O'Brien is bullish about Housesofparliament
Joseph O'Brien is confident that Housesofparliament, one of the highest-rated Flat horses to go hurdling, has more to give.
JP McManus won the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Ivanovich Gorbatov last March and he has unbeaten hurdler Defi Du Seuil, Landofhopeandglory and Housesofparliament among his potential runners this year.
Housesofparliament finished second to Meri Devie in a Leopardstown maiden late last year, after which bookmakers made last year's Leger third a 20/1 chance for the Triumph.
"I was delighted with that run," O'Brien said. "We hadn't him in a while, he was ready to start and the ground was slower than ideal.
"The first hurdles run you'd like to think would be a horse's worst; you'd like them getting better as the season goes on. We think there's a bit to work on. We're looking forward to going to Leopardstown for the Spring Juvenile Hurdle on February 12.
"I'd be happy he doesn't need farther than two miles; it'll be interesting to see what Ruby (Walsh) rides if Willie Mullins runs Bapaume and Meri Devie."
O'Brien recruited 11 horses from his father, Aidan, to run over jumps for McManus. It seems that only about half of them will see action this season, including Bhutan, which has been quite short in the Triumph market.
"There's Landofhopeandglory, Sword Fighter and Bhutan to run. Bhutan hadn't run on the Flat for a long time when he came to me.
"He was a good bit behind the others. He'll be entered in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. I don't know if he'll run. He could have gone for a maiden in Naas as well but it doesn't really make sense to win a maiden.
"Run in a Grade One and in a worst-case scenario you're a novice with a much better programme next season, or you might go in the Fred Winter. The programme doesn't encourage you to win a maiden hurdle. I doubt Bhutan will go (to Cheltenham) this season; it'd surprise me if he did as it's a bit late now."
O'Brien believes that it is mainly mentality which decides whether or not smart Flat steeds cut it hurdling. "It's not black and white, likely psychological more than anything. There is something to it because so many of them off the Flat have not done it jumping."
Meanwhile, Churchill has been confirmed European champion two-year-old as he gears up for a Classic campaign. The Galileo-bred, rated 122, is the ninth European champion two-year-old trained by Aidan O'Brien in the past 18 years.
He won the National Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes last season. He is no better than 6/4 for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on May 6.
Arrogate has been named 2016 Longines World's Best Racehorse. He secured the title after earning a rating of 134 for his half-length victory over California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The American pair are set to clash again in Saturday's $12m Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
Many Clouds is reported as ready to meet Thistlecrack in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham earlier on Saturday.