The Tote Ten To Follow transfer window closes at 10pm on Monday 15th March and gives players the chance to make two substitutions to their stables.
Most will have their attention firmly on Cheltenham when selecting stable substitutions, however, there is plenty more racing beyond the Prestbury Park showpiece, with Aintree and Punchestown still to come. It could prove a smart move to add those being campaigned for the spring into your stables. The five bonus races at Aintree include the Betway Bowl, Aintree Hurdle, Melling Chase, Liverpool Stayers Hurdle and, of course, the Grand National are all certainly worth considering when picking your super subs.
Below you will find a selection of horses who are being campaigned with the latter spring festivals in mind.
The dual Champion Hurdle winner needs little introduction, now a 10-year-old in the twilight of his career, he will be skipping the Festival with his main target the 2m5f Aintree Hurdle, a race he won in 2017 after his first champion hurdle victory.
He has an excellent record around Aintree and the trip looks to be his optimum. Although beaten on his reappearance at Haydock after a 420-day break, you would have to be pleased with the way he stuck to his task. It bodes well for a solid showing in April where he will have the benefit of having skipped a hard race at Cheltenham. A return to anything near his 2017 and 2018 form will see him go very close to winning, in the process picking up some Grade 1 bonus points at an expected healthy dividend.
Paul Nicholls has been keen to aim this one at Aintree since his classy Relkeel Hurdle victory at the start of January. He holds course form having won the Grade 2 NHF race at the 2019 meeting and his three best performances have come on flat tracks. This may prove a shrewd move by the Ditcheat master given the depth of the Stayers Hurdle this year.
He does still give the impression of a slightly immature horse who may not enjoy the hustle and bustle of Cheltenham, this combined with his more than adequate turn of foot should see him put up a strong claim on proper spring ground in either the Aintree or Liverpool hurdle. He looks to have a promising novice chase season ahead next year but can hopefully pick up one more graded prize before turning to the larger obstacles.
Dan Skelton’s 6-year-old would have a massive chance if he were to turn up in the Supreme, however, it looks as though connections have decided to side-step and target one of the novice hurdles at Aintree, which you can imagine he will be a very short price for.
He’s arguably been the best of the British novice hurdlers this season, with an unbeaten record and two Grade 2 victories to boast. The most recent of these coming at Kelso in the Premier Novice’ Hurdle in striking fashion when overcoming a penalty to win by 9 ½ lengths against a well fancied field. It will be a step up into Grade 1 company at Aintree, however, turning up with the benefit of a break should see him add to his flawless record.
Willie Mullins Kemboy looks one who could have big spring campaign ahead with the potential to turn up at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown. He is a horse who comes alive in the spring with his career best performances coming on Good and Good to Soft ground, which sees him capable of beating the best 3m chasers around.
The fact he is being aimed at the Gold Cup would suggest he is in rude health at home, with connections having previously stated the race didn’t suit him. A bold showing at Cheltenham would line him up nicely for a tilt at the Betway Bowl (Aintree) and the Punchestown Gold Cup, two races which have perhaps seen his best performances. His one and only outing at the national meeting in 2019 saw a demolition of two-time King George winner Clan des Obeaux by 9 ½ lengths, followed four weeks later by the dethroning of Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo in the Punchestown equivalent.
You wouldn’t want to bet against him adding to his four Grade 1 victories in the coming weeks, especially with the majority of three-mile chasers likely to only take on a maximum of one assignment post Cheltenham. He’d certainly be one to have on the short list.
Hitman is another of Nicholls talented string to be bypassing the festival with a date set for the Mildmay Novices Chase over 2m5f at Aintree confirmed after his confidence boost around Newbury when winning at long odds on. Paul Nicholls may not have the firepower of old in his yard but there is still no better man at targeting and minding a horse for a race. His preference appears to be to get these talented chasers over a fence early and ease them into the higher grades. It is a tactic which has paid dividend over the last few years with the likes of Cryname, Clan des Obeaux, Topofthegame and Frodon all avoiding the festival early in their careers before going on to record Grade 1 success.
Hitman fits this profile and would look to have a major chance to secure his first Grade 1 having narrowly missed out to Allmankind in a classic renewal of the Henry VIII Novices chase. If he can produce anything near that performance over 2m5f it is highly likely that would be enough to deal with British rivals, who will have had to contend with Envoi Allen at Cheltenham. Going to Aintree not only looks to be the right thing for the horse in the long run but may reward those who side with him in their stable as well.