2023 was a year full of action in horse racing, with some big stars, big surprises and big days for some of the smaller yards in Ireland, Britain and across the globe.
Some of the most memorable races were The Real Whacker winning the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham for Paddy Neville, Big Evs winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Santa Anita for Mick Appleby, and Hewick storming home to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton for Shark Hanlon.
With the Cheltenham Festival on the horizon in March 2024, and a brilliant Flat season to come, we pick out some of the best specials in the world of horse racing for the New Year.
With a healthy lead already built up in defence of his National Hunt Trainers' Championship crown, Ditcheat handler Paul Nicholls is well on his way to securing his fourth title on the bounce.
Hot on his heels will be Nicky Henderson (6/4) who will have ample opportunity to close that gap with some outstanding chances in big races in the form of Constitution Hill and Jonbon at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.
A six-time winner of the title himself, Henderson looks sure to bridge the gap, but it might be too little too late come the end of the season and there's still some value in Nicholls' odds despite him being a short price.
Henderson is sure to have a stronger Cheltenham, but Nicholls runs more horses than his fiercest rival over the course of a season and he will add to his pot gradually as the season prolongs.
Nicholls is bidding for a record-equalling 15th trainers' title and will target some big races in the spring. He will be hoping Stay Away Fay and Stage Star can perform again at Cheltenham in March, and if they do the title should be wrapped up.
“He really is our Frankel” were the words spoken by City Of Troy’s co-owner Michael Tabor after the colt's sublime success in the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October, and if the horse lives up to his words then the 3/1 to land the 2000 Guineas & Derby double is good value.
There is a huge weight of expectation surrounding the three-year-old this year after his stellar two-year-old campaign resulted in three impressive successes.
Aidan O’Brien’s juvenile not only has a huge amount of talent but his attitude is impeccable too. Whether he can go on and even get moderately close to Frankel's achievements remains to be seen, but connections seem very confident.
City Of Troy is unusually bred, sired by US Triple Crown winner Justify, and a Group One-winning mare by Galileo, Together Forever is his dam.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar in November 2024 will surely be on the cards for this horse if all goes to plan, but he's going to be a hard horse to stop on grass this year before then.
This bet is a bit of a longshot but it's not as far-fetched as it may seem at first glance. Corach Rambler landed the Cheltenham & Grand National double last season and although he has a tougher assignment this season, he's no forlorn hope.
Lucinda Russell's 10-year-old son of Jeremy is a perfect 3-3 at Cheltenham - two of which came in the Ultima Handicap Chase - and he stormed home in the manner of a Grade 1 animal when winning the race under Derek Fox last March.
Cheltenham seems to really suit Corach Rambler. Patiently ridden, he enjoys being covered up in a large field and he absolutely eats the Cheltenham hill in the closing stages.
Although it's obvious that the Gold Cup is a much tougher assignment, worse horses have won a Gold Cup. Lord Windermere is the perfect example of that, winning the race off a rating of 152, while Corach Rambler has a current rating of 159.
Last season's Grand National winner started off this campaign with two below-par efforts at Kelso and Haydock, but that was no surprise because he is a proper spring horse.
Make no mistake about it, this horse has a chance if he lines up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and if he can do the business he could go off favourite for the Grand National.
Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.