A Flat campaign that saw the first domestic Classic trials of the year take place at Leopardstown yesterday is already shaping up to be dominated by the game's most revered practitioners.
Even at this early remove, Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien have already aggregated 26 wins. The Coolcullen wizard and his former protege have hit the gate at pace, and their respective classy three-year-olds Dawn Approach and Kingsbarns could lead a robust bid to emulate last year's four-strong haul in the British Classics, each of which came via Ballydoyle.
Recently, though, we've seen how fledgling trainers are increasingly capable of shaking up the old order. Last year, Tommy Carmody and Andy Oliver emerged as major forces.
Shane Foley excelled with a top-four spot in the jockeys' table, as Gordon Lord Byron blossomed from Tom Hogan's Nenagh stable to plunder a Group One at Longchamp. Here we identify 10 names that could make an impact from under the radar in 2013.
George Kent, assisted by his son and namesake, keeps a select few Flat horses at his picturesque Knockenduff Stud in Tramore, saddling Ronan's Bay to a first win in that sphere in 2011.
That autumn, he purchased Custom Cut for a modest €5,800 out of Dermot Weld's yard, with the intention of using the three-year-old maiden as a lead horse. Remarkably, the gelding defied his 25/1 SP to secure a shock Group Three coup in the Gladness Stakes at headquarters last week, his fifth win for Kent.
His revised rating of 106 is 31lbs higher than when he left Weld and his earnings stand at nearly €100,000, which is testament to the Kent operation's proficiency, as are six winners in three years for a 34pc strike rate. It is an outfit that will remain select, but, with an aggregate level-stake profit of 33.60 since 2011, that is even more reason to pay close attention to his runners.
Paul Deegan has flourished since saddling his first winner less than six years ago. Early on, the 33-year-old Curragh-based handler enjoyed Group race success with Lady Springbank, an Irish Lincoln coup with Big Robert and a €75,000 sales race triumph with €2,000 purchase Stand To Attention.
Then he got his hands on James Monaghan's home-bred Celtic Swing mare Midnight Soprano after she attracted a bid of just €1,000 at the sales. The six-year-old showcased her young handler's prowess by winning five last year en route to amassing total earnings of €145,000. Deegan closed out 2012 with a career-best tally of 23, reaffirming his status as one of the most upwardly mobile additions to the training ranks.
Debut wins for the juvenile Fast In The Wind at the Curragh on Sunday and three-year-old Struthan at Dundalk suggest another season of steady progression is assured.
Grandson of training giant 'Darkie' and son of Paddy – who now assists him at Miletta Lodge on the Curragh – Patrick Prendergast's career initially ebbed and flowed in tandem with the boom. After a bright start, in 2008 things begun to stall, Tiz Mighty's Irish Cambridgeshire win his only success. The following year he drew a blank, but in 2010 Rick Barnes, the American owner of Grangecon Stud, came on board. Prendergast's fortunes have improved markedly since, Coral Wave giving him a first Group victory at the Curragh in 2011.
In 2012, he excelled with Barnes' juveniles, seven of them combining for nine wins to take his seasonal tally to a career-best 10. Sugar Boy, which completed a hat-trick in Listed company at Leopardstown in November, made a pleasing return to chase home Ballydoyle hotpot Battle Of Marengo in yesterday's Ballysax Stakes. A winner and three seconds from six runners suggest that Prendergast is really hitting form.
An obvious inclusion given he stormed to last year's apprentices' title and followed up by topping the equivalent pile on the all-weather during the winter, Ronan Whelan continues to impress.
The Monasterevin native excelled on two recent winners for his boss Jim Bolger at Cork and got the fractions right when making all to secure a debut Group triumph on Custom Cut at the Curragh last week.
Whelan finished with a double there as well, so the strong 20-year-old will be hard to deny in his quest to retain his title. Excellent value for his three-pound claim, Dawn Approach's work-rider made the frame on each of his three mounts in Group Ones last term, so it's a matter of time before big-race success comes his way.
Donaghmede-born Ian Brennan rode 54 winners during a three-year spell with John Quinn in Middleham.
He survived the shocking house fire that took the lives of Galway's Jamie Kyne and Scottish apprentice Jan Wilson in 2009, and initially left that trauma behind to partner no less than 36 winners the following year.
Brennan then spent most of 2011 on a sabbatical in Australia, but he has made a big impact since his return home, netting 16 winners last term. Riding primarily for Ado McGuinness – with whom he began his career in 2007 – Eddie Lynam and Tom McCourt, seven further winners saw him finish just one behind Whelan in the all-weather table.
Polished and tactically astute, his star should continue in the ascent.
Luke Dempsey, son of trainer Philip, is wasting little time confirming the potential that he showed as a pony racing champion. Just 16 when he took his first track rides in August, Tommy Carmody's apprentice had four winners from 43 mounts before the end of the year, a ratio that he has replicated in 2013. Wednesday's latest victory, on Poly Pomona at Dundalk, showcased his refined talents, as he dictated the pace and looked stylish and forceful at the death. Tidy and intelligent, he is a seven-pound claimer with a very bright future.
A three-time champion apprentice, Chris Hayes has graduated seamlessly to the fully-fledged ranks. He achieved a first top-five finish in the riders' championship last year, forging lucrative associations with progressive handlers such as Paul Deegan, Patrick Prendergast and Andy Oliver, as well as consolidating relations with mainstays like Harry Rogers and Kevin Prendergast.
With Declan McDonogh retained by the Aga Khan, opportunities at Prendergast's are likely to increase, so last season's career-best tally of 55 could be topped.
wannabe better (T Stack)
Duke Of Marmalade's first crop are training on well as three-year-olds (eight wins from 16 individual runners), and this filly is progressive. Well held at the Curragh on her bow last September, Wannabe Better improved to be fourth at Navan a month later. On her return at headquarters last week, she found only the exciting Moth too good. Tommy Stack's charge is in at Tipperary on Thursday, when an initial win would begin to justify some high-profile entries.
timikar (j OXX)
A handsome colt that filled the eye at Leopardstown in November. The son of Dynaformer travelled kindly until turning in, when he got tapped for toe in deep ground.
He kept on for fourth behind the highly regarded Foundry, and the third and fifth, Won Diamond and Machete Mark, both won on their only subsequent outings. Timikar is due to reappear soon, while an Irish Derby entry gives you an idea of the sort of horse he could develop into.
viztoria (e lynam)
A runaway winner for Ado McGuinness at Naas last July, Viztoria followed up in similar fashion when taking the Listed Blenheim Stakes on her first start for her current handler at the Curragh in the autumn.
She then lost little in defeat when second in a French Group Two over six furlongs, as, for all that she has pace, she is bred to be better over further. Due to reappear in the Athasi Stakes on May 6, she could be a real Irish 1,000 Guineas contender.