As thoughts turn to the spring festivals and the start of the turf Flat season, here are seven horses under both codes which should give readers some fun and prove worth following in the months to come.
Allied to the equine talent, I’ve pinpointed three riders who should make their mark in 2020.
Plus, Sportsmail correspondent Marcus Townend lists out what will be making the racing news this year.
Will another horse be able to loosen Tiger Roll’s grip on the Grand National this year?
EDWARDSTONE Alan King (trainer)
Colin Tizzard must be sick of the sight of this six-year-old son of Kayf Tara, given he has already beaten two of the West Country trainer’s prize novices, Fiddlerontheroof and Harry Senior, this term. Both victories were achieved despite inexperience and there looks plenty more to come from Edwardstone this season, perhaps in the Betfair Hurdle next month.
BURROWS SAINT Willie Mullins
Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll dominates the ante-post list for this year’s renewal. However, Burrows Saint could loosen his grip on the world’s greatest race. A recent hurdles victory at Punchestown suggested last season’s Irish National winner is still improving and his shrewd trainer looks to be bringing him to a peak in time for the first Saturday in April.
Shrewd trainer Willie Mullins is still improving Burrows Saint, last year’s Irish National winner
BRENTFORD HOPE Richard Hughes
Allowed to go off at 8-1 for his Newmarket debut, Brentford Hope made a mockery of those largely dismissive odds with a performance of total authority. The Camelot colt is held in high regard at home and vindicated the faith in the hands of Jamie Spencer to rout his nine rivals by more than five lengths. He is one to keep on side over middle distances.
FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES Joseph O’Brien
Although he suffered the first defeat of his chasing career at Leopardstown over Christmas, Fakir D’Oudairies probably lost little in being beaten by the imposing Notebook. Jockey Mark Walsh lost an iron running to the last fence and his mount made a rare error there which afforded the winner breathing space. Fakir D’Oudairies had previously excelled over fences and remains one of serious interest for races such as the Arkle and JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
GOLD WAND Roger Varian
Doncaster maiden winner Domino Darling has been touted as a live Oaks contender by a number of judges this winter, but I thought runner-up Gold Wand shaped with the most promise on Town Moor last October. Asked to make the running on heavy ground that day, the daughter of Golden Horn looked likely to justify strong market support until overhauled late on by Domino Darling. She can gain compensation in the spring.
LORD CAMPARI Roger Varian
Finishing mid-division in a Sandown maiden may not scream ‘future champion’, but Lord Campari could well leave the level of that debut effort behind him. The 350,000gns son of Kingman was looked after that day once his chance had gone and the experience should not be lost on him when we see him next.
WALDKONIG John Gosden
Described by his rider Rab Havlin as a ‘big, rangy horse with a good old stride on him’, Waldkonig looks a tremendous prospect for a yard packed full of exciting three-year-olds. Trainer John Gosden has utilised the all-weather for a number of classy juveniles in the past, including the likes of Enable and Jack Hobbs. And the latter was also unleashed at Dunstall Park for a debut which preceded a career path that saw him finish second in the Derby, before winning the Irish version. Waldkonig is related to Arc winner Waldgeist and may well follow a similar campaign.
Trainer John Gosden has utilised the all-weather for a number of classy juveniles in the past
Will a female rider ever become Champion flat jockey? Many think it won’t ever happen, but if one jockey is capable of shattering that glass ceiling, it is Hollie Doyle. She is used to breaking records, having already exceeded the previous milestone for winners ridden in a year by a woman last December (107), and although the way the title is calculated may not help her bid, she remains a formidable adversary for her male counterparts who have one eye on a title challenge.
Twin brother of Ed and son of successful National Hunt trainer Warren, Tom Greatrex has taken a little longer than his family members to force himself into the public consciousness. However, that could all be about to change this summer as the young rider looks well set to launch a concerted challenge for the apprentice jockeys’ title this year. Master agent Tony Hind, responsible for booking rides for Ryan Moore and Richard Hughes among others, is another reason to keep the youngster on side this summer.
Tom Greatrex looks well set to launch a concerted challenge for the apprentice jockeys’ title
DYLAN BROWNE McMONAGLE
Young rider Dylan Browne McMonagle won’t be a name familiar to many UK racing fans just yet, but his exploits in the saddle in his native Ireland have already raised eyebrows and the teenager could make 2020 a breakthrough season.
Incredibly, McMonagle won the prestigious Dingle Derby as a 12-year-old in 2015, which was a record at the time, and he has been quietly progressing in the saddle under the close scrutiny of boss Joseph O’Brien. He is a talent to follow closely and it won’t be long before he is adding to his four career wins under rules.
What will be making the racing news this year – by Marcus Townend
The most significant item on the sport’s agenda could come when the new Horse Welfare Board publish their first thoughts early this year. Use of the whip and whether it should be allowed for encouragement will be the key feature. Expect a minimum of some further changes to the rules of whip use.
REINVIGORATING THE TOTE
Britain’s pool betting system is under new management with aspirations of reawakening not so much a sleeping Tote but one which has looked comatose in recent years. Fresh ideas are promised to try to tempt back the betting public.
Expect more changes to the rules of whip use, and new ways to tempt back the betting public
NEW TV DEAL
ITV took over terrestrial coverage of horseracing on January 1, 2017 after signing a four-year deal. They’ve been keen to extend that agreement but nothing has been signed yet, which has made those who feel it is essential that the sport retains its terrestrial TV window nervous. The longer it drags on the more nervous they will become.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
You have to go back to 1995 to find a champion jump jockey who wasn’t AP McCoy or his great rival Richard Johnson. It was also the 1979-80 season when Jonjo O’Neill became the last jockey based in the north to lift the crown. But Brian Hughes, who operates predominantly on the northern circuit, is the favourite to beat Johnson to the crown in a battle which could go down to the wire in April.
Only Red Rum has won the Grand National three times but if Tiger Roll emulates him at Aintree in April he uniquely will have done it in successive years. Tiger Roll is recuperating from a minor knee operation but if he pulls it off it will be the story of the year.
Only Red Rum has won three Grand Nationals, but Tiger Roll can make it three in a row
LOTS TO LIVE UP TO
Six wins from six runs, with two Group Ones among them, was some haul in 2019 for Charlie Appleby-trained Pinatubo and handicappers say he achieved more than the mighty Frankel as a two-year-old. Frankel went from strength to strength and that will be tough for Pinatubo but finding out if he can fulfil expectations will be intriguing — starting at the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Aidan O’Brien trains big-race winners for fun and eldest son Joseph is following in his footsteps. Now that Joseph’s brother Donnacha has also switched to training the family’s quest for success is even greater. At some stage this summer we could easily see a big race in Ireland contested by the father and his two sons.
MORE than 1,000 betting shops were closed in Britain last year after maximum stakes on gaming machines were slashed. More will close this year, further squeezing racing’s media rights income. We don’t know yet how this will impact prize money but after some tracks were boycotted last year by disgruntled trainers and owners it won’t take much to break an uneasy truce.
THE ONE THAT HE WANTS
Frankie Dettori is extremely unlikely to repeat his 2019 feat of riding 19 Group One winners. It would be wrong to say he would settle for one, but there is a prize Dettori would treasure more than any other after October’s near miss. That will be to win a record third Arc on his favourite mare Enable.