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Beautiful blend of skill and luck that landed £177,000 in the Tote Ten To Follow

Richard Hutchinson (right), winner of £177,000 in the Tote Ten To Follow jumps competition with friend and fellow syndicate member Garry Ambrose at Cheltenham where his dream win was fulfilled
Richard Hutchinson (right), winner of £177,000 in the Tote Ten To Follow jumps competition with friend and fellow syndicate member Garry Ambrose at Cheltenham

The coronavirus crisis has not produced many silver linings but for Richard Hutchinson it meant more than £177,000 dropped into his lap as the winner of the Tote Ten To Follow jumps competition when the season was brought to a close after the Cheltenham Festival.

Hutchinson, a serious form student since the age of 18, had put his nose in front just at the right time thanks to Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup. Seven winners across the four days, including four of the designated bonus races, ensured his stable finished with a total of 584.6 points and not only scooped the top prize but the March monthly prize of £10,000. As another of his lists finished 38th that took his total haul to £188,113.54.

Sportingly, he says he would rather not have won the competition that way and would have preferred it if the season had run its course. His confidence high after such a remarkable week, he was hopeful another of his lists might even have crept past his winning entry if Ok Corral had captured the Grand National and landed him the one-two in the competition.


Play the Flat Ten To Follow

The £100,000 guaranteed Flat Ten To Follow entry window is open and Richard Hutchinson will be giving his ten selections along with Racing Post experts and people from across the sport when the Racing Post newspaper returns next week.

Throughout the two-week entry period which ends at 11am on Tuesday, June 16, the first day of Royal Ascot, the Racing Post will bring you advice and updates to give you the best chance of winning a competition that also offers a £10,000 monthly prize from June to September all for just a £5 entry fee per team.

As Richard Hutchinson says: "The great thing about the Ten To Follow is that every week it gives you an interest in the big races even if you haven't had a bet. You find yourself cheering home an odds-on shot you'd never have backed just because it's in your list."

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Winning is achievement enough though, and deserving reward for the 50-year-old chartered builder from Ipswich who also finished ninth in the Ten To Follow back in 2010 when Ballyfitz carried his hopes for outright victory into the Grand National on the last day of the competition until falling at Becher's second time around.

Hutchinson is therefore all too aware of the part fate can play in the outcome of a competition he describes as "a beautiful blend of skill and luck – the thinking man's lottery".

He said: "Looking back at this year's festival so many results could have gone the other way in races decided by heads and necks. Someone described the win as 'the sum of marginal gains' and that's just about it."

Naturally enough Hutchinson loves Cheltenham – "I'm one of those saddos who thinks about what's going to win at the festival all year round. It's better than Christmas, better than birthdays" – but although he was not there this year he could probably have been heard at the track as he cheered on Al Boum Photo at the house of his friend and fellow Ten To Follow syndicate member Garry Ambrose, with whom he shared the winnings.

Paul Townend and Al Boum Photo return in triumph after their second Gold Cup victory
Moment of joy as Paul Townend celebrates the Gold Cup victory of Al Boum Photo while on the other side of the country Richard Hutchinson was similarly elated at a victory that would bring him the £177,000 first prize in the Tote Ten To FollowCredit: John Grossick

Hutchinson added: "When I go to the festival I've usually lost my voice by the end of the first day from screaming them home. I'm one of those."

The pair have been mates for a long time, brought together by their love of horseracing and having a bet. Naturally enough they met for the first time in a betting shop when Hutchinson had backed a long-price winner and Ambrose was intrigued enough to ask him how he had found it.

Now that the friends have shared such a big payday they want to put back some of their good fortune into the industry. They plan to breed from Ambrose's mare Marienstar, who got in foal to former royal runner Dartmouth during festival week, invest in more horses and set up the Mega Racing club.

If even a fraction of the pair's luck rubs off on the club's syndicates they will be flying and Hutchinson shares similar hopes for the Megatipsters.co.uk service he intends to launch when racing resumes.

How the jumps crown was won

Looking at the winning stable it may appear the most obvious set of horses to include in a Ten To Follow squad, but of course hindsight is a wonderful thing. At the start of the season, Hutchinson's stable Ping Ponger 61 looked like this:

Al Boum Photo
Buveur D’Air
Champ
Defi Du Seuil
Envoi Allen
Fakir D’Oudairies
Honeysuckle
Klassical Dream
Paisley Park
Samcro

Early season defeats and injuries to Buveur D’Air and Klassical Dream, as well as the final-fence fall of Champ in the Dipper Chase, would have been enough to dent the confidence of any player.

But with Honeysuckle claiming a bonus success and Grade 1 triumphs for Fakir D’Oudairies, Defi Du Seuil and Envoi Allen, things were starting to look up.

Fast-forward to Cheltenham where his stable’s form really ramped up to the next level. Day one was a rip-roaring success with Mares’ Hurdle victory for Honeysuckle, runner-up bonus points for Arkle second Fakir D’Oudairies and Champion Hurdle glory for transfer window addition Epatante.

Wednesday was a mixed bag with an emphatic win for Envoi Allen followed by late drama in the RSA as Champ surged to victory, before one of the shortest-priced favourites of the festival, Defi Du Seuil let the team down.

SAMCRO Ridden by Davy Russell wins at Cheltenham 12/3/20 /Photograph by Grossick Racing Photography 0771 046 1723
Samcro: one of two big winners for Ping Ponger 61 on day three of the Cheltenham FestivalCredit: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

Thursday was where everything started to come together for the stable. Hot favourite in the Stayers’ Hurdle Paisley Park tasted defeat but the Irish pair of Samcro and Min helped Ping Ponger 61 up to seventh on the leaderboard.

Hutchinson was all too aware of the importance of the Gold Cup, scheduled to be the penultimate bonus race of the competition.

He said: “We had Al Boum Photo and, having looked through all the stables above us, I saw none of them had him. So we went into Friday knowing that if Al Boum Photo won we’d be number one. It was a crazy week, just so exciting.”

Substitutions the key factor

Astute use of the transfer window played a major part in the team’s success. Swapping in Epatante for the injured Buveur D’Air was obvious, but Klassical Dream also needed replacing.

“I knew I needed a Ryanair horse but I had the biggest dilemma with whether I put in A Plus Tard or Min,” Hutchinson explains.

“Last year I backed A Plus Tard when he hosed up in the two-and-a-half mile handicap chase at the festival so I was quite attached to him, but I had to put that to one side and go with my head and in the end I went with Min.”

That decision proved vital as Rich Ricci’s chaser beat Saint Calvados by a neck, with A Plus Tard only third, and put Ping Ponger 61 on the way to Ten to Follow triumph.

Read more:

Crucial to check the list of bonus races as you pick your Ten To Follow teams


The Racing Post newspaper will be back in shops to mark the return of British racing on Monday, June 1! With extensive coverage of all the racing, interviews with the biggest names, tipping from our renowned experts, writing from the likes of Alastair Down and all the cards and form, it's your unmissable guide to all the action. Pick up your copy on Monday.


John CobbAssociate editor

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