PUNTERS and pundits across Britain are picking their horses to follow between now and next spring during the principal part of the National Hunt season.
The top horses have started making their seasonal reappearances and, like the beginning of every football season, everyone is full of hope and expectation.
So which horses do I think might be the standouts in coming months? Here are half a dozen that should be fun to support, some of them with particular connections to Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse and Cheshire.
Amberleigh House: He may turn 13 years on January 1, but don't be surprised if the Grand National winner and apple of trainer Ginger McCain's eye is still in the headlines. Anything is possible when this veteran - trained at Cholmondeley - races at Aintree.
Our Vic: Champion Trainer Martin Pipe would have people believe he doesn't have many good horses. Don't be fooled! This could be his best. Watch out for him in the first major steeplechase of the season at Cheltenham - the Paddy Power Gold Cup tomorrow week.
Comply Or Die: Another Pipe inmate and a hugely impressive winner at Bangor-on-Dee last month. A narrow defeat at Cheltenham last week in only his second race over fences shouldn't put anyone off backing him for the novices' 'Gold Cup' - the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Paddy The Piper: Trained by Len Lungo in Scotland for top Scottish jumps owners Mr & Mrs Ray Green - whose daughter works at Chester Racecourse. This seven-year-old will be going chasing after some superb wins over hurdles and is worth following on his campaigns at northern and Scottish racecourses.
Bear On Board: Trainer Alan King's hope for the Grand National. His win at Bangor-on-Dee last December advertised just what a good staying chaser he is. He'll oppose Amberleigh House in the Becher Chase at Aintree later this month, after which all roads lead back to Liverpool for the big one next April.
Rigmarole: Another Bangor-on-Dee winner from last year, this Paul Nicholls-trained hurdler won on his first outing this season and can be expected to run in all the top races over hurdles.
Meanwhile, tickets for all of Chester Racecourse's 12 meetings in 2005 have gone on sale this week.
Ticket prices range from £6 for the Open Course up to £36 for the County Stand concourse during the season.
Annual badges, which are sold on a first come, first served basis, cost £300.
As well as via the website (www.chester-races.co.uk), badges can be bought on the racecourse's credit card hotline on 01244 304610, which is open between 9am and 4.45pm, Mondays to Fridays.
The next racing at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse is on Friday, November 26. The first race is currently scheduled for 1.10pm. A free bus service runs from Wrexham Station to the racecourse 90 minutes before the first race and returns after racing - racegoers with railway tickets have priority.
Admission to the Course Enclosure is £6 while the Paddock Enclosure is £13. Accompanied children enter free.
More information is available on the racecourse website www.BangorOnDeeRaces.co.uk or contact the course on 01978 780323.