Thursday 23 November 2017

I can challenge at top level at Flat and jumps, insists O'Brien

Big ambitions: Joseph O'Brien Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Big ambitions: Joseph O'Brien Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Johnny Ward

As the ultra-chilly wind was getting the better of his visitors at yesterday's Leopardstown Christmas Festival launch at the yard of Joseph O'Brien, it was difficult not to feel the weight of history.

O'Brien (23) is back where it all began. He was born here in an area that is in Co Kilkenny but close to the borders with both Tipperary and Waterford, a place called Owning.

It was here that his father Aidan revolutionised training before moving to Ballydoyle. Aidan revised and Joseph now uses the same strip of gallop, the famous hill, that Joe Crowley - whose, daughter Annemarie is Joseph's mother - built from scratch.

The hill, which is as impressive as the beautiful scenery around, is central to the young trainer's regime.

"It's a hill that has produced so many winners for so many years," he says. "I only can hope that I do not make a balls of it."

Kevin O'Ryan, the former rider's uncle-in-law, told reporters of working bumper horses on the hill: "If they got to the top still on the bridle, you'd know they were a certainty next time."

Asked, beyond winners, what his ambitions were, O'Brien replied: "Not going out of business."

With the patronage of JP McManus, Gigginstown and others, as well as his pedigree to train, that seems rather unlikely.

McManus recently sourced 11 three-year-olds from Aidan which were to go jumping with Joseph. Bookmakers make him just 7/4 to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with Landofhopeandglory already two from two jumping.

The young trainer envisages having many of the 11 appearing at or after Christmas, with Triumph and Fred Winter candidates to emerge.

He said: "I don't know how many more of them we'll see this side of Christmas. The worst-case scenario is some won't win this season and be nice novices next season.

"Some of them have been in only light work. You'd like to think there'll be Triumph Hurdle and Fred Winter horses. Landofhopeandglory will likely to go to Leopardstown at Christmas and may go to Fairyhouse first."

His father, he said, "is always only the other end of the phone," while he revealed that he rides out only once a week nowadays, a product of his burgeoning string - he now has around 120 stables.

One of his assistants noted that early yesterday morning, the young trainer spotted among a scatter of horses that one did not have his correct bridle on. "His attention to detail is pretty amazing," he added.


O'Brien intends to be roughly 50-50 Flat and jumps and he does not believe that one handicaps the other. He will have around 40 juveniles on the Flat next year.

"I lie if I say I don't want to be a champion trainer but I don't see any reason why we can't compete at the top level in both codes," he said.

Meanwhile, Altior predictably hacked up on his chase debut at Kempton under Noel Fehily, making all and beating fellow chase debutant Black Corton - his only rival - by 63 lengths. Paddy Power cut him into 2/1 from 3s for the Racing Post Arkle after this win.

Irish Independent

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