The leading trainer saddled 235 winners throughout the 2015 campaign, equaling Richard Hannon snr’s record tally of most Flat winners trained in a calendar year from 2013.
The Musley Bank maestro has a huge amount to look forward to once again this term, including a potential Classic contender in the famous royal blue silks of Godolphin, a plethora of likely improvers who are having their second season in training, as well as a host of top-level handicap performers.
The man himself has guided us through his key contenders for the season ahead, starting with old favourite Alben Star…
Alben Star: He heads back to Lingfield on Friday for the All-Weather Championships Sprint Final. He’s been a little unlucky so far this year in that he hasn’t been well drawn on any start. I’m hoping for a bit more luck on that front this week and he’s in very good form.
Angel Gabrial: There’s nothing hidden here, he has a mark of 104 and he could find life difficult off that. He’ll end up in the Chester Cup, along with plenty of others for Marwan Koukash – and we’ll work back from there.
Another Touch: He’s quite a nice horse who ended his campaign last year by winning a nursery at Ayr. He’s done extremely well over the winter, I’m very happy with him and he could end up being a Britannia horse when Royal Ascot comes around.
Arctic Feeling: He is what he is and does exactly what it says on the tin. He’s a tough, reliable, sprint handicapper who I hope can win a couple again, although he starts the season off a mark of 92, which looks tough enough.
Ballymore Castle: He is probably higher than he wants to be off a mark of 95 but he hasn’t had that much racing and might still be able to improve a bit this season.
Birchwood: We’ve given him a bit of a longer break this year. He had a long season last term and ended it over in America at the Breeders’ Cup. He’s done very well over the winter and I’m pleased with him but we’re not making any firm plans for him at this stage. He might be aimed at a race like the German 2000 Guineas.
Canyari: He’s been a fraction disappointing but has still got a chance to come good, and he did win a couple of races last term.
Constantino: Here’s a horse we really like. He’s a big, scopey sort who has always shown plenty at home and won on his second start at Ayr at two. He could progress through the ranks this term.
Don’t Touch: Had a wonderful season last term and is in great form this spring. His rating of 106 leaves him in the twilight zone between handicaps and group races but we do hope he can make up into a Stakes-race horse. I’m thinking of starting him out in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh [on May 21].
Donjuan Triumphant: I have to say he didn’t do overly well over the winter. He is just starting to pick up now though. I’m just not sure whether he’s an out-and-out sprinter and while he handles soft ground very well, he goes on most surfaces. I’ve no plans for him, we’ll just start to pick him up and he’ll tell us when to start off.
Drifting Spirit: She’s just had a slight setback with a sinus problem which we’ve had sorted out. She missed some work so will take some time to come together, but I hope she should be ready for the middle of the season.
Duke Of Clarence: He’s a horse I’d love to keep sound; he’s had issues in the past but the aim is to get him ready for the Chester Cup. It would be great to get a trouble-free run through to there.
Eastern Impact: He’ll be aimed at the big sprints at Newmarket, taking in the Abernant at Newmarket for starters then we’ll look at the July Cup. He’s a horse who is rated up there with the big boys and while he may find it tough at the very highest level, he has done extremely well over the winter.
Ecclestone: He’s back with us after a decent season last year. He needs to improve again this term but it can happen with sprinters and he’s going well.
Farlow: He went up 17lb in the handicap last year but only won once which was frustrating. He starts off in the Lincoln and will be aimed at all the big handicaps from there.
Fullon Clarets: He was disappointing last year in that he never won but ran well enough on a few occasions. He’s training better this spring and could be the sort to improve a bit at four. He has plenty of ability.
Gabrial: He’s off to Dubai for a race on World Cup night and after that will be pointed towards the Lockinge, Sussex and all the big mile races. He competes at the highest level – whether he’ll win a Group One I don’t know but he’s run well in them before.
Gabrial The Hero: He heads straight to the Chester Cup after a good campaign on the all-weather this winter. All roads lead to the Roodeye with him.
Gabrial’s Kaka: He ran respectably at the Curragh on Sunday but just got stuck in the dead ground a little and didn’t travel as well as we’d expected him to. He handles soft ground but it was very tacky there. He is a potentially well-handicapped horse now.
Gabrial’s King: He finished fourth in the Chester Cup last year and will be one of the team heading back there this term.
Gabrial’s Star: The idea is to also get him ready for the Chester Cup. He had a little setback at the end of last year but seems fine again now.
