Paul Ferguson has already shared his thoughts on the seasoned hurdlers and chasers to focus on for your Tote Ten To Follow competition. Read his thoughts on the hurdlers who should be considered in your stable.
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There are only two ‘Bonus Races’ in the competition for novices, those being the Arkle and the former RSA (to be re-named, once a new sponsor is announced) at the Cheltenham Festival. Therefore, it is probably only worth including one or two, although trying to find one who can run up a sequence – who not too many people will have included – is another angle you may wish to explore.
Starting with the Arkle and last season’s Supreme Novices’ winner Shishkin is already a short-priced favourite. He looks the type of horse who Nicky Henderson excels with and I thoroughly expect him to be difficult to beat over fences this season. He won’t be seen too often, but if he comes out in the next couple of weeks, he could possibly contest the Grade 1 Henry VIII in early-December on his second start. I could see him winning his first couple with ease and becoming a very warm order for the Arkle in the build-up to the festival.
Henderson also has the exciting Chantry House to send chasing, and although he could end up in the Marsh, and therefore clashing with Envoi Allen, I will be disappointed if he can’t develop into a Grade 1 winning novice. Races such as the Scilly Isles at Sandown and Aintree’s Manifesto seem logical targets for him – provided all goes well in the coming weeks – and they would certainly be top of my list of English-trained novice chasers.
As for the RSA, the staying division appears as though it could be a lot more competitive, especially if Envoi Allen does stick to an intermediate trip. The Big Breakaway could be one who develops into a leading contender this side of the Irish Sea, and he could start off at Newbury this week, whilst there is a depth of talent over in Ireland. Stable-mates Monkfish (winner of the Albert Bartlett) and The Big Getaway could be the pick, with the former looking a thorough stayer and a potential Gold Cup horse of the future. I would imagine that he will be aimed at the three-mile Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas, so could well pick up additional points there.
As for the aforementioned Envoi Allen, he is sure to be very popular. Still unbeaten, he made a foot-perfect start to life over fences at Down Royal last weekend and it seems that he will next be aimed at the Drinmore Novice Chase. It is likely that he will now race exclusively in Grade 1 company, so looks sure to amass plenty of points going forward, and it is not out of the question that he could end up in the RSA, for all that his trainer has suggested that the Marsh is the likely spring target. Even if he doesn’t win a ‘Bonus Race’ he could easily win a trio of Grade 1s – with the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival another likely target – so can you afford to leave him out?
As for novice hurdlers, several have impressed in the early weeks of the season, but ideally – if you are considering including one – you want one who has yet to run, to gain those extra few points. One who falls into that category, and possibly the ‘dark horse’ category too, is Bob Olinger, who really impressed me when winning his Point-to-Point and his bumper at Gowran Park. That race has been won by some smart horses in recent years – including subsequent Ballymore winners First Lieutenant and Yorkhill – and I would be hopeful that he could develop into a Graded class novice this winter. The same can be said of Champion Bumper runner-up Appreciate It, who I expect to improve once stepping up in distance over hurdles, and I would hope that he could make up into a contender for the Ballymore, or possibly the Albert Bartlett, as the season unfolds. He ran four times in bumpers last term, so clearly takes his racing well, which is another positive.
Of those who have been out already, Ballyadam – one of four winners at the two-day Down Royal meeting for Cheveley Park – created a very good impression and looks set to head to Fairyhouse with Envoi Allen next, with the Royal Bond an obvious target. Likely to be kept to the minimum trip, the Future Champions is another Grade 1 option for him over Christmas, so he, too, could rack up his share of points. It is worth noting that there are five Grade 1 novice hurdles in Ireland, up to and including the Dublin Racing Festival, whereas there are only two – the Challow and the Tolworth – in England, before the Cheltenham Festival. Three of the five in Ireland are over the minimum trip, which could benefit Ballyadam.
To conclude, I thought that I would touch upon a quintet who might not necessarily be best described as ‘dark horses’ but could certainly be overlooked by many for this competition. First up is Cedarwood Road, who I would like to think is open to considerable improvement now he goes chasing and should win his share for Gearoid O’Loughlin and Chris Jones. His defeat of Beacon Edge (won twice during October) reads well and he has seen the racecourse just four times in his life.
Edwardstone currently heads the ante-post market for the Greatwood Hurdle and he could be capable of winning a valuable handicap at some stage from his current mark (142). The same could be said of Marie’s Rock, who begins the season on a mark of 144 and could take the Epatante route, starting off in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury, before going up in class. Already rated 148, Ribble Valley is hardly an unknown quantity, but he again looked potentially high-class when winning at Carlisle on his return, and he will now head to Newcastle to take on the Champion Hurdle winner in the Fighting Fifth. Should he cause an ‘upset’ at Gosforth Park, or even go close, he could enter the equation as an outsider for the Champion Hurdle, whilst the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock would appeal as a winnable Grade 2 in the New Year.
And, finally, Silver Forever is a mare who I like a lot, and she would have any number of options open to her. Again, she might not be one for any of the ‘Bonus Races’ but she looks Graded class against her own sex, whilst also having the option of going chasing. I expect to see her improve once upped to three miles and will be disappointed if she doesn’t win races this winter.
Paul Ferguson's Tote Ten To Follow
- Chacun Pour Soi
- Minella Indo
- Fury Road
- Saint Roi
- Envoi Allen