Cap Soleil delights O'Brien on debut
Fergal O'Brien is one of the rapidly rising stars of the training ranks and, if the hurdling debut of unbeaten bumper winner Cap Soleil at Newbury yesterday is anything to judge by, he has a serious contender for mares' novice hurdle honours this season.
The four-year-old filly, ridden by Paddy Brennan, beat the Nicky Henderson-trained Countister by seven lengths on the bridle and, while the runner-up may not be among the Lambourn trainer's first division, Cap Soleil could not have won any easier.
"I felt a bit of pressure as you want to get that first run out of the way, but she was fantastic," O'Brien said of the even-money favourite.
"Her main asset is that she is so laid-back. She doesn't know she's a racehorse, which is what you need.
"A big plus is having Paddy ride her as he's put a lot of work into her.
"I think there's a mares' Listed race back here next month and she might be better on softer ground, which we should get. You'd like to think she'll end up at Cheltenham in March."
O'Brien, who is among the top 10 trainers for this season (this was his 32nd winner), added: "I got her by default so I'm lucky to have her and this was the ideal place to start her off," he said.
"Dame Rose set the race up for us and my only concern was the ground. She'll be better on soft or heavy and we'll bring her back in a month's time. She'll have to carry a penalty but look at the size of her, she'll have no trouble. Two miles in the heavy would be her ideal."
O'Brien has struck up a formidable partnership with Brennan, and put up a staunch defence of the jockey a day after he had been 'jocked off' Cue Card.
"Paddy's not hurting," said O'Brien. "He's a big boy and it's sport. Selfishly, if he's not riding Cue Card, it means he can be riding somewhere for me. I was delighted when he lost the ride on Cue Card."
Claimantakinforgan (30/100 favourite), third in the Champion Bumper in March, made a winning debut over obstacles for Henderson in the Agetur UK Novices' Hurdle.
"He's always looked a smart horse in the making and this was a nice place to start," said Henderson. "Like a lot of ours, he's just had a little blow. He'd get two-and-a-half miles and he's quick. Hopefully he can do that again somewhere before going up in class."
David Pipe's string have hit form and Dell'Arca (7/1) showed the benefit of a recent run when bolting up in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Philip Hobbs left the course with a treble as the triumph of Strong Pursuit (4/1) in the beginners' chase was backed up by Poppy Kay justifying 5/2 favouritism in the conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle and Tidal Flow (8/1) taking the concluding bumper. (© Daily Telegraph, London)