Joseph O’Brien has enjoyed a highly-successful season over jumps thus far, but with the Flat season about to kick off, he is understandably excited about the months ahead for his big team of horses on the level. He was good enough to guide us through the pick of his squad for the campaign ahead.
4 br g Dream Ahead – Bluebell Park
Rated 86, he won a maiden hurdle in October and made an encouraging return to the Flat when third in a handicap at Dundalk in March.
“He was very consistent in good handicaps on the Flat last season and won a maiden hurdle since then. We’ll probably mix it up with him between handicap on the Flat over 10 and 12 furlongs and giving him a few spins over hurdles too. He doesn’t want the ground too soft.”
3 b c Camelot – Wishing
An unraced colt from the family of Miesque.
“He’s a very nice unraced colt by Camelot. He was working well last autumn before picking up a little setback which was why he didn’t run. I’m looking forward to starting him off in a maiden in the next month or so. He looks a middle-distance type and he looks to be potentially a good horse.”
3 b c Fast Company – Band Of Colour
Rated 89, he won a maiden at Limerick in June and ran out the impressive winner of a handicap at Naas in November.
“We’ll start him back in the Madrid Handicap at Naas and we think he’ll improve on whatever he does there. We think he is still fairly treated, so hopefully he can find some more improvement this season. He showed he handles soft ground at Naas, but he has won on good ground too, so I think he will be versatile in that regard. Seven furlongs is probably a good trip for him for now, but he’s likely to try a mile at some stage.”
3 b f Declaration Of War – Charroux
Rated 94, she won a nursery at Leopardstown in October and went on to finish second in a Listed race at Newmarket.
“She finished off the season really well last year and the intention is to start her off in a Guineas or Oaks trial in the coming weeks. I’d be hopeful she’ll stay at least a mile-and-a-quarter. She handles an ease in the ground well, but I think she’ll be just as good or a firmer surface. Her pedigree suggests she should improve with age, so we are hoping she can step up and get really competitive in stakes company this season.”
3 b f Power – Flavia Tatiana
Rated 92, she won a maiden at Down Royal and a nursery at Leopardstown last season.
“She came up through the grades last year and ended up rated in the 90s. The plan is to start her off in the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown and the big aim with her this year is to get some black type. I’d say seven furlongs looks to be her trip based on last year’s form, but I wouldn’t be against exploring a mile with her again. She seems quite versatile with regard to ground.”
4 b f Motivator – Seraya
Rated 101, she won four times last season including a Listed race at Limerick in October.
“She did really well last year to come up through the grades and win a Listed race. She’ll be campaigned in stakes company this year and can hopefully be competitive in Group races. She stays well and handles soft ground. I wouldn’t be against trying her at two miles if the right race came about, but she seems fully effective at shorter than that. She’s only a small filly, but she tries hard.”
Matchbook, Piltown, County Kilkenny 5/3/2018Joseph O’BrienMandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
3 b c Camelot – Cinnamon Rose
Rated 88, he has improved with each of his starts and made it third-time lucky in a seven-furlong maiden at Dundalk in February.
“He won his maiden at Dundalk in good style and the plan is for him to step into handicap company now. We think he’ll stay further than he has been running over and he won’t want the ground too soft. He looks a nice middle-distance colt for the future and hopefully he can progress as he steps up in trip.”
3 b c Bated Breath – Smart Step
Rated 96, he made it second-time lucky when winning a mile maiden at Navan by eight lengths in October.
“He disappointed us a bit on his debut and we gave him plenty of time after that, but he came back to win a maiden at Navan in really good style in October. He handles an ease in the ground, but I think he’ll be fine on a sounder surface. While he might start back over a mile, we think he’ll stay at least a mile-and-a-quarter.”
4 ch f Intense Focus – Precipitous
Rated 66, she won a maiden at Down Royal for Eddie Lynam last season prior to being bought by her current connections for €23,000 in February.
“She’s a nice filly that we bought at Goffs in February. She looked a nice sprinting prospect when she won a maiden for Eddie Lynam last season, but things didn’t seem to go her way after that. She has settled in well and we’ll campaign her in sprint handicaps over the summer. We are very hopeful she can win off her mark.”
4 b f Lawman – Benedicte
Rated 89, she won a maiden at Killarney in August and shaped with promise in a Listed race at Naas in October.
“She won her maiden well and I thought she shaped nicely in a Listed race at Naas on her final start of the season. She handles soft ground, stays a mile-and-a-half well and should stay further. The main aim will be to get some black type with her this season.”
3 br c Camelot – Question Times
Made a highly-promising debut when a never-nearer second to James Cook in a maiden at Leopardstown in October.
