Antony Brittain might not be on a lot of trainer-to-follow shortlists, but, after a quiet start when taking over the reigns at Northgate Lodge, Brittain has really started to find his feet of late, notching up 28 winners in 2019.
The way the yard started 2020 was nothing short of extraordinary, with Brittain having chalked up 17 winners before racing was suspended, boasting a 22% strike rate and a level-stake profit in excess of £20.
It would perhaps be unrealistic to expect the yard to maintain that level of performance once racing resumes, but several of Brittain’s horses will still have more to offer and he can surpass last year’s total.
Phillip Makin joined the training ranks early last year after injury forced a premature end to his time in the saddle, and he ended 2019 with 11 winners to his name, quickly showing a knack for not only getting horses to bounce back to form, but to then hold their form, too.
Galloway Hills and Fennaan are a couple of good examples, while Scuzeme is a horse who held his form particularly well, bouncing back from a slight blip in August with a career best at the end of that month, having first appeared for the yard five months earlier.
That many of his horses appear straightforward rides – all but one of his 11 successes last year came either from the front or under a very prominent ride – is another encouraging sign. One of Makin’s most promising horses is The Bell Conductor, and he has the makings of a very good three-year-old sprint handicapper this year.
Former jockey turned trainer Donnacha O’Brien has sent out only six runners, but, as the latest from the O’Brien dynasty to join the training ranks, he certainly has the necessary grounding to thrive in his new discipline.
Donnacha had already effectively taken over the training of several horses registered under his father’s name before bringing his highly successful riding career to an end in November, with Aidan notably crediting his son for Fancy Blue’s listed success at the Curragh in October.
Unbeaten in two starts, Fancy Blue remains with plenty of potential for middle-distances and looks sure to go on to better things in 2020, when Donnacha will also be able to call upon several other well-bred sorts owned by the Coolmore partners.
Like brother Joseph, Donnacha can surely rely on further transfers from father Aidan as the season progresses, and it’s probably hard to quantify how big an edge it must be for a young trainer to be able call upon the advice of one of the all-time greats.
Joseph has already breached the 500-winner mark in both disciplines, and while Donnacha has a Flat-only licence it’s long odds-on he will make a success of his new career.
Paddy Twomey (Ire)
Paddy Twomey has quickly made a name for himself as someone who does remarkably well with relatively limited resources.
Twomey enjoyed his best year yet in 2019, sending out 11 winners in 2019 from just 38 runners at a strike rate of 29%, returning a level-stake profit of £10.78. Impressively, he also had horses placed in the Irish 2000 Guineas and Irish 1000 Guineas, Decrypt and Foxtrot Liv finishing third.
His horses tend to know their job from an early stage, so expect his runners to be more forward than most when racing resumes, particularly his juvenile runners, who have scored at a strike rate in excess of 20% in three of the last four seasons.
Oisin Orr shot to prominence when producing Quick Jack with a perfectly-timed run to land a valuable staying handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend in September 2016, and it spoke volumes that the ultra-shrewd Tony Martin was happy to have Orr on board at that relatively early stage of his career.
Orr has teamed up with Dermot Weld in recent times and that partnership certainly paid dividends in 2019, with notable success coming courtesy of Imaging in the Gladness Stakes and Hazapour in the Amethyst Stakes, both Group 3 contests.
A double on the last day of the 2019 Flat season in Ireland – including the final race of the campaign aboard Maria Christina – saw Orr join Andrew Slattery on 43 winners apiece, the pair sharing the apprentice championship. Unusually, that was the second time Orr landed that accolade, having also topped the table with 20 winners in 2017.
Being the son of a six-time champion jockey means that Cieren Fallon will always have comparisons to his famous father. However, he’s made a very promising start to his career in his own right, experiencing a breakout year in 2019 when riding 62 winners for a wide range of trainers, including William Haggas, Saeed bin Suroor and John Gosden.
That winning total earned him the champion apprentice crown, though any thought that Fallon would rest on his laurels after such an achievement was quickly put to bed by shorts stints in America and Italy around the turn of the year before he picked up where he left off on these shores by booting home Vega’s Angel for Haggas at Lingfield in February.
That victory took his overall tally to 67 and, with racing being suspended soon after, it means Fallon will still be able to claim 3 lb when racing resumes, which might well prove to be a blessing in disguise. Clearly talented, he looks sure to have the continued support of numerous top yards and is very much a jockey worth following both this season and beyond.
After Luca Cumani retired at the end of 2018, Marco Ghiani moved across town in Newmarket to join Stuart Williams and didn’t have to wait long for his first winner, scoring on Lunar Deity at Lingfield in March on his first ride of 2019.
After just one further success by the end of June, the winners then started to flow far more regularly, and he finished the season with 22 winners from 131 rides, a very healthy percentage for an apprentice.
By the end of the season he had started to forge links with several other big Newmarket yards beyond his own, having ridden in big handicaps for the likes of Roger Varian, Simon Crisford and Robert Cowell, and he even had a ride for Sir Michael Stoute.
The Williams yard continues to go from strength to strength, too, following a career-best haul in 2018 with an even better one in 2019, and the early signs are that this year could be even better again, which should ensure a steady supply of winners for Ghiani.
Dylan Browne McMonagle
Dylan Browne McMonagle notched his first success at Navan in October aged just 16, but his youth belies his riding experience. A veteran of the pony racing circuit, McMonagle was twice crowned national champion in that sphere, riding a grand total of 218 winners in five years.
He joined the Joseph O’Brien team as an apprentice in the middle of the 2019 Flat season and rode four winners, plus one more after the turn of the year. You would imagine that McMonagle will have one eye on the apprentice championship when racing returns, and big things are clearly expected from the young man from Letterkenny, County Donegal.
All things being equal, it will be a major surprise if his 7 lb claim is still intact by the end of the year.