Brian Healy looks ahead to the 2019/20 National Hunt season where he picks out three up and coming young riders who could enjoy big seasons.
The 2019/20 jumps season promises to be another exciting and exhilarating few months with the Cheltenham Festival in March as always the ultimate target for all concerned. Trainers will have been plotting courses for their established starts as well as up-and-coming youngsters who could have an impact this term.
Punters will all have their favourite horses, and some may already be casting an eye towards the greatest show on turf next March with ante-post betting vouchers already in place and in a safe place – just in case.
For the men in the saddle, it will be another long and gruelling season ahead with many, many miles put on the clock, risking life and limb daily in a quest to ride as many winners as possible throughout the season and possibly land a big prize pot or two along the way.
Of course, we won’t see the likes of Noel Fehily or Ruby Walsh this season, with both top riders having hung up their boots last term; but there is plenty of established talent with the likes of Richard Johnson, Aidan Coleman, Harry Skelton, Sam Twiston-Davies, Brian Hughes and the returning Barry Geraghty all sure to have their suporters.
There are also plenty of young talent and rising stars still in the weighing rooms, and Brian Healy picks out three riders this term across the UK and Ireland who could enjoy excellent seasons and plenty of winners throughout the campaign.
Younger brother of Sean Bowen, teenager James has already made a huge impact in the saddle over the past couple of seasons.
Crowned champion conditional jockey in the 2017/18 season having joined Nicky Henderson, he became the youngest jockey at just 16 years of age to win the Welsh Grand National when steering the Gavin Cromwell-trained veteran Raz De Maree to victory at Chepstow.
That big-race success was quickly followed by a Lanzarote Hurdle on board Henderson’s William Henry; while he also partnered Jenkins to Holloway Hurdle success the following week in a memorable first season.
Following another solid campaign last season which included a Midlands Grand National, he is sure to be supplied with plenty of ammunition this term not only from his leading yard, but also from father Peter Bowen; while he has also had rides already this term for Christian Williams and Alan King.
Having rode his first winner at Listowel in 2017, Kevin Brouder may not be a name familiar to casual punters; but the Listowel-born rider had a short stint with Jonjo O’Neill prior to an injury which cut short his time and he returned to his native rider where he teamed up with Tom Cooper.
Opportunities for the young rider might have been relatively thin on the ground, but that didn’t stop leading owner Barry Connell from making the 22-year his retained rider, and he has the backing not only of Cooper, but also the likes of Charles Byrnes, Tom Mullins, Stephen Mahon, Paul Nolan and other yards in Ireland.
This could be a big season for Brouder who is already enjoying his best campaign, and he looks sure to ride more winners throughout the term and his talents surely won’t go unnoticed by the leading yards in Ireland.
JONJO O’NEILL JR
Son of the legendary Jonjo O’Neill, young Jonjo has been around for a few years but it was only last campaign that the rider has really broken through, and he has quickly established himself as one of the country’s leading conditional riders.
Held back earlier in his career by injury, he landed the Lanzarote Hurdle on Big Time Dancer for Jennie Candlish to really announce his arrival, and he has gone from strength to strength since, steering Joseph O’Brien’s Early Doors to success in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March to get his first Festival winner on the board.
Likely to ride predominantly for his father, it remains to be seen how much longer O’Neill Jr will be able to utilise his very useful 3lbs claim, where few would argue that he isn’t excellent value for his allowance. While he might not have the strength in depth, he could be called upon on occasion by other leading yards, and he has taken the reins on horses for the likes of Colin Tizzard and Harry Whittington already this term so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him get plenty of opportunities.