Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan looks at the factors to consider when making selections for the Tote Ten To Follow competition.

  • Wednesday 20 November
  • Blog
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Tote Ten To Follow - an Irish Perspective

The Tote-sponsored Ten to Follow is back and it’s a welcome return though sadly entries won’t be accepted from Ireland this year. Any thoughts on the game theory behind the competition here are thus theoretical only but prospective Irish entrants could always get a friend in the UK to put in their list for them – extracting the substantial prizemoney from said ‘friend’ could prove a challenge in May however!

1. Kill the Fan

National hunt racing produces fandom like no other aspect of this sport and there is a reason why you don’t seem owner-themed scarves at flat meetings (hint: it’s not just the weather). Much of this is rooted in the same old favourites coming back year after year but the key word here might be ‘old’; if such horses have been around for a while then there is a chance that – in all probability – they are coming down from their peak.

Apple’s Jade is one that might fit that profile going into this winter and entrants should be aware this isn’t a popularity contest. Decisions about line-ups should be made based on the rules of the competition, particularly around bonus races, rather than on sentiment.

There is a counter-argument to this, however. It is possible that potential horses may be too heavily favoured over proven ones and it could be that edge is going against that and focus on the older horses that ‘still have it’ and may be undervalued.

2. Think Ownership Percentages

Following on from the previous point, there are some horses that will be heavily represented across lists, others that will make it onto no more than a handful. The ante-post favourites for the Cheltenham feature races can be expected to figure prominently with the likes of Klassical Dream, Samcro, Altior and Tiger Roll among those that could reasonably be expected to be among the most-owned horses.

With each of those comes a negative, however. Klassical Dream underwhelmed in the Morgiana, Samcro got back on track at Down Royal but seems unlikely to run in any of the bonus races, Altior is trying something new while Tiger Roll has met a setback and his big target is the most competitive race of the season.

Similar thinking can be applied with many other big names but regardless of how each individual star of previous seasons turns out in 2019/20, one thing that seems likely is that you can’t win with a list solely comprised of these obvious types because they will be duplicated across so many tens. Hopefully the organisers will release the ownership figures at some point as they should make interesting reading.

3. Avoid Injured Horses

Jumps racing is attritional so it would be brave to put an injured horse or one that is injury-prone onto your list; the likes of Le Richebourg, Felix Desjy and Fox Norton spring to mind.

It is not that these horses can’t come back and win good races in the latter part of the competition but there is an opportunity cost to including them; horses that will only run twice or three times have a small window in which to earn points whereas those that are healthy have more opportunities.

A follow-on from this is that is hard to include horses formerly owned by Supreme Racing Club either with their ongoing legal issues, Kemboy being the key runner here. There have been some positive noises on this front lately, but the courts seem unlikely to be concerned with the shape of the season.

Furthermore, it makes sense to hold off with putting in tens until the very last moment as entrants will have the most up-to-date information at that point and that could even provide an edge when knowing the ground conditions for the first bonus race, the Ladbrokes Trophy.

4. The Bonus Races

The 15 races that offer an extra 25 points to the winner are likely to be the key to winning the competition and a couple of things stand out from that list. Of those 15 races, none are for novice hurdlers so horses from that division are going to have to win everything to be of any use. Either that or you are hoping for a novice to go into open company, Envoi Allen to the Champion Hurdle anyone?

With the novice chasers, the two bonus races are the Arkle and the RSA so it might be best to concentrate on defined two milers or three milers. Five of the 15 bonus races are staying handicap chases, but those races typically attract big fields and two of them (the Scottish National and the Bet365 Gold Cup) are a long way off, the Ladbrokes Trophy and the Welsh National seemingly more manageable at least with a view to likely runners.

Perhaps the most gettable bonus race(s) is the Irish Champion Hurdle and actual Champion Hurdle combo with the horse that wins the former likely to be sent off quite short for the latter though Saldier threw that some chaos into that division last Saturday and it is hard to know what to make of that form with Petit Mouchoir having finished second.

Contrarians out there might eschew these obvious bonus races horses and instead look to include a few horses that have the potential to ‘pop’ at a price. The competition rewards big-priced winners, additional points tallied to Tote returns, and a big-priced winner of a bonus race could provide a greater score than a horse that wins a series of graded races.

5. Consider Correlation

Every season, strong form lines emerge and being early to the party could provide an edge in this competition; the Ten to Follow was on its hiatus in 2016/17 but deciding that the recent Supreme form was strong could have been the winning of it with Altior and Buveur D’Air emerging to take the Arkle and Champion Hurdle respectively that season, allowing that it was hardly plan A for the latter.

Often this will to do with making a judgement call on novices going into open company, deciding that the second-season types can make a splash not only in the graded races but also the best handicaps, and with so many of the bonus races being staying chases, how you view the previous campaign’s novice chasers is an important decision.

Correlation can be negative as well as positive and you may decide that the likes of Santini, Lostintranslation and Delta Work simply won’t make the grade and in which case concentrate on the more proven types.

Best of luck with your lists, you’ll need all of it!

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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