Fergal O’Brien: Everyone’s in good spirits *H&H VIP*

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  • Opinion

    Our fortunes have turned, as after a quiet January, we’ve been all go. It’s been a good start to the month, with six winners at the time of press. Our 50th winner of the season came at Huntingdon on 8 February — at the same meeting as last year — and for the same owners, John and Val King, just with a different horse. This year it was Ratify while last year it was Petite Power, so we were thrilled with that.

    On Sunday, we had a winner at Exeter with Time To Move On, making it two from two in bumpers with him. He’s been ridden by Barry Geraghty both times, and he’s been impressed with the horse, so we’ll see how he goes. He’ll be aimed at either Cheltenham, Aintree or Punchestown.

    Everyone in the yard is in good spirits. Paddy Brennan took everyone out for a meal the other week, which was good fun, so morale is high. The whole team works hard and gets involved.

    Pointers from Newbury

    Altior and Native River were very impressive at the weekend, and couldn’t have really been more so, both coming back with a win after long lay-offs. It was a great bit of training from Nicky Henderson and Colin Tizzard respectively, it’s a lot of hard work doing that. However, the difficult thing is now keeping them on track and getting them to their peak on the day at Cheltenham. Both trainers are more than capable of doing that so it’s an exciting prospect.

    It was also great to see Amy Murphy train a winner in Kalashnikov in the Betfair Hurdle. She works really hard and it was nice to see the horse win. It was also good for Jack Quinlan — the team has stuck with him even though they could have gone with someone with more experience, and their loyalty has paid off.

    A successful inaugural meeting

    The new Dublin Festival (2-3 February at Leopardstown) is a great initiative and it went well. Some of our owners went over and said it was a great weekend and the atmosphere was buzzing — I think it helped that Ireland won the rugby and I imagine there were a fair few sore heads on Sunday. It was a great Festival though and Willie Mullins was phenomenal. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t supported by trainers in England, just that it’s a long way to travel for heavy ground when you had a Cheltenham trial in the UK just a week before. It’s a matter of doing what’s best for your horse, whether that’s putting them on a lorry for ten hours or just going down the road. It’s not like it’s an easy option either — you’re on Mullins/Elliott territory and that’s tough.

    The organisers were rewarded with some good runners and I think the Festival has a great future. It was heartwarming to see Edwulf win the Irish Gold Cup, especially after what happened at Cheltenham where he collapsed after the finish. It was a super team effort and everyone was quick to praise the hard work of the Cheltenham vets. That’s a nice side of racing.

    A bit of a mix up

    For the second time in sixth months horses have run in races they haven’t been entered for (at Southwell on 14 January African Trader was declared to run, but Scribner Creek ran instead, and vice versa). It’s beggars belief how it can happen as horses need scanning in and out so it should be nigh on impossible. Hopefully it was just a blip and won’t happen again.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 15 February 2018