“He has wintered very well. He ran a lovely race at Leopardstown last season and he is an exciting horse. Based on his run, he looks a stakes horse in the making and those are the hopes we have for him. I see him as a middle-distance horse and we’ll probably start him off in a maiden over a mile-and-a-quarter. He seems like one that will be versatile with regard to ground.”
4 b c Galileo – Burning Sunset
Formerly trained by Andre Fabre, he won at Lyon Parilly in May and went on to run well in stakes company prior to changing hands in the autumn.
“He’s a nice horse that joined us from France during the winter. His form with Andre Fabre looks useful and hopefully he’ll compete in stakes races over middle-distance or staying trips over here this season. Hurdling could be an option for him at some stage, but there hasn’t been a decision made on that yet. He is likely to start off in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on April 22nd.”
4 ch g Teofilo – Sentimental ValueAn unraced gelding that was formerly trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, he has been entered for the Vintage Crop Stakes in April.
“He’s a nice unraced horse that came to us from France. I could see him starting off in a mile-and-a-quarter maiden during the summer and could well stay further than that.”
3 ch c Lope De Vega – Rich Gift
Rated 88, he made it 11th-time lucky when winning a maiden at Dundalk in December.
“He was consistent as a two-year-old and deservedly got off the mark at Dundalk last time. He seemed suited by being ridden a small bit more quietly in a truly-run race in his last start, so stepping him into good handicaps this summer could suit him well. I’d say seven furlongs or a mile will be his trips and he’ll never want the ground to be too soft.”
3 b f Zoffany – Granadilla
Rated 106, she finished fourth in both the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.
“She’s still a maiden, but she showed a high level of form in Group company last season and is a lovely prospect for this year. Physically, she looks like one that should be better as a three-year-old than a two-year-old. The plan at the moment is to stick to sprinting with her and is she is likely to make her return in a five-furlong maiden at Dundalk this Wednesday.”
5 ch c Pivotal – Golden Shadow
Rated 100, he won a maiden at the Curragh in 2016 and finished third in a Listed race back at that track last June.
“He ran very well in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last year, but had a bit of a setback at the backend of the season. He likes the Curragh and is one that just wants nice, safe ground. He’ll probably campaign in stakes company this season and has been entered in the Tattersalls Gold Cup again.”
4 b c High Chaparral – Sitara
Rated 119, he progressed strongly as a three-year-old, winning the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown, the Curragh Cup and the Melbourne Cup.
“He was brilliant for us last season and gave us an unbelievable day in the Melbourne Cup. He is still down in Australia with his owner Lloyd Williams in Macedon Lodge and we are looking forward to getting him back here later in the year.”
3 ch f Lope De Vega – Oh Sedulous
The winner of a maiden at Dundalk in January, she shaped with some promise when sixth in a Listed race back at that track in March.
“She won a maiden at Dundalk and I think she ran better than her finishing position suggested in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk last time. The hope is to try and get black type for her and the 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown is likely to be her next race. I think she’ll be a bit better on turf than on the all-weather and I don’t think she needs to go any further than a mile for the time being.”
3 gr c Excelebration – Maglietta Fina
Rated 104, he was formerly trained by Marco Botti for whom he won a maiden at Ascot and a Listed race at Doncaster.
“He’s a very nice horse that joined us from Marco Botti in February. He has settled in well to his new routine and he has done everything we’ve asked him to do in good style. Looking at his runs, he looks to have plenty of speed and we’ll start him off at sprint trips. He is an exciting horse for the year ahead.”
3 gr c Holy Roman Emperor – Fancy Intense
Rated 100, he won a maiden at Dundalk in April and a Listed race at Naas in May last season.
“He has done well very over the winter. His form tailed off a little bit at the backend of last season, but we’d be hopeful that we can get him back to this best this year. I think we’ll keep him to five or six furlongs this year.”
4 ch g Champs Elysees – Masandra
Rated 75, he was formerly trained by Andrew Balding to win a maiden at Kempton in October prior to joining his current connections for 16,000gns.
“He is a lovely dual-purpose prospect that we bought in Tattersalls in February. He has settled in well and is likely to start off for us in a month or so.”
It's an exciting day for the yard tomorrow with six runners at Cheltenham.
