Our Ten To Follow saw 3 winners this weekend, with Easy As That, Sporting John and Off You Go all winning.
Easy As That, Venetia Williams
Just twice raced in National Hunt flat races last season, and whilst he was kept at a relatively low level, he couldn’t have been more impressive. In a slowly run race on his debut, he was still able to quicken up in really deep ground when asked to win comfortably. Racing under a penalty at Musselburgh a few months later, he simply ran away from the rest of the field without ever coming off the bridle, where the runner up went close on his next start. He’s a really good looking strong type and whilst he only won at a low level, the speed figure of his victory was very good, it’ll be interesting to see how high he’s aimed this season.
5th February: Making his handicap debut off a mark of 114. He jumped a lot better than on previous hurdles races and having travelled well, he reeled in the long time leader approaching the final flight, pulling away for an emphatic victory.
Sporting John, Philip Hobbs
Last seen when disappointing in the Ballymore Hurdle behind Envoi Allen, but was reportedly “not right” immediately after that race, with whatever was afflicting him apparently clearing up within an hour. Added to that, there were several horses that had won or run at the Ascot meeting on the 15th of February which was run on particularly testing ground, didn’t see to fire at Cheltenham. Sporting John was sent off just a 5/1 at Cheltenham, as he’d looked an extremely high class hurler on his 3 previous starts. A winner on his debut at Exeter, even though he looked in need of the experience, he then hacked up at the same venue when a short priced Fav. Up in grade at Ascot, his performance on beating Pipesmoker and Master Debonair was top class, and as a result saw him head to Cheltenham, very well fancied. He’s a previous point to point winner, has the class, size and scope for fences, and should prove to be a high class chaser.
6th February: Off for a while after disappointing on his chase debut, he was pitched in the deep end in a Grade 1 at Sandown. After a couple of slow jumps, he slowly plotted his way into the race and finished off really well to winning nicely.
Off You Go, Charles Byrnes
Having progressed into a pretty high class hurdler at the beginning of 2019, winning a very good handicap hurdle at Leopardstown off a mark of 143 and followed by 2 very good efforts in grade 2 level having been raised to a mark of 151. He could prove exceptionally well handicapped over fences now, following his first season over the larger obstacles. Pitched into novice chases behind the likes of Fakir D’Oudairies, Faugheen, Stormy Ireland and Spyglass Hill, it was almost a season of education, rather than having a real chance of winning those races. He has the size and scope for fences and did show plenty or promise on his final run last season. He raced on very soft ground last season, where his best hurdles form was on a better surface. Given he’ll be racing off a mark of 138 over fences, he’s sure to be placed to advantage by his shrewd connections.
7th February: Stepping back up to 2m4f in a competitive handicap at the Dublin Festival, he travelled and jumped really well, finishing off his race really well to get up close home.