I shall clear this up straight away before you read any further, this is in no way written to correspond with the popular ‘Tote Ten To Follow’ competition that is currently ongoing, and is my own personal thoughts about horses with the potential to come to the fore in their relative departments this season.
I have, on the whole, skipped through the well known and over hyped types and tried to focus my attentions on those with potential that haven’t been relentlessly plugged in the racing media. Hopefully we can all get some enjoyment out of these animals in the winter ahead (and importantly some profit too).
So without further ado and in no particular order (other than alphabetical) I present to you ‘The Duke’s NH 2011/2012 Ten To Follow” list – I hope it proves useful to some throughout the winter months ahead.
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7-y-o (19May04 b g)
Strategic Choice (USA) — Kilmac Princess (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Always take a chance when putting up something trained by Tony Martin as you never know which way they are going to go, but I was really impressed with his debut over fences at Navan. A winner of three of his four races this big strapping son of Strategic Choice set a strong pace for his rivals to catch but kept thumping out the sectionals and won easily. Given his time proximity to Big Zeb (he was actually quicker) and the ease of his success this would put him in the top tier of Novice Chase territory, and something like Drinmore Novices Chase at Fairyhouse has to be on the agenda, and I think he’ll go mightily well should he line up – certainly one to keep a very close eye on.
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7-y-o (23Feb04 b g)
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Function Dream (IRE) (Strong Gale (12.5f))
A horse which has already shown a clear level of top-class form over fences in his Novice season, he made his comeback at Exeter when unlucky to have fallen when coming to win his race in the Haldon Gold Cup. His target for the season I believe is the King George where he will be up against the likes of Long Run, Master Minded and the revitalised Kauto Star which makes life difficult for him, but he is a lovely scopey and improving sort, and I wouldn’t rule him out. Not sure where he will go at The Festival but may end up lining up in either the Champion Chase or Ryanair depending on how he runs in the King George – a very smart horse.
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5-y-o (02May06 b g)
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Lady Marguerrite (Blakeney (12.1f))
This is the novice I am most excited about out of all the horses on the list. He has that rare blend of speed and stamina that you see in only the very best racehorses. He first caught my eye when thrashing his bumper field by 22 lengths at Exeter in February of this year, before making his return at Chepstow to start his hurdling career winning the Persian War Novices Hurdle (Grade 2) with consummate ease on his first try over timber. His most recent start came at Cheltenham in a Grade 2 Novices Hurdle, where once again he showed that trademark acceleration to maintain his unbeaten record. Sitting handy throughout, Final Bay quickened up to lead four from home, before completely smashing the second last out the ground, after losing ground the rapid acceleration shown to get back into contention really impressed me, and he continued to increase his speed all the way to the line. I believe this horse will win one of either the Neptune or Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, before developing into an immense chaser the following year.
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6-y-o (14May05 b g)
Tikkanen (USA) — Golden Flower (GER) (Highland Chieftain)
A very likeable staying hurdler last season from the Colin Tizzard yard that looks to turn his hand to novice chasing this season. A faller on his first try over the larger obstacles I wouldn’t read too much in to that as it was the horses’ first try over them, and you can rest assured Colin Tizzard and his team will have had him extensively schooled since that run. The gelded son of Tikkanen seems to relish the extremes of going, and soft ground looks a massive plus for this long-striding sort. I’m unsure what sort of heights he will scale over the larger fences, but that Uttoxeter race he won so well (off 129) over hurdles is working out extremely well and I can see him developing into something like a Welsh National candidate in the long term – and could potentially take in something like the Jewson Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 2012.
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6-y-o (01Apr05 gr g)
Dom Alco (FR) — Fee Magic (FR) (Phantom Breeze (8.8f))
Well this one doesn’t really need any introduction really does he? A top class staying hurdler last season for David Pipe, and one who got closest (yet still failed) against Big Bucks in both the World Hurdle and the Liverpool Hurdle last season. This season looks an exciting one for connections of the keen-going grey, as he bids to make a name for himself over the larger obstacles. A winner on his first start over fences at Cheltenham, he pulverised his opposition with an excellent display of attacking fencing, and pulled readily clear of Champion Court; a very good horse in his own right. The form of this race I think will work out really well, and cements just how good Grands Crus could be over fences. I wouldn’t be adverse for stepping out of Novice company and going for something like the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival this season, as that race is well within compass. I can see either the Centenary Novices (the race Noble Prince won) being his main target at ‘The Festival’ but wouldn’t rule out a tilt at the RSA Chase over the extra half mile.
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5-y-o (03May06 b g)
Flemensfirth (USA) — Clashwilliam Girl (IRE) (Seymour Hicks (FR ) (10.1f))
I backed this son of Flemensfirth when he made his chasing debut at Hereford earlier in the week off what looks a lenient mark of 122. The form of his Ascot race has worked out really well (Barbatos second to Fingal Bay in Grade 2 Novice) and so he has further scope for improve given he has only really had a handful of runs. I was really impressed with his jumping at Hereford, he jumped with alacrity and fluently en-route to success and although he will go up plenty after that ten length demolition job, I still believe he has plenty concealed from the handicapper at present. I can see him developing into a high 140’s/150’s chaser with more experience and one of the large handicaps at ‘The Festival’ could be well within compass, perhaps something like the Jewson Novices Chase would be an ideal target?
