Rather than give you any selections for Thursday’s action, the time and effort can be used more constructively digging out the good things for Cheltenham’s Paddy Power Open Meeting plus hoping to find some key statistics, and, as requested by the editor, to come up with a Five To Follow for the National Hunt season.
Firstly can I state I’m not a fan of such lists, tentatively linked up to the fact I hate backing ante-post. The frailty of our equine heroes and the fact in life in general I don’t worry too far past today, leaves me reluctant to look too far in advance.
I prefer to watch each race on its own merits, and then judge whether those that ran are worth following in their next outing. The betting market also has a massive influence on me. Horses that drift radically but yet go on to run extremely well are always worth following on their next start. So too are those outsiders who come in for support, then don’t necessarily show up amongst the places, let alone win, yet run with some zest.
Cannington Brook is a prime example. He was backed into 12-1 from 22-1 at Ascot earlier this month, except he was unfortunate to be badly hampered at a key part of the race. So I would consider him a horse to follow next time, rather than a horse to follow for the season.
Plus why does it have to be restricted to horses? My first of five to follow for this season has to be a jockey.
The Irishman is in the enviable position of being first jockey to Gigginstown House Stud. What a bonus to have at your disposal some of the best equine talent around. Sir Des Champs, Roi Du Mee, Sea Of Thunder and First Lieutenant are just some names to get excited about. The automatic assumption is to keep an eye on Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy. I’m not suggesting you divert your attentions, but add Davy to your list of go-to jockeys. There are many instances of races where Gigginstown House Stud have had multiple entries and his choice is significant. He has ridden Cheltenham Festival winners, with surely more to come.
Dedigout (AJ Martin)
This six-year-old seems especially relevant, while I’m highlighting Gigginstown House Stud and Davy Russell. He probably isn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue, yet he should be! He has won four of his five hurdle races, including the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival from Colour Squadron. He is held in high regard, which is accentuated by the fact he has started favourite in five of his seven races. There was no lingering on his hurdle career, instead it was straight over the bigger obstacles on November 6 at Punchestown for a very impressive and facile victory in extreme conditions. His next engagement could well be Fairyhouse on December 2.
Fox Appeal (Emma Lavelle)
Hopefully you have kept the faith with this talented hurdler. He was my Cheltenham Festival nap, but at no point did he show his true ability in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. Back at Cheltenham on seasonal debut he found himself detached from the main core of the action quite early. Closer scrutiny would seed the thought that he had a chance of a place three out until meeting trouble in-running. He confirmed suspicions with a win at Kempton at 15-2 not long after. Emma Lavelle’s bay gelding has won four of his seven hurdle races and surely there is further improvement to come.
Flemenstar (P Casey)
This horse fills you with anticipation and excitement on every appearance. What is he going to do next, or should I say how far is he going to win by? On Sunday he decimated a talented line-up including Big Zeb. Next hope is that he will run under rules over further than two and a half miles and wouldn’t it be wonderful to see him run at Kempton, Cheltenham or Aintree? Fingers crossed, eh!
Sire De Grugy (G Moore)
The Betfair Hurdle form has worked out supremely well; Zarkandar the victor, Get Me Out Of Here runner-up, Raya Star third and Sire De Grugy fourth. All have already come out and won this season. Sire De Grugy is the only one who has been asked to make the transition to the bigger obstacles. His facile, enthusiastic success was achieved at Kempton and on the day I don’t think the pace was fast enough. He is due to run at Cheltenham on Sunday and it will intriguing to discover how he copes with the undulations. I should think they won’t be an inconvenience.
Other names who just missed out on the list were Countrywide Flame, Sir Des Champs, Tarla, Raya Star, Overturn and Tominator.