Thursday, January 05, 2017

End-of-term report

I'd been thinking that it might be a good thing to write a brief end-of-year review on this blog.  I've rather missed the boat because we're currently up to twelfth night; but better late than never, so here we go.  I'm mainly going to concentrate on trainers, but we'll start with jockeys because that's easy enough: Jim Crowley (pictured on Honky Tonk Queen at Lingfield in December 2012) and Josephine Gordon are clear-cut winners of Jockey and Apprentice of the Year respectively.  Also mentioned in dispatches should be Joe Fanning, George Baker, Adam Kirby and Seamus Heffernan, all of whom have been a pleasure to watch for many years now, and who all enjoyed some well deserved big-race success.

On the subjects of trainers, Aidan O'Brien and Jean-Claude Rouget both enjoyed truly excellent seasons, but we'll restrict ourselves to British-based trainers.  On that basis, Stuart Williams has to be Trainer of the Year.  It's an inexact science trying to work out how well a trainer has done with the team at his disposal: even if one knows how many horses the trainer has had under his care, quantifying their potential is not easy.  Even so, it would be hard to conclude anything other than that Stuart's achievement in training 50 winners during 2016 was first-rate.

Next best?  Hard one.  Possibly Eve Johnson Houghton, who enjoyed a wonderful season.  Possibly Chris Dwyer, whose stable has been uninterruptedly in good form for several years.  Possibly Phil McEntee, who enjoyed an outstanding season and whose achievements with Gentlemen and Swiss Cross in particular were superb.  Possibly Hugo Palmer, who did terrifically well, not least by winning a Classic.  And however much we should praise Hugo for that triumph (and we should praise him plenty for that and for many other successes during the year) we should hail Laura Mongan even more, her St Leger victory being the single most remarkable top-level training achievement of the year.

We should also salute Charlie Fellowes, who ought to have cemented his position among the training ranks with an extremely solid season; ditto first-season trainer David Loughane.  On top of them, there were surely many others whom I should mention, but whose names will probably only come to me after I've finished this.  But what I shouldn't do is finish without saluting Channel Four Racing, which ceased to exist at the end of 2016 after 30 years or more of good service to the sport which it was covering.

From start to finish Channel Four Racing had top-class presenters: at the outset John Oaksey and Brough Scott were outstanding, and Nick Luck was similarly good in the later years.  Ditto commentators: Graham Goode will, for me, always be the classic Channel Four commentator, and he was outstanding at conveying information, creating theatre and generating fun simultaneously.  And latterly Simon Holt has been as iconic.  There is no better commentator around than Simon, although Richard Hoiles on ITV and John Hunt on BBC radio are both top-class, so the sport will continue to be served well to the wider audiences in that respect.

Channel Four Racing also had great pundits all the way through, with John Francome and Jim McGrath arguably the best of them.  It lost the former a few years ago when failing to ensure that he stayed on the team when one production company handed over to another; while Jim has now been lost from our screens as ITV has failed to secure his services.  But again life will go on, and there will be good people on the new team.  With, at various times, BBC, ITV and Channel Four, our sport has been lucky to have enjoyed excellent terrestrial television coverage for decades.  God willing, it may continue for many more.


neil kearns said...

you missed J Berry from your list not many trained 100/1 (or 80/1 depending on when the price was taken) winners first time out !!

Brian Jones said...

Enjoyed reading your summary of the Cheltenham run of White Valiant. At the time of watching the race I was impressed with Davy Russells ride, as he was obviously riding the horse sympathetically when it was obvious conditions were not suitable.

Interestingly the Huntingdon win form was nearly the same, with the 2nd there once again only a few lengths behind. [that also reportedly didnt act on the ground].

Strangely the BHA site has no noted recording on that race of any under performance due to ground conditions as is the norm.