EXPERT PREDICTIONS: What does 2015 hold for horse racing?

Irish Examiner racing correspondent Pat Keane joined Channel 4 experts Jim McGrath, Graham Cunningham, Tanya Stevenson and Mick Fitzgerald, along with Racing UK presenters Rishi Persad, Oli Bell and Gordon Brown and former jockey Kirsty Milczarek, to offer some guidance and insight into who and what to look out for in the year ahead.

EXPERT PREDICTIONS: What does 2015 hold for horse racing?

Q: What jockeys do you expect to make an impact in 2015?

Pat Keane: Top of the list has to be Jonathan Burke, an inspired choice by Alan and Ann Potts to be their number one.

The youngster has greatly impressed with his tactical awareness and is powerful in a finish. Granted luck, so badly needed by all National Hunt pilots, he looks a champion of the future.

On the flat Colin Keane, promoted to stable jockey this year by Ger Lyons, is the man to have on your side.

Kirsty Milczarek: I think Jenny Powell will have another good year. She’s going to America this winter and I know it made a huge difference for me as I came back and was champion apprentice the next season.

I think she could make her mark, not just as an apprentice but at the top level.

Jim McGrath: I really do feel that jockey David Probert is now ready to hit the big time. In 2014, David rode 100 winners for the first time, also racking up well over 800 rides, a sure sign that he’s getting plenty of work from many different sources.

He’s able to ride at around 8st and is articulate and composed. All he needs to raise his profile are chances on the right horses on those all-important big days.

Mick Fitzgerald: My jockeys to look out for are Sean Bowen in the UK and Johnny Burke in Ireland as I think both are rising stars.

Rishi Persad: Graham Watters is a promising conditional who rode eight winners in each of his first two full seasons. So far this campaign he has already doubled those scores.

He seems to think carefully about how to ride each race individually and I hope he gets more opportunities beyond the north in the new year.

Oli Bell: Tom Marquand is only just starting out as a jockey but looks advanced at this stage of his career and is well worth his claim.

Gordon Brown: Craig Nichol is one to look out for on the conditional front as I know Lucinda Russell is keen to help him advance in the championship.

He has the guidance of Peter Scudamore at Lucinda’s and he’s improving all the time.

On the Flat, I think George Challoner will have another good year. He’s lost his claim now but he’s a sensible lad, level headed and a really nice person.

Tanya Stevenson: Conditional Kevin Sexton can only add to an impressive haul.

His association with Gordon Elliott has already seen him land the Troytown Chase aboard Balbriggan and expect to see him gain further success on these shores.

I also feel Brian Hughes and Tom Cannon can make their marks.

On the Flat, Daniel Tudhope gained a well-deserved Group One success in 2014 and given his role with trainer David O’Meara, he is a jockey to keep on your side.

I can’t understand why Martin Lane doesn’t get more rides while Alistair Rawlinson is apprentice to keep an eye on in 2015 on the all-weather.

Graham Cunningham: Aidan Coleman continues to impress and will seize the moment when his chance of a really big one arrives.

Q: Nominate a trainer to follow over the next 12 months

PK: The very under-rated Henry de Bromhead. This is a trainer going places fast and, despite some magical days with the great Sizing Europe, perhaps, still has to fully capture the public’s imagination.

His stable goes from strength to strength and, though still having a way to travel to compete with the multi-talented Willie Mullins and, to a lesser extent, Gordon Elliott, is moving forward all of the time.

KM: Henry Spiller is starting out in the new year. He trains in Newmarket and I think he has about 12 horses already, with his first runner scheduled for January.

He was part of the Godolphin operation so he has a good grounding and it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

MF: A trainer to look out for is Tom Symonds. He was a top student when based with Nicky Henderson and given the ammunition, he will do really well.

JM: Clive Cox registered a personal best in 2014, training 60 winners, and what’s more, this score was achieved at a highly respectable strike-rate of 16%. Over the last couple of seasons, Clive has improved the quality of his string and he now has horses for some of the biggest owners in the game.

Patient and very experienced, 2015 could see him enjoy another stellar campaign.

RP: David Simcock is already established as a top international trainer, but I think the Newmarket man might be set for a really good domestic season.

He handles a number of promising youngsters including the exciting Balios.

OB: A couple of trainers to keep an eye out for are Charlie Fellowes, who had an excellent first season with horses such as Wet Sail, Accession and Epsom Hill, and also George Peckham who recently trained his first winner and I’m sure there will be more to come.

GB: Dianne Sayer has shown she can do it on the Flat and over jumps and she seems to be very good at sweetening up a horse.

She’s got a nice horse in Baileys Concerto and it’s very much a family affair as her mother is Evelyn Slack and her daughter Emma rides.

TS: On the Flat it has to be Eddie Lynam — Sole Power and Slade Power were his flag bearers this year, but in 2015 look out for Gathering Power whose effort in the Champions Sprint went unnoticed.

