Badger's Crystal Ball...
Did you realise that the last time Sir Michael Stoute was champion trainer was in 2009? Likewise for Ryan Moore being champion jockey? Could we have ever imagined this on January 1st 2010? Could we have forecast on that day that the only names on the NH trainers championships for the next decade would be Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson? Or that Richard Johnson and AP McCoy would be the only names on the NH Champion Jockey trophy for the same period ?
At this time of year, the media is full of forecasts for the next twelve months. However, few are prepared to look forward to the end of the next decade. It can only done with a "tongue in cheek" attitude. However, I thought that it could be a fun exercise to make a few predictions about the headline makers at the end of 2029.
What is the chance of the leading Flat trainer of 2029 being called Charlie? To my mind, this is a pretty good bet. Obviously Charlie Appleby should be around for another decade and he will undoubtedly become a legend amongst trainers. Maybe Sir Charlie? However, Charlie Fellowes and Charlie Hills must come into the reckoning, although Charlie Johnston ( son of Mark ) is my tip for a trainer's title within the next decade. William Haggas will likely have just announced his retirement, while Roger Varian, Richard Hannon, Andrew Balding and Ralph Beckett will be considered the doyens of their trade. Richard Fahey and Kevin Ryan could both be in Hong Kong to feather their nests for a comfortable retirement, having both taken the decision that their large stables could not be justified by the finances in British racing.
Ed Walker and Archie Watson will be pushing forward Lambourn's importance. However Newmarket will have the powerhouses of Thadie Gosden and the newly arrived Donnacha O'Brien ( the English branch of the all-conquering O'Brien brothers training partnership.)
Oisin Murphy will be a world-wide legend in the jockey ranks, but his overseas commitments may well allow one of his challengers to take the domestic title. Cieren Fallon, Tom Marquand and Sean Davis will bring great strength to the jockey tables, but Jason Watson could be the one to give Oisin his biggest challenge. However, don't disregard the girls. Hollie Doyle, Nicola Currie, Jane Elliott and Megan Nicholls will reasserting the growing importance of women in racing. The big question on everyone's lips will be whether Rocco Dettori can rise to the standards of his father.
The National Hunt world will probably be more dominated by only a few individuals. Jonjo O'Neill Jr will become the new household name, while Tom Greatrex will transition back to the jumping world with great effect. Amongst the NH trainers, Dan Skelton will become a legend in his own time while Harry Fry will lay claims to be another.
On a more serious note, the owner tables will see a seismic change. Who can replace Khalid Abdullah, Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan? This is an exceedingly worrying matter for British Racing. Inevitably the Classic division will be dominated by the colours of the Coolmore group partners in Paul Smith, Elektra Niarchos and Mrs MV Magnier. The King Power colours will dramatically grow in importance. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed will run horses in his own name rather than Godolphin. Qatar Racing will remain a major force, while expect some very strong new names emerging from Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The long expected arrival of substantial Chinese money into our racing has yet again failed to materialise....blame prize money levels! They earn more in Hong Kong and Australia.
Identifying the NH leading owners is even more challenging. Ten years on from now will see very few of the current names and colours. Maybe the McManus colours will survive another generation.
The breeding world will be unrecognisable from today. Many of the current major Newmarket names will have disappeared. Some of the large acreage in Middle Eastern ownership will have come to the market and be in new hands. Coolmore will have expanded into the British stallion farm scene to facilitate marketing of their stallion interests. King Power will enter the breeders ranks. New Chinese money will purchase a major stallion farm purely to expand their shuttling power in both Hemispheres. Most worrying of all will be the dramatic fall in the broodmare numbers in the UK, with small breeders crumbling under the financial pressures of poor prize money and falling returns in the sales ring.
The stallion ranks will be dominated by sons of Shamardal and Scat Daddy, which will appear in most commercial speed pedigrees. The Galileo sire line will be in decline as breeders cannot afford to focus on stamina pedigrees. The biggest concern will be stopping the export of our best stallion prospects to Japan and America, which will reduce again the number of stallions at stud in the UK.
Export of our best breeding females will have been a sad feature of the decade. The foal crop will worryingly accelerate in its numerical decline as UK breeders fall by the wayside.
The racing programme will have shrunk considerably, with several racecourses closing their gates. A day at the races will be different in that jockeys will no longer carry whips, the riding weights will have increased and be referred to in metric terms, as will racing distances... mostly at less than 1600 metres. No more references to stones and furlongs. Every horse will be vetted both before and after every race to satisfy welfare concerns.
The Bloodstock Industry will be governed by a new body... maybe the BHC or even BHD. The only betting opportunities will be through Bet365, who will have a total monopoly for the Sport in return for substantial sponsorship of the prizemoney funding requirement.
No longer will there be concerns about auction ring practices. Tattersalls and Goffs will have agreed to ensure that Reserve Prices for each lot will be announced in advance of a sale in the ring. And, if not sold, then those reserve prices will remain enforceable for a sale for the following thirty days. All this will have come about because of pressure from the rapid development of the Tattersalls On-line auctions, which will be held every two weeks. Breeders will strongly support this initiative for there will be considerable savings in expenses of transport and staff by not sending their stock to the sales grounds.
Will any of the above occur? Will I even be around to answer the critics of my growing pessimism?