Ed Chamberlin gets a helping hand from AP McCoy for his final five horses to follow this season.
AP McCoy had a decent enough record as a jockey but has an even better record as a tipster in this column. Each year he's given us a horse to follow and the list reads well: Binocular, Don't Push It, My Tent Or Yours, Darlan and Shutthefrontdoor. He knows he's under severe pressure this year and he has gone for the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who he rode three times in bumpers last season bolting up at Newbury and then finishing fourth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, and he obviously made a decent impression on the champion jockey. He was forced wide that day and looks open to any amount of improvement. Yanworth is a 25/1 chance with the sponsors for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He has schooled really well at home and could rise to the top of the novice hurdle tree.
Mind you, it's set to be a red hot division. It says everything about the Mullins yard and the hype surrounding it that Min is favourite for the race despite nobody having seem him race in Ireland or Britain. I find it incredible that Moon Racer isn't clear favourite for the race. He was a brilliant winner of looked like a top notch renewal of the Champion Bumper. Moon Racer could be very special while Modus, Wait For Me and Yanworth, who chased him home, are all expected to be top class as well.
Talking of top-class bumper horses. Tycoon Prince was one of the most promising in Ireland last season and made a sparkling hurdling debut at Punchestown on Tuesday. As my editor knows, I should have put Tycoon Prince in this column last week. The secret is now out.
He won three on the bounce last term, which takes some doing, finishing off with a brilliant performance at Naas dispensing of the useful Up For Review by three lengths in February. This horse has got gears and Gordon Elliott clearly loves him as his face seems to light up whenever he's asked about Tycoon Prince.
Elliott has started the season in red hot form. Don Cossack will be the standard bearer for the yard and he'll be a big player in the King George and Gold Cup. No More Heroes was one that got away for us in the Albert Bartlett last season but he's set to be a star novice chaser this season and is already favourite for the RSA after a solid start over fences on Tuesday. In No More Heroes, Don Cossack and Tycoon Prince, Gordon Elliott has some serious ammunition to take on the Willie Mullins battalions.
When speaking to AP he also said not to give up on my beloved Alvisio Ville as he embarks on a chasing career and I prepare to follow the giant grey over more cliffs.
It will be hard for 20-time champion jockey to watch on as these top jumpers reappear yet he seems on tremendous form. On the golf course he's even better handicapped than Minella Foru and won the recent British Masters pro-am at Wentworth, much to my annoyance. When interviewed by Kirsty Gallacher at the trophy presentation she rightly asked McCoy if his handicap would come down after the win. He scoffed at the suggestion and said he wanted to win things. The competitive fire still burns.
Then at an event at Stamford Bridge AP was asked which sportsman he would come back as in another life. I was expecting the response to be Liam Brady, Thierry Henry or Luke Harvey. His response: Galileo. His description of the great sire's daily routine made it obvious why the envy exists.
Harry Fry looks set to continue his ascent up the training ranks this season. He has loads of talent at his disposal and a number of good handicappers - Mick Jazz is certainly one to keep an eye on in the sphere. In Bitofapuzzle Fry has a mare who could plunder a number of the new races. It's impossible not to like her after the bravery she showed to win a brutal, drawn out battle with Carole's Spirit at Ascot in January, then on ground too quick and a trip too short she ran a screamer to finish a close-up third in the Mares' Hurdle at the Festival. Connections went to the well again in April and she had enough in the tank to win a good race at Fairyhouse. She must be a joy to own and train.
With her size, scope and disregard for hurdles, jumping fences were always going to be Bitofapuzzle's game. There are a load of races to be won with her before a possible tilt at the RSA. I expect people to take Bitofapuzzle to their hearts again this winter.
3. Minella Foru
Is a horse I've followed closely since I backed him in the 2014 County Hurdle when he finished a decent sixth. He always looked like he'd make a better chaser but didn't set the world alight as a novice last term but the penny eventually dropped and finished the season well by jumping brilliantly to win at Limerick in May. He starts the season off a very attractive mark of 129 (8lb lower than his hurdles rating) and looks primed to land a big prize over fences for his canny connections.
4. The Druids Nephew
On this side of the water an obvious handicapper to follow is The Druid's Nephew. He was tanking along in the Grand National until tipping up four out when he looked all over the winner. It's no surprise he's vying for favouritism with Sky Bet at 20/1 for the 2016 renewal. Before that he'd won the three-mile Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Still only eight and in the hands of a seriously good young trainer, 16/1 with Sky Bet for the Hennessy makes plenty of appeal.
5. Garde Le Victoire
Philip Hobbs reliably and consistently churns out winners every season but has lacked an absolute superstar in his yard in the last few years. Garde Le Victoire could fill that void and become a serious Arkle or JLT contender. He makes his chasing debut at Uttoxeter on Friday and I'm told he's been electric over fences at home.