Really Special year ahead in 2017?
Graham Clark talks to Ed Chamberlin, Oli Bell, Richard Hoiles, John Hunt and Sir Anthony McCoy as they look back on the racing action in 2016 and make their predictions for next year.
Joseph O'Brien: A mini-me of his father, according to Sir Anthony McCoy.
Looking back on 2016, what was your favourite moment of the year?
Ed Chamberlin: "Sprinter Sacre was great in November, but for him to win at the Festival was even better. I've been to many great sporting occasions, mainly in football in particular, but I've never known an atmosphere quite like Sprinter Sacre coming back into the winner's enclosure.
"What they've created at Cheltenham is a special amphitheatre. I sprinted – no pun intended – to get into a position to follow him in. It was just spine-tingling and made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It was racing and sport at it's best.
"I was thinking 'He can't do it' and even when he took it up, you were still thinking something will go wrong or he will probably fall in a heap up the hill.
"It was absolutely magical, as it got racing on the back page and some front pages. He is one of the greats, one of the best jumpers you will ever see. As Simon Holt called it, it was the impossible dream."
John Hunt: "Vautour winning the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival is my moment of the year. He illustrated for the third year running at the Festival what an unbelievable talent he was, while it came against the backdrop of him having a supposedly unsatisfactory preparation.
"I think with all the debate about Thistlecrack going for the Gold Cup, the loss of Vautour is as good a reason as there is for cracking on with his career.
"I was gutted he didn't run in the Gold Cup as while it was an exhilarating five minutes watching him win the Ryanair, you could not help but be left feeling what might have been.
"He is my moment for all sorts of reasons, as he was such a rare talent. His death was a massive blow and although we are left with many great memories, it would have been nice to see him prove himself at three miles this season.
"I defy anyone in living memory to find a horse that has produced three performances in successive years at the Cheltenham Festival."
Sir Anthony McCoy: "I think Minding winning the QEII on Champions Day was a phenomenal achievement against the colts, having been on the go for such a long time, as was Seamie Heffernan on Highland Reel winning the Breeders' Cup.
"I worked with him a long time ago at Jim Bolger's and it was great to see him win on one of the biggest stages.
"I think Mouse Morris winning the Grand National is a worthy winner of my moment of the year. I could not have wanted anyone to win it more than Mouse Morris that day.
"It was a very poignant success after he had a troubled end-part of 2015. The win could not have gone to a better man.
"The Grand National is probably one of the very few races that, in the circumstances, could have given him some satisfaction in what was a tough time."
Richard Hoiles: "I wasn't actually there, I was watching the race from elsewhere, but Harbour Law's success in the St Leger.
"We get blase when Aidan O'Brien wins lots of races, as they are a commercial operation, but when you get the genuine surprise and shock it adds that bit of excitement.
"When you watch the race, you think 'He is going to run a good race and finish third', then when George (Baker) pulls him out, you think 'Go on!'.
"Virtually everyone watching that race had the same feel. For Laura Mongan and Epsom to have a Classic winner, that was probably the nicest, warmest moment of 2016."
Oli Bell: "For me it was Quiet Reflection winning the Commonwealth Cup. From a personal point of view it was just fantastic to see what it meant for the owners to have their star horse win at Royal Ascot.
"There were 30 to 40 people in the winner's enclosure and they were watching it on the big screen and you could just see what it meant to them. I love the underdog going there picking up the big prize.
"She is an incredibly talented horse and was perfectly handled by Karl Burke. It was lovely to see smaller owners have big-race success and they really enjoyed it.
"I think that is what is really good about the sport, that you can come in at that level and you can compete with the big boys. They proved that and so did she."
So, to think forward to 2017, give us the name of a rider to follow in the coming months?
EC: "Richard Fahey thinks the world of Adam McNamara. I know Richard very well and I don't think there is a better judge of young male and female jockeys given those he has introduced to the sport.
"We've seen his talents in the saddle and in front of the camera. I thought his ride on Heartbreak City in the Ebor was brilliant. He is just such a mature rider and to ride a big winner like that under pressure was impressive.
"He is also a good talker. ITV want to bring jockeys personalities out and I look forward to speaking to him lots throughout the year."
JH: "Last year I gave a shout to Georgia Cox and she really took a step forward and this year the one for me is Liam Doran.
"Every time I've seen him riding, whether winning or losing, he looks to have all the component parts.
"He is really well balanced and he has the ability to switch his whip hands excellently. He doesn't go for the whip too early. He is a very progressive jockey that goes through gears and his sense of timing is exceptional.
