Fergal O’Brien: Transparency in sport is good *H&H VIP*

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  • Opinion

    The winners are continuing and we had a fantastic November Meeting at Cheltenham with Perfect Candidate’s victory in the Grade Three BetVictor.com Chase. He’s a real star for the yard and Paddy Brennan gave him a great ride in some tough ground. We bought him in Ireland for £16,000 and he’s now won seven times, totalling career earnings of nearly £110,000.

    Jennys Surprise also won for us recently in a handicap chase at Uttoxeter. This mare made the news when winning the Royal Artillery Gold Cup last year under Brodie Hampson, riding for her late father who was terminally ill. It was Jennys Surprise’s first run after a long injury lay-off and so it was great for her to return with a victory.

    Colin’s Sister and Cap Soleil run at Newbury at the weekend, so we’re looking forward to that.

    Wind operation debate

    There has been a lot of talk recently about wind operations (surgery to aid breathing and the free flow of oxygen to the lungs). From 19 January 2018, trainers must declare when a horse runs for the first time after having the procedure.

    It will be noted with a “WS” on the racecard, so everyone is aware.

    I don’t think it will really affect punters but it will create data, which means it’s a good fact-finding mission. I do think it could have been gone about in a different way though — there was talk about it two years ago, so the process could have been started sooner.

    Of course, it’s good if the sport is more transparent to the general public.

    Flat trainer and vet Mark Johnston came out saying that he believes this could result in large numbers of horses, especially on the Flat, having surgery unnecessarily because of the belief it will improve their performance.

    I think they are more common than many might think, especially in jumps, and I’d say around 50% of mine have had one at some point. Wind ops sometimes work and sometimes they don’t.

    Sometimes the horse takes a couple of runs to work out that they can breathe easily and therefore it works. It’s about making the call for the particular horse.

    There isn’t too much racing

    There have been more cries recently saying there’s too much racing, which is leading to small fields in big prize-money races. It’s obviously a shame when there aren’t many runners and it’s often surprising. However, without the amount of racing we have here, it might get like Ireland, where we’d only have racing four days a week and, unless you’re one of the big boys, you’re not going to be competitive.

    Where would these horses go if you had less racing? I don’t think there’s too much.

    Bristol’s stellar performance

    Bristol De Mai’s massive 57-length victory ahead of Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock was incredibly impressive. It’s great for everyone at Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, too. The horse is ridden out every day by Richard Bevis, who is a great friend of mine, and I’m thrilled for him.

    Finally, many congratulations to Flat jockey, Josephine Gordon, for riding 100 winners — it’s a truly fantastic achievement.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 November 2017