National Hunt – Five to Follow
It’s the time of year when keen racing enthusiasts piece together the selection of horses that are set to carry their money throughout the National Hunt season. After studying the ante-post markets for worthwhile punts, the next logical step seems to be putting an array of the main selections into a list of ‘five-to-follow’. Hopefully the five we will look at here will prove profitable, with the pot of gold arriving in March courtesy of ante-post ventures based around the Cheltenham Festival.
Josses Hill – 6-y-o – Nicky Henderson
Nicky Henderson’s 6-y-o has run with great credit on every trip to the racecourse, and looks a real contender for next year’s Arkle. Josses Hill oozes class consistently, having finished in the first two in all six of his runs. He only found Willie Mullins’ machine, Vautour, too good in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, before going on to continue his upward curve with a stunning success at Aintree. He landed a Grade Two convincingly, even after Barry Geraghty said he had fail to travel and show his usual sparkle, which arguably pointed to the horse being the main ‘one to follow’ to take away from the meeting.
The (usually) strong travelling gelding looks an ideal candidate to take to the bigger obstacles, and his cruising speed should make him a real player in all the big 2m chasing events this season. The 10/1 for the Arkle may well disappear after his first reappearance over the sticks, and he is definitely one to keep onside as he embarks on what could be a scintillating chasing campaign.
Tell Us More – 5-y-o – Willie Mullins
The star of the Cheltenham Sales back in December last year, Willie Mullins’ five-year-old was bought for £290,000 and now runs in the colours of Gigginstown Stud. He has been seen once on the racecourse when bolting up at Gowran Park by 12 lengths, having been extremely well-backed, going off the 8/11 favourite.
He had previously won three p2p’s, including one effort over 3m, so in-terms of trip he is extremely versatile. His debut run was on soft ground, but his action suggested better ground would be within his realms and he looks set for a big novice hurdling campaign, in which the Supreme and the Neptune are viable options at the Festival.
The son of Scorpion is towards to fore of the ante-post markets, a best-priced 16/1 for each of his suspected engagements, which could be a wise punt should he turn up unscathed in March. A big season beckons for Mullins’ charge and he is one to follow on his way through his first spell over hurdles.
Taquin Du Sueil – 7-y-o – Jonjo O’Neill
Jonjo O’Neill’s charge progressed rapidly throughout last season, stepping up from a comfortable debut over fences at Ffos Las to end the season by winning the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. There were question marks over the better ground that day, as it had been suggested he would need a much softer surface, but the manner of his victory was impressive and he looks set for bigger things over the obstacles this year.
A step up to three miles looks ideal for the gelding, with his first port of call likely to be the Betfair Chase at Haydock for which he is a massive 16/1 with the sponsors. A solid run in that would see the 25/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he could develop into a lively contender for, disappear.
He is held in extremely high regard at home, and the fact his trainer decided to bypass Sandown and Punchestown last season suggests he will come on a lot for a summer break. A horse firmly on the upgrade and he should prove profitable to follow this season.
Beat That – 6-y-o – Nicky Henderson
Beat That gave his trainer success at both Aintree and Punchestown Festivals, showing two sides to his talents. A smooth success in a Grade One at Aintree was followed by a brave battling effort against a high-class horse, Don Poli, at Punchestown, with Barry Geraghty grinding out the victory with the six-year-old.
A break will help him recover from the tough race, but the qualities he shown at Punchestown suggests he will be one to keep onside of this season. He has the option to go over fences, but it would be no surprise to see his trainer opt to keep him over hurdles, given the success he shown over the obstacles towards the spring time.
He took a while to get used to the game but now it has finally clicked, he looks as though he could go on to bigger and better things whatever his trainer decides to do.
Ma du Fou – 4-y-o – Warren Greatex
Warren Greatex’s four-year-old has only had one start in England, when he ran away with a thirteen-runner bumper at Wetherby, having been sent off the warm odds-on favourite.
He acted as though he will come on a lot for the run, even though he breezed aside a fairly competitive field. He is likely to be given a chance over hurdles this coming season, and he has the potential to sweep up plenty of novice hurdling prizes in the build-up to something bigger as the season progresses.
Not the class of others in the list, but likely to be as profitable if you follow him during the early part of the career as he looks set to progress into something potentially high-class. As he is likely to slip under the radar following only one start, he will return at some decent prices over the coming months and will hopefully get the ‘five-to-follow’ off to a great start.