"Clearly he needs a bit of luck as he is attached to the yard of Julia Feilden and outside of that yard he doesn't get many opportunities.
"Hopefully this winter when the bad weather focuses the attention on the all-weather, he can start catching the eye of the bigger yards.
"We know that Godolphin, when they need jockeys, are very much an operation that likes to use the services of a jockey of the moment and hopefully in a year's time he might be on the cusp of that. He is a name to watch out for."
APM: "Jonjo O'Neill junior has looked the part in the few races I've seen him in. He looks very accomplished. He has had a winner over a jumps and couple on the Flat, including one for Richard Hughes.
"I'd like to think he will go a long way. He has got the right attitude and is very dedicated. He is a bit of an anorak and is not afraid to ask questions. He has plenty going for him.
"Getting to that next stage is going is the difficult thing, but he is going to make a living out of being a jockey."
RH: "At the moment, it is a question of who can make the transition out of their claim and I'm really hoping that Tom Marquand can next year.
"He was sort of out of the limelight this time around because of the Josephine Gordon angle, but he quietly achieved without taking that step forward.
"He is a very quiet lad and conducts himself well. With the merry-go-round of some of the bigger roles, if he stays in there with likes of the Richard Hannon yard and possibly breaks through with Godolphin as well, then hopefully he can make the transition.
"He is one of the tidiest riders I've seen and if he doesn't make it, then you begin to worry who will without the assistance of a big role."
OB: "I am sure a lot of people have said this, but Harry Cobden looks a real star of the future. Paul Nicholls, in recent years, has done well with his claimers.
"He is the new kid on the block but we have already seen his talent with successes at Cheltenham's Open Meeting and the Fighting Fifth. He has got it all, even at a young stage.
"Obviously he has got a lot of learning to do and experience counts for a lot, but at this stage of his career he looks the real deal.
"On the Flat it will be interesting to see how Josephine Gordon makes the transition out of the apprentice ranks.
"She was a star in 2016 and I hope she can make the transition seamlessly because she deserves to as I think she is a good rider and she has got what it takes."
Which trainers do you see making a real impact over the next 12 months?
EC: "I think Emma Lavelle will do well now that she has moved down to Ogbourne Maizey. I've been to visit lots of yards over the last six months and I really enjoyed the morning spent with her.
"She has got new facilities and the best and most beautiful gallops, as well as lots of nice young horses. Although she is a bit more established , she will only go from strength to strength there.
"There are lots of good young trainers on the Flat, among them Charlie Fellowes, George Scott and Archie Watson, that are going places.
"I think Ed Walker is the one to put forward. He has had a number of moves in Newmarket, but now he has moved down to Lambourn he will hopefully find his roots and it could be the making of him this season."
JH: "Mick Appleby has got an amazing touch with horses that are not 100 per cent. Supersta would be a good example. He was bought for £4,500, no one else wanted him and just look at him – he can't stop winning. He used to be a real monkey at the start, but he has sorted that out.
"I can't help but feel if he is going to elevate himself to the next level, then next year could be the year as he is not far off.
"He has moved yards from his base near Newark and, by all accounts, has spent a fortune on his new place. He has got such massive plans, I can only see the operation going one way.
"He has got about 40 horses for the all-weather and hopefully if he does well there, it will attract some slightly bigger owners that will give him some better horses to work with.
"To that end, he could easily take the next step up and mix it with the big boys. I think the guy is really gifted and you can't say that about many of them."
APM: "Richard Hughes has made a good start to his career as a Flat trainer and has had plenty of winners in his first full season.
"Joseph O'Brien can't be anything but successful, though. He is like a mini-me of his dad. He has already trained a Group One winner on the Flat along with winning the Triumph Hurdle in all but name last season. I know that his dad was nowhere near it (Ivanovich Gorbatov)!
"He has got a good team of horses in terms of pedigree and has got all the right attributes. If you turned your back on both Joseph and Aidan, you wouldn't know which one was talking.
"There is a lot of common sense there and a lot of want to do well. He was a better rider than he ever got credited for and if he is as good a trainer as he was a rider, he will get all the way to the top.
"He could challenge Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott and he could take away a bit of the domination from them."
RH: "You have got the trainers that served under Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls making names for themselves. To some extent they are already common names with the likes of Dan Skelton, Harry Fry, Ben Pauling and Charlie Longsdon, most people would be aware of those.
"Noel Williams has been a slow burner. He was assistant to Alan King. He didn't have the help that both Dan and Harry had in having owners from the word go. He has been forced to deal with store horses.
