Naunton-based Fergal O’Brien is hoping for more of the same this season, as he bids to cement his fast-growing status as a trainer to be reckoned with.
After clocking up 60 winners for the second term in succession, O’Brien enjoyed another milestone moment during the 2017-18 campaign, when notching his first Grade One victory thanks to the success of Poetic Rhythm in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
With his stable star going novice chasing, O’Brien hopes the seven-year-old can prove as effective over fences when starting off at Chepstow on Saturday.
He said: “Poetic Rhythm was fantastic last season and the only place he disappointed was the (Cheltenham) Festival. We targeted the Persian War and he won it, and we targeted him for the Challow and he won that, so two out of three ain’t bad.
“We’ve schooled him for a while. He has run in several point-to-points in Ireland and two for us. The important thing is he has to go left-handed.
“It would be nice if he could be a Grade One winner over fences as well, but I just hope he has a good novice season. He is a lovely horse. He is not the biggest in the world, but hopefully he has the engine to make up for it.”
Few horses have been more consistent for O’Brien than Listed scorer Cap Soleil, who has yet to finish outside the first two in seven starts.
The trainer said: “She did everything we wanted her to do last year, having won first time out, then finishing second. She went to Haydock and won a Listed race and then she ended up finishing second at Cheltenham.
“She will probably start off in a two-mile Listed mares’ race at Wetherby in early November, then we will step her up in trip after that.
“It would be lovely to win a graded race with her and all roads lead back to Cheltenham in March.”
Having sent Alvarado out to finish fourth in both the 2014 and 2015 Grand National, O’Brien believes that in Master Dee, who claimed last season’s Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton, he has another horse that could prosper over the Aintree fences.
He said: “It was a phenomenal pot for him to win and Barry Geraghty gave him a great ride. He picked up an injury after Kempton, as he got a cut out in the field.
“He could be one for the Badger Ales (at Wincanton). We would like to think he might make up into a Grand National horse and that could be very exciting.”
It is hoped Coolanly and Aye Aye Charlie could develop along the same lines as Poetic Rhythm did as second-season novice hurdlers, with the former reappearing in the Persian War at Chepstow on Sunday.
O’Brien said: “Coolanly won a bumper first time out, but we took him to Lambourn two weeks before that and he looked as slow as a hearse.
“After he was beaten on his hurdles debut at Leicester he picked up a niggly injury, so we had to stop. We got him back and entered him in a few places.
“We put him in the wrong race at Cheltenham (Ballymore) and he was very free as he hadn’t run in a long time. He was a bit disappointing there, but he came home really well at Aintree and wasn’t beaten far in fifth in another Grade One.
“Aye Aye Charlie gave us some great days out at Cheltenham and Aintree.
“It was a storming run at Aintree in a Grade One over a trip a little bit short for him. He will start off in the same race he ran in at Aintree last season over two and a half miles. He will be geared towards the Challow, or something like that.”
Trying to keep one step ahead is a vital part of the game, and O’Brien is optimistic that in the Paul and Clare Rooney-owned unbeaten bumper performer Time To Move On, he could have a special talent on his hands.
He said: “He is a lovely horse and has been schooling really well. He had a great summer at Jason Maguire’s and came back here looking a million dollars.
“He seems to be working a bit better this year. He was never the greatest work horse last year, as I think he was still a bit weak and raw.
“He is an embryonic chaser as he is a big, strapping horse. We still think he is a long way off the finished article.”
Others to note:
“The one place I see him potentially at later in the season is running in the Scottish National.”
“She is a lovely mare. She is solid and jumps well – jumping is her forte. It is a case of probably the softer the better for her. You would like to think she can take high rank in those mares’ novice races.”
Chase The Spud
“I suppose we’ve learnt our lesson with him, that we won’t go back to Chepstow with him. He will start off probably at Haydock again, where we need to target the Grand National Trial. He can go in those veterans’ chases as well now.”
“She has had a break and will now head to Cheltenham for the two-mile-five novice hurdle at the October meeting. Hopefully she will be a nice mare. She is a bit older and stronger now – we think she is a smart mare.”
“He is a great jumper and we are really looking forward to getting him over hurdles. There are no targets, but we would start over two and a half miles.”
“It was probably an above-average bumper he ran in first time out and he won nicely. We will probably bash on straight over hurdles with him. He does look a very nice horse.”
Mercy Mercy Me
“We’ve schooled him and he will start off in a two-and-a-half-mile hurdle somewhere. He won’t be over-raced over hurdles, as he is really is a chaser. He is certainly one of our better novice hurdlers.”
“He was placed in his bumpers and first three outings over hurdles, before winning a novice handicap at the Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr. He will start off hurdling and we’ll see how we go.”
“She was frustrating, but hopefully it will turn out for the best as she is still a novice this year. She can go back to Newbury for that mares’ novice handicap. She is likely to start off at Chepstow in a the same race she did last year. Hopefully we can ride her a bit more forward.”
“He has always jumped well since he was a three-year-old. As the owners are local he will start in a bumper at Cheltenham, then we will decide whether to go hurdling after that.”