JP’s Ten to Follow for 2011/12 National Hunt Season

I must admit I’ve not been a huge fan of ten to follow’s as I find it can interfere with my betting judgement during the season but it’s a bit of fun. I’m a huge fan of horses that run well at Cheltenham. Not only do they tend to come back and run well again but the form tends to hold up at other courses as well. All horses are on the official Totesport ten to follow list. In no particular order here we go:

Captain Chris – Philip Hobbs
This year’s Arkle wiunner made his seasonal debut at Exeter on Tuesday when favourite for the Haldon Gold Cup, only to unseat at the last. I was impressed with the versatility of the Captain during last season and with the way he improved. Some will disagree but he would have won if not unseating at Exeter as he made up tremendous ground between the last two flights and was accelerating. Next stop the King George and I can see him developing into a leading contender for the Gold Cup.

Time For Rupert – Paul Webber
Starting favourite, Rupert did well to finish 5th in RSA Chase in March after struggling throughout. It turns out he had a poor blood count afterwards so can be forgiven that run. He confirmed it was a one off when running well when coming 2nd in the Charlie Hall last Saturday, finishing 27 lengths ahead of Cheltenham NH Chase winner Chicago Grey. He’s a top contender for all the long distance chases this year and I’d love to see him make the Gold Cup.

First Lieutenant – Mouse Morris
After winning on his debut in a novice chase at Tipperary some where disappointed with this year’s Neptune Hurdle winner’s second run when beaten a nose by De Valira at Cork. However, given the conditions were all against him and it was only his second run of the season I was actually impressed. The Lieutenant is a great stamp of horse and was always going to be a chaser. He’ll be better over further and is likely to develop into a leading contender in the RSA Chase.
Blazing Tempo – Willie Mullins
Fifth in the Jewson, this talented mare is highly thought of by the Willie Mullins stable. She made her seasonal debut in the Kerry National finishing around 6 1/2 lengths behind Alpha Beat. Only 7 years old there is plenty more to come. Expect to see her run well in the Hennessy for which 25/1 is widely available. 

Zarkandar – Paul Nicholls
Winner at both Cheltenham and Aintree this high class hurdler is being aimed for the Champion Hurdle. He made rapid progress in the few weeks before the Festival where he picked up the Triumph Hurdle prize. This is a really tough division this year and there are going to be some great hurdle races over 2 miles in the build up to the big one. I’d be surprised if Zarkandar doesn’t pick up a few along the way and perhaps will feature in the big one come March.

I’m So Lucky – David Pipe
Highly thought of by the stable and this one flies a bit under the radar. Watch the Champion Chase again and you’ll see that although he was 7th it was a very good run. Mixed it with top company last year and I will that this could be the season when this 9 year old comes good.

Oscars Well – Jessica Harrington
Races with lots of enthusiasm and I love his attitude. He stumbled on landing when in the lead over the last in the Neptune which he surely would have won. Lots of options as he stays but also has speed. I’d be surprised though if he doesn’t end up in the Champion Hurdle. Unlucky not to land the NAP in March I’m sure he’ll reward backers this season. Runs at Down Royal tomorrow.

Celestial Halo – Paul Nicholls
A long term favourite of having landed the NAP at 10/1 in the 2008 Triumph Hurdle. Now that it’s been established he’s a hurdler not a chaser I expect him to pick up a number of races just below the top level. He can get some early money in the bank and points on the board by taking the Grade 2 Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday.

Peddlers Cross – Donald McCain
High class hurdler who looks like he’ll develop into a top novice chaser. He has a great blend of stamina and speed and a determined will to win. Won 8 races before being beaten at Cheltenham (ran a cracker) and Aintree (over the top). Current favourite for the Arkle and I can see him winning a number of 2 mile novice chasers before featuring in the 2 mile novice chase championship at Cheltenham. Handled by Donald McCain who is very much an up and coming trainer. Likely to make his debut at Exeter on Wednesday where he’ll take all the beating. 

Champion Court – Martin Keighley
Another up and coming trainer is Martin Keighley who is already close to beating last year’s total number of winners. When visiting the stables last season this was the horse that impressed me most and he’s highly thought of by connections. He has a lovely way about him and is still learning his trade as a racehorse. 4th in Albert Bartlett in March he made an inauspicious start over fences when falling in his first chase at Perth. He made amends next time when taking a hot novice chase at Aintree over 2m 4f. He’ll get better with more racing and when tackling a longer trip. Should pick up a few races before taking his chance in the RSA Chase for which I’ve tipped him.