"With the material he has proved very capable and he has a couple of nice young horses. He places his horses effectively and is just one or two good ones away from achieving a bit more recognition than he has thus far.
"He has not had many runners, but his winning strike-rate is pretty good.
"On the Flat, I'm quite interested in Charlie Fellowes, who has made a good start. He has clearly got the Newmarket patronage which means he will get sent the odd good horse from a big owner. He has already had Anthony Oppenheimer horses, among others.
"I think he can do the job. As a young man in Newmarket with a little bit of the right connections, I can see him having a really good year.
"He is not investing in handicappers, they are coming through from the bottom. If he gets a good one then I think he will be someone you will hear plenty about."
OB: "I think Charlie Fellowes is going to have a good season. His strike-rate in the time he has been training has been really impressive.
"He is a young guy that, as each year has gone on, has got more and more horses and that has been vindicated by the success he is having on track.
"I think he has got some nice horses to go to war with next year, including the likes of Prince of Arran.
"From a punting point of view his horses are probably not quite as well found as say Hugo Palmer's, but Charlie goes about his business quietly which I like, and there is money to be made backing his horses as he knows what he is doing."
What horses do you expect to be grabbing the headlines next year?
EC: "From my visit to Ballydoyle, it is clear that Churchill is the headline-maker having won the National Stakes and Dewhurst and is the horse people are talking about.
"Speaking to Aidan O'Brien that day, there was just something different the way he spoke about Caravaggio.
"What he did at Ascot was an unbelievable performance when you see the nature of the race.
"When Aidan spoke about him it was as if he had the wow factor. It is going to be a challenge to get him back (he suffered a setback towards the end of the season), but there is a sense he could be something else. If he gets him right, he could be a superstar.
"Messire Des Obeaux is on my horses-to-follow list. He was a horse that was very talented before he ran this season and he was very impressive on his first start. I liked his battling qualities last time out at Sandown.
"He is a horse for the future and Simon Munir, Isaac Souede and Alan King think the world of him.
"I think he will have both entries at the Festival (Neptune and Albert Bartlett), but it looks like stamina is his forte. He looks the real deal."
JH: "Charlemar looks an absolutely superb replacement for Arzal, who connections lost earlier this year.
"I never really noticed him (when winning) at Chepstow too much, but watching him at Aintree, he trounced all over Minotaur who came over from France with a big reputation. He just got stronger and stronger as the race went on and he is such a fluent jumper.
"I've seen some double-figure quotes for him for the Cheltenham Festival and I would certainly have a fiver on him at this stage for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
"I usually put the curse on Godolphin two-year-olds but I am going for another of their ones again.
"I was commentating at Chelmsford when Really Special made her debut and she got left way behind – I might have even said she was going to need to live up to her name to win.
"She got switched to the inside and won going away. It was a very striking performance. I was very pleased to see her step up in company and win at Newmarket and she looked equally as good, if not better, on turf.
"Hopefully she is a horse that can give the boys in blue something to cheer about next year. It is hard to second guess what Godolphin might have in mind for her, but hopefully she might be aimed at the Guineas."
AP: "Unowhatimeanharry is the obvious one, but I quite like Movewiththetimes. I know he got beat the last day at Cheltenham and we were a little bit disappointed, but I think there is a lot of potential there. I think he is a smart horse and he is high up on my list.
"I just liked the way he won his bumper at Wincanton and novice hurdle at Fontwell. As a horse, he is not a hype horse.
"There is a long time to go with him and he could go a long way. Whether he makes it as a hurdler, hopefully he will, but he looks like he will as a chaser. I just think he is a horse with potential."
OB: "I was really impressed with Crimean Tatar, who won at Kempton at the back-end of 2016. He was entered in the St Leger but things happened a bit late for him and Hugo Palmer decided against that.
"He won the Wildflower Stakes at Kempton in really impressive fashion on only his second start, having won at Newmarket on his debut.
"I spoke to Hugo afterwards and they are going to save him for something like the Henry II. I think he can make into a Cup horse next year and is definitely one to follow.
"I was at Wincanton when Cruiseaweigh made his bumper debut. There are few moments a season when I'm blown away by what I see and I was very much in awe of what he looked like. He was a picture and I couldn't wait to see him in action.
"He actually got beat by Movewiththetimes from Paul Nicholls' yard, but they pulled miles clear of the rest.
"He went up to Aintree after that and had learnt an awful lot for that experience and bolted up. I think he is a proper horse."
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