Monday 23 April 2018

O'Brien fancies his former star Golantilla in Cheltenham bumper

Pat Griffin

The Olympics of horse racing - the Cheltenham national hunt festival - commences on Tuesday next for four action packed days of thrilling horse racing, which is the very best in the world, and the townland of Kilally in Kilworth will have more than a passing interest in the spectacle.

Local owner, breeder and top trainer Sean O'Brien has bred, owned and recently sold the hugely exciting Golantilla, for a huge sum, to leading Irish owner Barry Connell, to be trained in Navan by Tony Martin, and has been heavily supported in the last two months to clear 7/1 favourite for the prestigious 2ml bumper on Wednesday, which attracts the cream of British and Irish runners.

During the week The Corkman exclusively interviewed O'Brien, getting a real insight into the horse and his chances.

''My late father John bred him and from the time we broke him he showed promise from day one. He was so athletic and did everything so easy. He was ready to run in the spring but the ground was not suitable for him, it had become too quick. So we put him away until the autumn and ran him at Auvane Dungourney, where we were quietly confident of a good run. He did not disappoint and won easily," O'Brien said.

"Point-to-points are the shop window for the sale of any horse, and in particular a very good horse. We took him to Cork Racecourse in Mallow earlier this year and he was mightly impressive in winning the two-mile bumper, as I had expected, and then planned the Cheltenham Bumper.

"The phones were hopping for a few days afterwards and we eventually decided to sell him to Barry Connell, who is a leading owner in the country, to be trained by Tony Martin.

"He has settled in very well in his new environment, connections are very happy with him, and he has been given them all the right vibes.

"Danny Mullins, who has been recently contracted to ride all Barry's horses, will ride him in Cheltenham next Wednesday, and I think he has an excellent chance if everything goes right. Mostly all types of ground come alike to him, except fast or firm ground, which would not suit. He has a high cruising speed, and can quicken again and again, the sign of a top class racehorse," O'Brien added.

O'Brien got involved in racing at a very early age, and at 16 years of age he went to the top stable of Joe Crowley at Piltown in Kilkenny where he learned quite a lot from Joe. Crowley's son-in-law Aidan O'Brien, who was there at the time, moved to Ballydoyle in Tipperary, where Sean rode for six to eight months, three to four days a week, having a most profound affect on his future career.

He spent four years with Joe and as he said "they were the best four years of my life, and set me up well for my future in the sport".