O'Brien gets green light to make Cheltenham debut
JOSEPH O'Brien and Richard Hughes, reigning champion Flat jockeys in Ireland and England respectively, have been granted jumps licences to ride in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on Wednesday.
The British Horseracing Authority approved Hughes' application while the Irish Turf Club has given O'Brien permission to compete at the Festival.
Hughes is set to partner Sgt Reckless for trainer Mick Channon, with O'Brien aboard Shield for his father, Aidan.
"Hughes was granted his jumps licence on Thursday to ride," said BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey.
Although Hughes has been in action at Cheltenham in the past, it will be a new experience for O'Brien.
"He has been approved to ride in the bumper. He'll have an Irish National Hunt licence for a year," said Denis Egan, chief executive of the Irish Turf Club.
Garrett Power is likely to be making a few calls over the weekend to find out whether Yes Sir Brian will get a run in the race.
The four-year-old made an impressive start to his career when landing a bumper at Punchestown last month, the form of which has worked out well with fourth home Shield coming out and winning at Leopardstown.
Power is keen for his charge to make the trip to Prestbury Park, but only if he is guaranteed a place in the final field.
"He's all set for Cheltenham, but at the moment we need two horses to come out to get a run," said Power.
"It's a long way to travel and a waste of money if you head over there and then don't get a run, so we could really do with finding out one way or another before the end of the weekend.
"He's in terrific form. He went for a gallop after racing at Clonmel on Thursday, Derek O'Connor rode him and he was delighted with him.
"If we get in at Cheltenham, Derek will definitely ride him. He's might be an amateur but he's the champion point-to-point rider and in six rides for me he's ridden six winners.
"I think that might be a difficult record to keep intact in a race at the Cheltenham Festival, but if you're not in you can't win, so we'll see what happens."