We're coming up to the half way point in the 2020 flat turf season after its delayed June 1st resumption; and it feels like a good time to introduce a few fledgling trainers who have enjoyed flying starts and with whom you may not (yet) be familiar.
Before we meet them, however, a few words on the approach. Racing, like all sports and indeed pretty much all things, is transient: its actors come and go, wax and wane. From a betting perspective, the earlier we can latch on to potentially promising players - trainers, jockeys, sires, even horses - the better our chance of beating the market. The flip side is that, in the rush to become an early adopter, we are likely to encounter a share of false positives. In lay person's terms, one swallow doesn't make a summer: there is a danger that we (in this case, I) place too much store on an eye-catching beginning when little subsequent substance manifests beyond that early flourish.
Moreover, with new trainers in particular, their generally very small strings can quickly meet their match in the handicapper: win one, shame on me; win two, shame on you, as it were.
That's a verbose way of saying we need to tread carefully with what look like promising angles, and consider the early detection of new players in the wider wagering context of the race (conditions, other runners, draw, pace, etc).
So, with caution aforethought, here are my five to follow in the second half of 2020 and beyond:
Career record to date:
Boughey, like myself a good Dorset man, saddled the first runner from his Hamilton Road, Newmarket, stables on 24th July last year. Three weeks later, on 13th August 2019, in a lowly Class 7 event at Lingfield, he was off the mark, at the eighth time of asking. His debut runner, and winner, was the same horse, Three C's.
By the end of 2019, Boughey was 2/39 and on the tail of a 27-runner losing streak. By mid-February he'd added another five winners and, lockdown aside, has not looked back.
Before taking out his own license, Boughey had worked in bloodstock sales, and subsequently for the likes of Gai Waterhouse in Australia then, most recently, spent six years as assistant trainer to Hugo Palmer. Now out on his own, and up to speed, he's one to note and still a touch under the radar.
Career record to date:
Former amateur jump jockey, and son of Bloomfields trainer and bloodstock adviser to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, John Ferguson, James has not so much hit the ground running as scorched the earth beneath his sneakers.
Clearly not one to set the bar too low, his website quotes him as saying, “My primary goal is to create one of the world’s leading training establishments, to train winners at the highest level at the biggest meetings, and to provide owners with an experience for their overall enjoyment”. Crikey, fair play.
After a short and somewhat low key overture between late November last year and late January this, the first movement of Ferguson's career arrived when Arabian King notched a hat-trick in little more than two weeks from 30th January. Interspersed with that one-horse treble was a score for Johnny Reb to round out a four-in-a-row sequence for the newbie trainer.
Based, like Boughey, in Newmarket, Ferguson's record gained Black Type lustre as Zoetic prevailed in the Listed St Hugh's Fillies' Stakes at Newbury on Sunday, the highlight of his career to date.
Ferguson had started out with a spell learning from Sir Mark Prescott before stints with Charlie Appleby, Brian Meehan and Jessica Harrington, all in assistant trainer roles. With a(n unsustainable) 25% strike rate so far, his entries should not be readily overlooked.
Career record to date:
If training, like most vocations, is "a young man's game", nobody told Terry Kent, and good luck to him for that. Kent doesn't yet have the patronage of the other names in this list, and he's arguably the biggest 'flyer' in this five to follow, but his CV is impressive.
Now 53, Kent was originally an apprentice jockey with the late Michael Jarvis before spending most of two decades as part of the Godolphin operation, principally with David Loder. After that, he returned to Kremlin House Stables where Roger Varian, formerly assistant to Jarvis, took over after his passing and installed Kent as his assistant.
Having saddled his first runner from the boxes he rents at Frankland Lodge Stables in Newmarket just two months ago - and achieved a winner with his fourth - he is ahead of Ferguson and Boughey at this nascent stage in his new career. Whether he can spring forward as that pair have seems less likely, but it ought to pay to follow his small string of about a dozen in the coming months.
Career record to date:
Apparently, Joseph Parr's granddad, Alan Bailey, told him to steer well clear of applying for a trainer's license. Kids, eh? They rarely listen to their elders, and that's not always a bad thing. Not so far, in this case, at least.
Parr, who remarkably is not just the fourth Newmarket trainer on this list but also shares the Frankland Lodge yard with Terry Kent, had only sent out three runners when the pandemic paused proceedings. But that hadn't prevented him from breaking his duck with Clem A, formerly trained by gramps, on the trainer's second day at the track with a license.
Since the resumption, Parr has added another four wins from 15 starts, including three-in-a-row earlier this month. He and Kent will doubtless feed off each other in the coming months as they press their respective careers forward.
National Hunt career record to date:
And now, as they say, for something completely different. We head out of Newmarket, out of Britain, and away from the flat to an Irish National Hunt trainer who could make waves this coming campaign... and he may even have a live outsider for a shallow-looking Champion Hurdle next March.
O'Loughlin has been training for two years, sending out his inaugural winner at the 16th attempt on the 10th January 2019, when Sidetracked took the honours in a maiden hunter chase at Clonmel. His second win as a trainer came in a maiden hurdle at the same venue but, a year later with three more winners on the board, O'Loughlin was celebrating a higher profile and big-priced success in the Ulster National at Downpatrick with the Chris Jones-owned Space Cadet.
Jones, who enjoyed dual Cheltenham Festival success with Klairon Davis and more recently landed a touch in the Fred Winter with the high-class flat filly, What A Charm, entrusts his string to O'Loughlin now; since so doing he's not only been rewarded with the Ulster National score but has also seen his Mitchouka, formerly with Gordon Elliott, revitalised to win a beginners' chase.
However, the horse about which Jones must be most excited is surely Cedarwood Road, a big lumbering brute of a teenager about to become a man in 2020/21. I hope. I've backed him to win the Champion Hurdle at 100/1 you see. There's a better than fair chance he either proves not good enough or takes a different path to top honours this term; but his trainer's patience has been rewarded first with a facile eleven-length score in a 25-runner maiden hurdle on Boxing/St Stephen's Day, and most recently with a snug triumph in Listed company. He has a stone and more to find to be a genuine Blue Riband contender but, with just four runs to his belt, this five-rising-six-year-old son of Stowaway has all the attributes to progress through the ranks.
O'Loughlin meanwhile is the fifth man in my quintet of handlers to follow, and offers some variety to the spice of Newmarket life.