Fergal O’Brien: our jockeys are well looked after *H&H VIP*

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  • Opinion

    The Injured Jockeys Fund’s Oaksey House in Lambourn (pictured) has had a revamp and it’s great news for the sport. Now its gym is three times bigger and it even has a hydrotherapy pool, named after AP McCoy. Alain Cawley, who rides for us, dislocated both of his shoulders and they were fantastic rehabilitating him. I’m sure footballers get looked after well, too, but what we have in racing is second to none. It looks after them mentally, too, and they are helped to recover quickly in all ways.

    The Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards are another strong initiative to support the industry. Jessica McLernon, who won employee of the year, is a great example of why these awards are so important. To rise up through the ranks at Richard Fahey’s, which is a big yard, to become assistant trainer is an impressive achievement and the recognition is well deserved. It’s acknowledging racing is not just a day job; it’s doing what you love, but doing it well.

    Mares-only day is a winner

    I’m delighted with the news that there’s to be a mares-only raceday at Cheltenham on 19 April. We’re lucky to train some nice mares, so fingers crossed it should be an excellent day. There’s good prize money at £190,000, too.

    There are some great initiatives with mares’ programmes, including this one. The focus has grown on mares in recent years — they’re every bit as good as the boys, and the British Horseracing Authority should be applauded for its promotion of mares’ races. This should be an exciting day.

    £100,000 win a huge deal for my team

    It’s been a great week for my yard with Master Dee taking the Grade Three Handicap Chase at Kempton under Barry Geraghty on Saturday, 24 February. He’s a very consistent horse; he’s never been out of the first three, and to win a £100,000 race for his owners is amazing.

    There were times I wanted to run him ahead of this, but it wasn’t quite the right moment so we were patient and it’s paid off. He has options at Aintree now, maybe the Topham or a handicap, but we’ll see. Cheltenham is too soon, he’s had a hard enough race already. A race like this is a huge deal for the yard — prize money aside, the press interest and publicity is fantastic.

    Eyes on Cheltenham

    It’s all about the preparation for Cheltenham now. It’s an exciting but nervous time for us. We’ve been trying to keep the horses in good form. They are running well at the moment, so we just have to hope they go there in the best possible form, and we’re really looking forward to it.

    I think it’s the right choice for trainer Colin Tizzard’s stable star Cue Card to head to the Ryanair. The Tizzards will always do the best thing by the horse, and his best chance is in the Ryanair so that’s where he should head. Paddy Brennan was exceptional on him last week to finish second in the Grade One Ascot Chase, but the Gold Cup isn’t on the cards.

    It was nice for Ruth Jefferson to have a big winner in Waiting Patiently, who beat Cue Card, especially as she’s had such a tough time recently as her father, trainer Malcolm, passed away. She’s taken over his licence and is doing amazingly. It took me six years to win a Grade One, and it’s taken her six days. I’m really pleased for her.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 1 March 2018