Expert views: British and Irish handicappers nominate their horses to follow
A panel of seven handicappers put meat on the bare bones of their ratings at Tuesday's annual release of the Anglo-Irish Classifications. Each was asked for a horse to look forward to next winter – Ireland's head of jumps handicapping Sandy Shaw was asked for two – and here are their choices. Several of them were refreshingly unpredictable
Maria's Benefit (rated 143) has run ten times, and left-handed she's won three times from seven by narrowish margins, while right-handed she's won all three, by an aggregate of 46 lengths and looking like the second coming in a Listed race at Taunton. I don't suppose she will go to Cheltenham or Aintree, but there are plenty of options at Ascot, Sandown and Kempton before Punchestown.
Topofthegame (154) is a giant of a horse who did really, really well as a hurdler and could be the horse to put Paul Nicholls back at the top in the staying chase arena. He's a monster of a horse, who can only improve over fences.
Master Tommytucker (143) was very impressive in his two novice hurdles at Exeter. He looks to have a big engine and although he could run in a handicap off that mark I think the plan is to go chasing. He's completely unexposed.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Sceau Royal (159) can achieve. He's in the same ownership as Footpad, which will influence where we see him, but I was impressed at Sandown, where he was low and fast over his fences.
I'll be absolutely stunned if Benatar (149) is not significantly higher next year. If you look back through his form, particularly that small field defeat of Finian's Oscar and Dolos at Ascot, there are plenty of reasons to think he could turn out considerably better than that.
Over hurdles I would suggest Laurina (152). There are so many mares races the worry is that she will be targeted at them specifically, and we might not get to see quite how good she really is, but if she continues over hurdles she could be special. Whatever discipline she ends up in, she's certainly one I would follow.
Of the chasers I think Great Field (163) is one who could really shake them up. He's unbeaten over fences, although we only saw him once last season, and he's been electrifying in all of his chases. He's a wonderful horse to watch and he's still only seven, so very exciting.
I'm still a fan of Definitly Red (164), and I'm sure he's better than what we've seen so far. He's let me down a bit, but I've still got confidence in him.
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