He is a man who had four runners at Royal Ascot and won with three, need I say more?

In the National Hunt ranks, I think Richard Lee has plenty of horses to look forward to, such as Top Gamble, Grey Gold, Gassin Golf among others, and the yard has really gathered some momentum of late.

GC: Dan Skelton is progressing fast and looks bound for the big time.

Q: What horse should we be backing in 2015?

PK: The likes of Vautour and Faugheen are easy enough to recommend, but a more lucrative proposition might be Shanahan’s Turn.

He was no more than a useful hurdler, but has made a big impression in winning both his races over fences and is one to be with, until beaten!

KM: I’ll be looking out for Tenor in Dubai. He loves quick ground and he’s improved 55lb for John Ryan. He also has a few nice two-year-olds and Poncho, who he bought at the Horses In Training sales.

MF: A horse to look out for is Peace And Co who was so impressive when winning at Doncaster.

JM: Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Vautour, is already favourite to follow up in the Arkle in March. Vautour was breathtaking last spring and judging by the way he took his first novice chase, at Navan in November, he promises to be even better over fences.

RP: I’ve loved Snow Sky since his two-year-old days. His Classic season was full of smart performances and in very best traditions of re-hashed cliches at Christmas time, there is no-one better than Michael Stoute in handling an older horse.

OB: One horse who I expect big things from in 2015 is the John Gosden-trained Golden Horn, who won his maiden in good fashion. He doesn’t have any big-race entries at this stage but if he can kick on as a three-year-old, it wouldn’t surprise if he was a Classic contender next year.

GB: Edgar Balthazar is one to follow. I saw him win on his only two-year-old start and I’ve spoken to the Keith Dalgleish team and I know they are hoping for big things from him in 2015.

TS: A horse to look out for in 2015 on the Flat has to be John F Kennedy. Gifted with such a name, he must be talented and he proved his ability in his last two starts.

Over the jumps, I’ll be giving my closest scrutiny to Golden Doyen. He defeated Hargam at Cheltenham, conceding weight, and is in the mix for the JCB Triumph but I think he is a horse to follow for many seasons to come.

GC: Hardly a dark one, but Peace And Co looked exceptional in bolting up at Doncaster.

Q: What are you particularly looking forward to next year?

PK: I think Vautour is the most exciting National Hunt horse in training and hope he stays safe and sound before Cheltenham. That being the case there will only be one result in the Arkle Trophy.

KM: It will be intriguing to see what they do with Kingston Hill. He had a few things go against him on his last couple of runs, be it the ground or luck in running, and it was some training performance.

RP: As we all know it was bold decision to keep Treve in training for a third attempt at the Arc, watching it all unfold will be fascinating.

GB: I’m the racecourse presenter at Aintree and I always look forward to the Grand National meeting. The Melbourne Cup may be a race that stops a nation, but I think the Grand National has a similar effect in uniting the British public.

GC: The Crabbie’s Grand National. Not what it once was. And, taken all around, none the worse for that.

Q: If you could have one wish for racing next year, what would it be?

PK: That someone, infinitely more intelligent than this scribbler, thinks of a way of saving on-course bookmakers.

The exchanges have eroded their business and, in a short few years, they will surely be extinct. Racing will be all-the-poorer for their passing.

KM: I’d love to see the BHA tackle the issue of prize money. Hardly anyone can afford to keep a horse in training for fun.

Horses are running for nothing so maybe if they looked at prize money, the field size issues would solve themselves.

JM: That, going forward, we finally agree a fixture list which puts the needs of the sport first, as opposed to one suiting vested interests.

RP: To see some of the ‘smaller’ owners have success at the highest level, especially on the Flat which seems to be dominated by the same ’superpowers’ these days.

OB: There is plenty that we can do to improve the sport, but the issue of small field sizes is very alarming and something needs to be done to change and improve this.

It doesn’t make for great viewing so I’m hoping that the right people can find a solution to what is becoming a far too consistent issue.

GB: Firstly I just want all jockeys to return home safely, but I would also like to see racing pull together a bit more. There’s been some arguments over the past 12 months about various issues, but I think we have a terrific sport and it would be good if everyone in the industry could work together more.

I think we should also look at how racing is pitched – Aintree had 30,000 people there when they gave away free tickets so perhaps that should tell us the interest is there if the sport is more accessible to all.

TS: It’s a long list — fewer odds-on favourites, an increase in field sizes, 1/4 each-way on 16- to 21-runner handicaps (there is less than three per cent in the year), the volume on the public address to come down a few notches to aid clarity and the big screens at the racecourses to show racing from other courses. Now, there’s enough to be getting on with.

GC: That the sport puts quality ahead of quantity. And how about a 9am start for the Morning Line, too!

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