HORSES OF 2012: CHELTENHAM HERE WE COME: Long Run, Big Buck’s, Hurricane Fly.. the usual suspects are expected to lift the big prizes at Cheltenham and Aintree next year. But here’s an alternative ‘seven up’ which Daqman thinks are horses to follow to the very top.

Alfa Beat You won’t see much of this chap. After completing a Kerry National double in September for two different trainers, the relentless galloper was put away with the big’un at Aintree as his target.

The son of Dante Stakes and Eclipse winner Environment Friend, Alfa Beat carried 11lb more in September than when winning the race the previous year but it was still the same result.

Afterwards John ‘Shark’ Hanlon, who had taken over the seven-year-old from Charles Byrnes, said that we could expect to see him have ‘just a prep race’ in the early New Year on the way to the Grand National.

Bostons Angel That he started at 14-1, 8-1 and then 16-1 for a hat-trick of steeplechase wins, culminating in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, was a measure of his constant improvement: punters – probably connections, too – simply couldn’t believe he’d go on doing it.

Even now, they’re saying that maybe this year’s RSA wasn’t up to much. I like horses that get ‘downhype’: they (and his results bear witness) start at crazy prices as the unbelievers keep backing ‘something to beat him.’

What he has in abundance over his rivals is courage. On both good ground and heavy – another sign of a good horse, when he acts on road and bog alike – he showed massive determination to win those three races by threeparts of a length, then a head, and finally a neck. What a fighter!

Fingal Bay Only five. By the Sadlers Wells sire Kings Theatre out of a Blakeney mare whose sons include Oodachee, a big-money winner for Charlie Swann.

He was given time to mature – described as ‘very exciting’ – by trainer Philip Hobbs after going right away from a bumper field at Exeter, winning 20 lengths (fifth horse beaten more than 50).

Fingal Bay made his debut over hurdles in the novices’ race named after the famous champion hurdler Persian War at Chepstow on Saturday, jumping very fluently in an event which has thrown up the likes of Arkle winner Captain Chris for the same Hobbs stable.

Highland Valley Sons and daughters of stamina-laden sire Flemensfirth have won nearly £5m and this dark horse could add to the ching-ching of that stallion’s till.

Written off by most when down the field in the Albert Bartlett but, for the second time in a very short career (five runs), he didn’t handle Cheltenham. The ground was also against him.

On flat tracks, and with the going as deep as can be, he won all three of his other races, twice heavily backed with confidence to the front of the market. Watch the venue. Watch the going. Watch for the money. Ching-ching.

Mon Parrain On only his second start in England, this one was made favourite for the Topham on the back of a fast-run 22-length Sandown slaughter of the opposition on his debut here.

Though only five, Mon Parrain was the ‘moral’ at Aintree, giving 16lb and being beaten only four lengths by the course specialist Always Waining. He looked the winner a long way out, seemingly only having to stand up, when he went out like the proverbial light and was hauled in by that long Aintree straight.

Paul Nicholls said afterwards he ‘couldn’t believe he got beat.’ I can, Paul. Give the lad a chance. Five years old and asked to do a man’s job; they likened the situation to Cyfor Malta, god forbid. I’m glad he didn’t run again and I can’t wait for him to come back fresh (won after eight months off in the Spring).

Thousand Stars Willie Mullins’ hope, Mourad, was made to look one paced in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, relegated to third by Big Buck’s and Grands Crus.

But by the time the French version came around in June, Mourad was no longer Mullins’ main contender. Cheltenham Champion Hurdle fourth and Punchestown Champion Hurdle runner-up Thousand Stars – mostly ridden by Katie Walsh – was suddenly stepped up to the marathon starting grid.

With Ruby taking over from his sister, Thousand Stars landed the big one at Auteuil over 3m miles and more on very soft ground, clear of the eight times course winner Bel La Vie (Mourad fourth).

Zarkandar Unbeaten in three runs over here, the ex-French but Irish-bred (by Azamour) is ‘the one most likely to’ when it comes to upsetting the status quo on the Champion Hurdle scene.

Triumph Hurdle winners often seem to have the kiss of death but Paul Nicholls confidently (I think I can safely say that 6-4 on is ‘confidently’) set out to repeat his triumph in the equivalent at Aintree.

That the double he landed followed in the hoofprints of such as Detroit City, Katchit and Binocular was not lost on those wanting an early price for Cheltenham next March.

BET 5pts win Kinloch Castle (2.40 Lingfield) if lose 6.25pts win MEDAL OF VALOUR (4.40 Lingfield)
BET 4pts win ERDELI (2.50 Stratford )
BET 1.6pts win on each MR WILLIS and SEEK THE FAIR LAND (3.10 Lingfield)
BET 6pts win FIFTY CENTS (8.30 Kempton)

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