09th January 2015

10 for 15 – my top 10 racing contenders to follow during 2015

I haven't made any New Year resolutions but I have made 10 selections for the coming year, which I hope are more fruitful than most people’s new gym memberships!

Johnny Burke:

Johnny was snapped up as No.1 rider for Ann & Alan Potts late in 2014. This young jockey has already displayed his ability to hold his own in the top races with a great tactical mind and horsemanship. We have been graced with some incredible jockeys in the last few years and I think Johnny could be just the lad to follow in the footsteps of the likes of AP and Ruby.

Ptit Zig:

As far as exciting novices go Ptit Zig has to top my list. A reasonable hurdle who has done nothing but excel since switched to fences, he appears to have a great mix of speed and stamina. Having finished 6th in the stanjames.com Champion Hurdle he has already proved he stays 2m5f and his trainer is of the opinion he could stay 3m and be a Cheltenham Gold Cup horses. That’s quite a way off but I see him as the leading contender for the JLT Novices chase at The Cheltenham Festival and come late next year he could be the main rival to the reigning champions.

Tac De Boistron:

If you have any connection to this horse you’ll be praying for a wet summer. He is an absolute mud lover and arguably the best stayer currently in training. He may seem an odd selection considering he’s just turned eight however I think there is still more to come from this likeable grey. Since joining Marco Botti he is yet to finish out of the first three and on ground worse than soft he has only been beaten once. Something of a specialist but in his favoured conditions there aren’t any I would rather side with.

Peace & Co:

Highly unimaginative following his breath-taking performance at Doncaster. However if he lives up to all the promise he displayed that day there is no reason this horse won’t go all the way to the top.

Free Eagle:

Another horse that has been talked about a lot, yet we have only seen him on the track four times. A scintillating debut at Leopardstown made him favourite for the Derby. He was then turned over by subsequent dual Derby winner Australia. Injuries meant he missed most of his Classic season, however a seven length romp in a Group 3 in mid-September confirmed he still retains plenty of ability. On heavy ground at QIPCO British Champions Day, his length-and-a-half defeat was a spectacular performance; particularly for a horse with just three runs under his belt. He will, for many people, be their idea of the leading older horse this coming flat season.

Canford Cliffs:

In recent seasons, my interest in breeding has increased and that is in no doubt due to reaching a point where I remembering the stallions and mares as racehorse. A horse I always had a lot of respect for was Canford Cliffs and I feel that perhaps he didn’t quite receive the plaudits he deserved having run into Frankel and injuries towards the end of his career. It was no surprise Coolmore snapped up Canford Cliffs for stallion duties. He has to be a contender for Champion First Season Sire.

Diamond King:

They has been much talk of this lightly raced son of Kings Theatre. Trainer Donald McCain has given this horse plenty of time to develop and missed the last two Cheltenham Festivals. He is due to embark on his chaser career in the next couple of weeks and I expect if all goes to plan he could be one of the leading contenders in March.

John Ferguson:

Another slightly obvious selection given his recent success. It is no secret that Ferguson has an inside track on some of the world’s best bloodstock being Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock agent but he clearly as an ability to turn flat horses to jumpers. He is only in his fourth full season training and he is currently 10th in the Champion Trainers Title race and is well on his way to surpassing his 50 winners from last season.

Don Cossack:

For a horse who has been let down my his jumping in the past, his last three runs have proved that’s no longer an issue and he is finally fulfilling his early promise. He is currently being aimed at the Ryanair Chase but I am in no doubt he is a live Gold Cup contender. However, owner Giggingstown Stud also have Road To Riches under consideration for the Cheltenham showpiece. I’m hoping they’ll send Don Cossack! Recent Gold Cups have been won by out and out stayers but I feel Don Cossack has that little bit of extra class and speed, a bit like the great Kauto Star.

Qualando:

A new French recruit for team Ditcheat, we was last seen finishing 10 lengths behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Bonito Du Berlais at Auteuil in May. Paul Nicholls often likes to target one at the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and this could just be his contender come March. As with some of Nicholls’ French recruits he may take a little time to acclimatise, both Saphir Du Rheu and Lac Fontana needed a couple of runs to show their true form, and if this is the case he could be one for the long term note book.