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5-y-o (07Mar06 ch g)
With The Flow (USA) — Kauto Relka (FR) (Port Etienne (FR ) (14.7f))
A half-brother to quite possibly the greatest chaser I will ever see in Kauto Star, this chestnut gelding has plenty to do to live up the exploits of his illustrious half-brother. However he posted an immense first impression on debut for Paul Nicholls after a lucrative career in his native France. The manner of his victory when thumping the likes of Roi Du Mee (previous G3 chase winner and 141 rated), and Blazing Tempo (151 rated, and won G3 chase next time out) giving away weight to both of them is impressive. He is an athletic sort with plenty of pace, just like his brother, but looks set to continue over distances in excess of two and a half miles instead of reverting back to the minimum like his illustrious brother. Based on that performance a tilt at the John Durkan (Grade 1) at Punchestown looks likely, and from what I’ve seen he’ll have nothing to worry about – I wouldn’t mind him stepping up in distance for something like the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown either.
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6-y-o (02May05 b g)
Sadler´s Wells (USA) (11.4f) — Brooklyn´s Dance (FR) (Shirley Heights (12.3f))
One I presume the breeders of this full brother to Prospect Park would never have assumed he’d end up going hurdling given his regal flat pedigree however despite his solid form on the flat in both France and England he has found himself over hurdles for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. I think he has shown improved form since switching to the Ditcheat handler from Howard Johnson and I also think he comes out of that Grade 2 Cheltenham Novices race (beaten narrowly by Steps To Freedom) the best horse, despite in receipt of 3lbs from the winner. He is a lovely big well bodied sort, with a loping long stride and wouldn’t have been suited by the slow early fractions in that hurdle race last time. The race developed into a sprint for home from three furlongs out and after being rushed into the race made a slight mistake over the second last. Prospect Wells managed to battle back and take the lead over the last before inching a length clear on the run-in, before being run down late by the classy Steps To Freedom. I believe a combination of the stop-start fractions, ground quicker than ideal worked against Prospect Wells and I thoroughly expect him to make up into a seriously good novice hurdler as the season progresses.
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5-y-o (02May06 gr g)
Fair Mix (IRE) (14.3f) — Dusty Too (Terimon (12.0f))
A graduate from the point-to-point scene over in Ireland, this lovely galloping grey made an impressive debut under rules when thrashing a good field of bumpers at Fairyhouse in the Champion P2P final. Lengthening all the way to the line, the Ian Ferguson trained grey cut a favourable impression on that occasion and has since switched yards over to England to be in the care of Nicky Henderson. His owner has reportedly turned down some rather large sums of cash for this gelded son of Fair Mix, and he looks certain to pay his way for connections. His debut over hurdles came at Ascot on Friday (18th November) and he readily dispatched a field of probable ordinary horses but the manner in which he drew clear without any assistance suggests he is a serious horse – one to keep a very close eye on, and will make up into a lovely staying chaser.
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5-y-o (23Apr06 b/br g)
Network (GER) — Fatima III (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR ))
A handsome strong-travelling son of Network, this horse cut out a favourable impression over hurdles last season, and the sight of him travelling down towards the final flight in the Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) lives long in the memory. He clattered the last and that took almost all his momentum away, but was potentially beginning to feel the pinch after going on three from home. I believe he will be going Novice chasing this season, and I think he could become top class over the larger obstacles. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him follow a similar route that stable-mate Finians Rainbow took prior to finishing second to Captain Chris in the Arkle back in March, and I predict it’ll take a seriously good novice to beat Sprinter Sacre over two miles this season.
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THE REAL ARTICLE
6-y-o (13Apr05 b g)
Definite Article (11.1f) — Soul Mate (IRE) (Phardante (FR ) (12.7f))
An improving sort from the Edward O’Grady yard over in Ireland, he has gradually improved his hurdling after an inauspicious start to his hurdling career and he begun to show real promise in his last three races. He narrowly failed to give Captain Cee Bee 4lbs and a beating (beaten a shd) over hurdles back in July and although that sort of form would leave him with plenty to do with a view to any Champion Hurdle aspirations his comeback from a layoff recently has been impressive. He truly hammered Luska Lad at Tipperary (giving him 4lbs too) and given that Luska Lad is rated 150, and third placed Donna’s Palm, although on the decline was still rated 150 at this time. The figure I have for that race would put him in the Champion Hurdle picture, and his next performance when beating Kalann (giving him 9lbs also) was even more impressive given just how impressive the Sabrina Harty gelding was at Cheltenham on his previous start – the figure for that race rates very well, and First Fandango has since won a handicap hurdle off 135 yet was beaten some 20 lengths. He is certain to appreciate the better ground we are likely to get at the Cheltenham Festival and would be my idea of an outside bet to spoil the party at around 25/1.