Fergal O’Brien: Counting down to Cheltenham *H&H VIP*

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  • Opinion

    All eyes are on the Cheltenham Festival now, especially after Trials Day at the weekend. Cheltenham’s always a great place to have runners, and although we didn’t have any winners, we were pleased with the ones we sent out. Aye Aye Charlie finished third in the Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle and did really well to do so; Paddy Brennan gave him a brilliant ride. The horse looked like he didn’t like the ground, which was heavy, but he showed his grit.

    Colin’s Sister also ran a good race in the Grade Two Cleeve Hurdle, which was won by Agrapart. I thought she might go better, but they probably didn’t go as quickly as we’d hoped early on. She ran a credible race, though, and had some good horses behind her.

    Well done Brian

    We were delighted with Perfect Candidate. He came back from a bad run at Sandown, and in Saturday’s race, the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase, he made a mistake but stayed on and finished fifth, so he did as well as we could hope.

    The race was won by Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red, and I’m thrilled for Brian. He’s one of the nicest people, he’s very genuine and always has time to say hello to everyone.

    Mares’ race hots up

    Stuart Edmunds’ Maria’s Benefit won well at Doncaster winning the Mares’ Novice Hurdle (27 January), which means the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is looking interesting. She went very well around Taunton at the end of December and looks a really smart filly. Laurina, Willie Mullins’ charge, is also a fascinating prospect.

    We have Cap Soleil who’ll be going for the same race, and think she goes there with a great chance. She’s a nice horse and fingers crossed that it’ll go to plan.

    Some very sad news

    The whole National Hunt and point-to-point industry has been shocked and saddened by the passing of trainer Richard Woollacott. I knew Richard from the pointing scene, he was always a very nice chap. It’s devastating for his family.

    I think mental health is much more freely spoken about now, whatever sport you’re in. His wife Kayley said he’d been fighting for some time, and she’s appealed for people to support charities such as Mind and the Injured Jockeys Fund. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 February 2018