Fergal O’Brien: They are great role models *H&H VIP*

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  • Opinion

    I would like to start by wishing Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry both a happy retirement. They’ve been excellent, not just as lady jockeys, but as jockeys of any gender, with wins at the Cheltenham Festival, Irish Grand National and so on. They are both phenomenal riders and great role models for young female jockeys, too.

    For kids like my daughter Fern, who’s really getting into her racing, seeing women like that is important. Not only are they a good example in terms of race-riding, but are also a lesson in how to conduct yourself. They will both be very successful whatever they do next, and credit to them for really opening up the sport for lady jockeys to be competitive.

    On another note, a couple of weeks ago at Cheltenham, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) cancelled a long-distance chase at Cheltenham due to the heat, which split opinion. None of the horses were conditioned for it, so it was in the animals’ best interest. I was surprised they didn’t cancel the rest of the races, but it was proved the right decision.

    The BHA is doing a great job, prize money is up and I think racing is in a really good place. The record crowds keep proving this and I think family days are an excellent way to get people involved.

    We’d all love a Tiger Roll

    This year’s Randox Health Grand National was a really well-run race, and was a great spectacle. You’d normally not get too excited if you were an outsider at 50/1, but here you’ve got every chance. It didn’t go brilliantly for us — Perfect Candidate fell at the first and Chase The Spud pulled up after a circuit.

    Tiger Roll is a freak. He’s done so many things — to win at Cheltenham and at Aintree, credit to Gordon Elliott, who’s done a great job. We’d all love to have a horse like Tiger Roll, and Davy Russell gave the horse a fantastic ride, too.

    Back to business

    The season is over and the champions have been crowned. You have to take your hat off to Nicky Henderson, who won the trainers’ title for a fifth time. He’s always quiet at the start of the season, but he cleans up when the National Hunt proper starts. He’s been so consistent all year, has a great strike rate and it’s well deserved.

    Credit also to Richard Johnson, as he’s done really well to pick up the jockeys’ title again and has a great support team of trainers. James Bowen, who won the conditional jockey’s accolade, is also worth a mention — he’s just 17 yet looks like he’s being doing it for years.

    We are ready to start again now for the forthcoming season, and it’s straight on to the next one for us. The break is more for the jockeys really, but we have a runner on Saturday so it’s business as usual for trainers and staff.

    We finished the season in a great position, at 13th in the table. We had 60 winners — 61 if you include the one on the Flat — and had our first Grade One with Poetic Rhythm, so there have been lots of positives. We’re delighted, and it’s thanks to our owners, jockeys, staff and horses.

    We have some lovely youngsters now for next season, too, including Jarveys Plate, who won the bumper at Perth and was our 60th winner of the season, equalling our total of last year.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 3 May 2018