Gallipoli: He won his maiden at Doncaster and then ran okay at Beverley the next time but wasn’t seen out again. He’s always been a big, backward horse but has done very well over the winter and could be one to follow this year.
Garcia: He won his second start at York last year and is a big, scopey horse that has done particularly well over the winter. I’m very pleased with him and he is the sort to progress with racing this term.
George Bowen: He had a good season last term and I hope he can improve again, as he’s done well over the winter. He goes particularly well on soft ground and will be aimed at the big handicaps.
Grandad’s World: He had a setback which is why he hasn’t run for a while, but all is well with him at the moment. He’s a talented horse if we can keep him right.
Heavens Guest: He’s rated 106 and I fear that life is going to be tough for him. I’ve said that for the last few years and he’s kept surprising me, but he’s getting older. He’ll start off in the Lincoln and we’ll take it from there.
High Baroque: He hasn’t had a lot of racing but has progressed well and is a horse I like. He’s going to be aimed at some decent handicaps.
Home Cummins: She had a wind operation last year but came back to win in the winter. She’s a filly I like a lot and there’s more to come from her.
Innocent Touch: He won a hurdle race but the handicapper gave him a lofty rating so we’ve decided to switch back to the level. I’ve always felt he’s a bit of an underachiever on the Flat but he looks fantastic right now.
Jan Van Hoof: I still think he could be a well handicapped horse but he has to prove it. We might just step him up in trip this season.
Lathom: He won the Super Sprint at Newbury last season but disappointed afterwards. He’s done okay over the winter but needs to take another step forward from a mark of 98. He could do just that though.
Line Sport: He’s a very well bred colt being by Exceed And Excel out of Majestic Dubawi. He’s unraced to date but is a nice horse in the making and has just taken time to come together. He should be worth the wait.
Mayfair Lady: She won the nursery at the York Ebor Meeting in great style but took a huge hike up the handicap as a result and was then found wanting on soft ground at Salisbury. You’d have to be worried about whether she’s the type to train on, but she’s very tough and genuine and that is going to help her.
Mr Lupton: He had a great season last term, winning the big sales race at Doncaster. I thought he could have won at Redcar the next time too with a better draw. He’s another twilight horse at the start of his three-year-old campaign but has done well over the winter and could take another step forward.
Nuno Tristan: I don’t know what to make of him at the moment. He’s been working well here. We didn’t have the many high quality horses in the all-weather team this winter but the lads say he worked as well as any of them. He was a bit flat on his last two runs and is better than that and while the handicapper may have him right now, we’ll freshen him up and have another go.
Paddy Power: He finished second at the Curragh on Sunday but has now been beaten in five maidens which is disappointing as he’s a horse who flatters us at home and works very well. A mark of 90 makes it hard for him but he does show us plenty.
Patrick: He got stuck in the mud at the Curragh on Sunday and never got on an even keel. He can gallop and while he’s had a few issues, he’s been training well this spring. We’ll freshen him up now.
Rene Mathis: He won two big handicaps last season and starts this one off a mark of 104 as a result which will be tough. He needs to do it all again but is a horse who will always give his all.
Ribchester: I’ve been delighted with him and he could be given an entry in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte next week. I’m very keen to get a run into him to find out if he is a Guineas horse whether that be the English, Irish or French. He’s still learning, is a big horse, and it could be the ideal starting point over seven furlongs but I’ll need to speak to the owners. There are only two weeks between the Greenham and the Guineas this year and that would be too tight so I’m inclined to go to France.
Right Touch: He’s another who had a good season in 2015 and finished the campaign off by winning at Ascot and Ayr. I’m hoping to start him out in the Lincoln, if he gets in. I’m not sure he’ll stay the mile but it’s worth a punt.
Suegioo: He doesn’t show a lot at home but is a grand horse and an interesting addition to the yard. He’s heading out to Dubai and we’ll see how he goes there – and he’s another who I’m sure will be given a Chester Cup entry having won it a couple of years ago.
Third Time Lucky: What a fantastic season he had in 2015 – at the start of it I could never have foreseen him winning a Cambridgeshire but he duly did. He’ll find it tough this time around as he’s another off 102 now but you never know and we haven’t got to the bottom of him yet.
Withernsea: He definitely didn’t stay over a mile at the Curragh on Sunday. It’s the second time we’ve tried it but he just doesn’t get home. He’s a horse who likes soft ground and he’ll drop back in trip again and be aimed at the decent seven-furlong handicaps.