Saddle up for a sensational 2013
AS a massive year of horseracing draws to a close today, we look forward to 2013, a year that could easily be even bigger for the sport. Here we cast an eye over 13 potential highlights for the coming year.
Horse of the Year at the recent HRI awards, he was one of the stories of the summer when boldly attempting the Triple Crown. Camelot's season tailed off a bit in the Arc, but he is set to be back. It will be very interesting to see how he fares out in a season based around his favoured trip between a mile and mile and a quarter.
Channel 4 Racing
A new era for 'sit at home punters' begins tomorrow afternoon as the new look Channel 4 Racing team make their way into our living rooms. Headed by Clare Balding, it will be interesting to see how the new set-up settles in. Personally, it is hard to imagine how coverage without Alastair Down and John Francome can be even equalled, never mind improved.
In recent memory, the 2012/13 jump season has to be one of the best and it is the 2013 part of it that will serve up the proof of that. This year's Cheltenham Festival might not only be a good one for Irish horses, but just a fantastic spectacle full stop. Aintree's Grand National and Punchestown won't be too bad either.
Jim Bolger's son of New Approach was crowned the best juvenile of 2012 and will become a rare identity in Ireland as he will remain with Bolger while carrying the Godolphin colours. He's six from six and a leading Classic contender.
A long association between former champion jockey Declan McDonogh and the masterful Kevin Prendergast came to something of an end late this year as McDonogh accepted the role to ride as first jockey to His Highness Aga Khan. It was a move McDonogh couldn't turn down and he would appear made for the role. Could another championship assault await in 2013?
Contributed to not only one of the most amazing stories of 2012, but to one of the most enthralling finishes of a top-class jump race in recent memory in last Friday's Lexus. The Hennessy is next and if we do see good ground he'll be hard to beat. Lining up in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham would be very exciting.
Rumours are that Big Brother awaits the most familiar jockey in the business as he serves a six-month ban for using a banned substance. Whether he goes down that route or not we'll know shortly, but it's how he bounces back from this major setback that we'll watch with most intrigue.
The 2011 Champion Hurdle winner is in much better shape than he was last season according to connections and he proved that again on Saturday when winning the Istabraq Hurdle. Last season, despite being far from his best, he still finished third in the Champion Hurdle. I wouldn't back against him winning back that crown in March.
Willie Mullins has already committed Quevega to the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham as she looks to record a fifth straight win in that race. And even if he does change his mind and reroute her to the World Hurdle, the incredible feat of five Cheltenham Festival wins in a row would still seem well and truly on the cards. The champion trainer's handling of this mare over the last few years has been outstanding and 2013 should provide further evidence of that.
Ruby makes this list quite simply for his majestic brilliance. What the Kildare man did at Leopardstown on Friday was sensational and he arguably won on three horses that very few, if any, of his weighroom colleagues would have won on. More of the same is guaranteed, not just in 2013, but until he hangs up the helmet and stick.
Looked to be as good as ever this season until maybe not winning as impressively as expected last week. However, Rubi Light is no bad yardstick and maybe at this stage of Sizing Europe's career he wants further. A likely entrant for the Champion Chase, the Ryanair and the Gold Cup. Just seeing what Cheltenham race he goes for will be fascinating.
So far over fences Sprinter Sacre has been scarily impressive and, in truth, it would appear that if Sizing Europe or Flemenstar don't take him on in March well then he could be as facile a winner of a Champion Chase as there has ever been. Surely one of them will though ... won't they?
The return to the training ranks of Tommy Carmody under owner Andrew Tinkler's Irish banner has been one of the major talking points of 2012. Johnny Murtagh's involvement was key in striking up the partnership and with an Irish Classic winner, a York Ebor runner-up and English Classic placed horse as well as 17 winners, this coming year could be a very exciting one.