While the four horses above will undoubtedly have more Ten To Follow supporters this year, it’s likely that last year’s most popular horse will be a less common feature. Emma Lavelle’s star stayer only recorded 22.7 points in the last competition thanks to his Cleeve Hurdle win, with his other win last term coming outside of the game period.
Even if he doesn’t avenge his Stayers Hurdle defeat last season, he could win both races he took last tear (with the earlier start meaning both will count), plus go on to Aintree for a crack at the Liverpool Hurdle. Recency bias may mean some overlook him due to his sole defeat in the last two years. He could go from being the obvious pick to a slightly shrewd one for Ten To Follow players.