A new year sees trainers and jockeys up and down the country set fresh targets and aims for the next 12 months. But there are a few who have already hit the ground running in 2022 and are worth keeping on side.
In June 2021, Ross Coakley left Ireland to base himself in the UK having ridden well over 100 winners in his home country. Notable successes included the Irish Cambridgeshire on Elusive Time in 2017, and the 27-year-old was well supported by respected names such as Ken Condon, John Oxx and Johnny Murtagh.
Coakley targetting biggest breakthrough yet
But the move to England meant having to forge new relationships with a whole new database of trainers and Coakley, who has a couple of rides at Kempton today, made good headway in that department early on.
From his arrival in June 2021 to the end of the year, Ross rode 12 winners from 139 rides for a variety of trainers with primary supporters including Hugo Palmer, Rod Millman and Ed Walker.
Despite only being two weeks into 2022, it already looks like this could be a significant breakthrough year here in the UK for Coakley. He has notched up four winners from just seven rides at a 57% strike-rate and, perhaps even more significantly, he looks to be developing what could be a lucrative relationship with the in-form Simon and Ed Crisford team.
Two rides for the yard have yielded two wins, comprising a feature class 2 handicap on the six-year-old Chance, and a smart-looking novice in Vespasian.
Both the Crisford-trained winners came at Lingfield where, especially in the case of Chance, Ross gave the horse an intelligent ride and was equally impressive in his post-race analysis, too.
Chance remains a horse to keep on side on the all-weather as he looks to have many of the tools needed to shine on the synthetic surfaces and is versatile at the mile and now a mile-and-a-quarter.
The year can't keep going at this sort of heady strike-rate for Coakley but I predict that we'll be hearing a lot more of him in the coming months, and if he can continue to form strong relationships with yards of high-class ammunition such as the Crisfords, then this year could mark an even bigger breakthrough for him.
Menzies means business this year
Rebecca Menzies continues to carve out an increasingly impressive profile as a dual-purpose trainer to take note of. This isn't a new development, but it is one that has been brought to light more recently due to an impressive 32% strike-rate, fuelled by some fine placement of her horses.
The prime example of this in recent weeks may well be the 52-rated Metal Man who won a class 6 two-mile handicap at a midweek Lingfield meeting for the team.
This may seem a pretty innocuous victory but it was noteworthy as he was Menzies' only runner on the card. It took place no less than a 600-mile round trip from her nothern base. She went there with one horse on the box who had been beaten off the same mark at the same trip on his previous start and hardly had the look of a good thing. Yet Metal Man walked into the winners' enclosure, returning at 3/1 under Callum Shephard, who was having his first ride for the trainer.
In fact, since the start of the year, Menzies has had three examples of one runner, one winner at meetings up and down the country. They include Batocchi at Southwell and High Moon at Catterick, neither of whom were missed in the market.
With plenty of all-weather racing in January to keep across there have been a couple of eye-catchers that may be worth keeping on side when they're next entered.
Keep an eye on Turner and Boughey runners
Veteran trainer Bill Turner hasn't had a winner in a couple of months but the three-year-old Major Gatsby may well be the one to get him back in the winners' enclosure in the coming weeks having looked to appreciate the drop down to six furlongs and the application of blinkers at Lingfield recently: his mark in the low 50s is workable at sprint trips.
George Boughey's Charles St made an eye-catching debut over 10 furlongs recently and has an entry at Wolverhampton in the coming days. The Outstrip colt really caught the eye pre-race in the paddock as he's a much bigger type than many and looked as though he would improve for racecourse debut.
However, in the race itself he was professional and game in the finish, going down by only half-a-length to a more experienced rival. He has an interesting profile as he was sold out of the Crisfords' yard in the Horses In Training catalogue for just 13,000 guineas as an unraced two-year-old at the time.
The shrewd team of Hurworth Bloodstock purchased him, and he looks to add to their already excellent record of winners brought from that sale. Boughey has picked up this year where he left off in 2021 and has plenty of entries over the coming week.