It's an exciting day for the yard tomorrow with six runners at Cheltenham. Here is a snippet from an interview I did with @TeamMatchbook talking through all of their chances. The full interview can be watched here: https://t.co/pkPxgJH0gX pic.twitter.com/DS418UgsIV— Joseph O'Brien (@JosephOBrien2) March 15, 2018
It's an exciting day for the yard tomorrow with six runners at Cheltenham. Here is a snippet from an interview I did with @TeamMatchbook talking through all of their chances. The full interview can be watched here: https://t.co/pkPxgJH0gX pic.twitter.com/DS418UgsIV
Everything is going well with Edwulf and we are very excited about running him in the Gold Cup on Friday. Here is a snippet of an interview I did about him with @TeamMatchbook. You can watch the full interview here: https://t.co/GlMXr1CzqK pic.twitter.com/iIrIy8nASJ— Joseph O'Brien (@JosephOBrien2) March 12, 2018
Everything is going well with Edwulf and we are very excited about running him in the Gold Cup on Friday. Here is a snippet of an interview I did about him with @TeamMatchbook. You can watch the full interview here: https://t.co/GlMXr1CzqK pic.twitter.com/iIrIy8nASJ
Joseph O’Brien’s rise up the training ranks in less than two years with a license has been quite remarkable to witness. Having already sent out the winner of the Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Melbourne Cup on the Flat, he secured his first two Grade 1 victories over jumps at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in February with the highlight being the emotional victory of Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup.
In his latest column, Joseph gives us an update on all of his entries for the four days of Cheltenham.
A 140-rated hurdler, he has won two of his four starts over hurdles including a Grade 3 novice hurdle at Naas.
“He will run in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle on Friday and it looks like JJ Slevin will ride him. I don’t really have an excuse for his last run. We expected him to run a lot better than that and he was just disappointing. If the ground turns up to be decent, it will be a bit of an unknown for him. All of his runs so far have been on testing ground, so we’ll have to wait and see how he handles it. It’s obviously a very competitive race, but he’s in good form and will hopefully run well.”
A 164-rated chaser, he came back from a near-death experience at last year’s Cheltenham Festival to secure a dramatic victory in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
“Everything has gone smoothly with him since Leopardstown and he will run in the Gold Cup on Friday. Derek O’Connor has a great association with him and it’s great that he’ll be able to continue that partnership. We think he stays well and the faster the early pace, the more it will suit him. It’s a wide-open and competitive race, but I think he has a good each-way chance.”
A 120-rated hurdler, she has won twice over hurdles and most recently finish third in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
“The hope is to run her in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Wednesday, but she needs a few to come out if she is to get a run. She might not have too much up her sleeve in terms of her handicap mark, but she’d appreciate a return to better ground and will enjoy the test of stamina, so we’d look forward to seeing how she runs if she gets in. We haven’t thought too much about who will ride her yet, we’ll just see if she gets a run first.”
A 145-rated hurdler, he won the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016, but has been well below his best this season.
“He’ll run in the County Hurdle on Friday. He has been struggling on testing ground all season and it has been hard to take too much encouragement from his runs. He ran well in this race on good ground last year, so hopefully the ground will dry out for him, but the handicapper has been slow to drop him and he probably needs a bit more help in that regard before he gets really competitive again. There won’t be a decision made on his rider until after declarations.”
A 140-rated hurdler, he won his first three starts over hurdles during the summer, but has disappointed on softer ground since then.
“The plan is to run him in the County Hurdle on Friday. This will be his first run in handicap and is still relatively inexperienced, so it could be tough for him. I thought he needed the run after a break when he was below form in the Royal Bond, but he’s been a bit disappointing the last twice and was probably struggling on the soft ground more than anything. The better the ground, the better his chance will be. His rider will be decided after declarations.”
A 129-rated hurdler, he has progressed steadily over hurdles this season, most recently running below form in the Coral.ie Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
“He’s a very likeable and consistent horse and we gave him a little break after his last run with a view to bringing him to Cheltenham fresh, but it looks like he might struggle to get a run. We have him entered in the County Hurdle, the Martin Pipe and the Coral Cup and he is versatile enough with regard to trip and ground that we would be happy to run in any of them, but getting in will be his main issue.”
The wide-margin winner of a bumper at Thurles in December, he subsequently finished second to Blackbow in a Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown in February.
“He’ll run in the Champion Bumper on Wednesday. It looks a very competitive race and I’m hearing some very bullish reports about a few of the leading contenders. All of his runs have been on testing ground so far and while I think he’d handle a sounder surface, I wouldn’t be at all upset if it was soft. It might be tough for him to reverse form with Blackbow if they both get a clean run though the race, but I’d definitely be hopeful we can get closer to him. At the end of the day, an awful lot of this race comes down to what gets a good run on the day and all we can do is hope that Rhinestone gets one. I think he is streetwise enough for a race like this. He will have learned a lot from his last run and should be all the better for it. There hasn’t been a final decision made on his rider yet.”
A 146-rated hurdler, he produced a career-best effort when winning the Galway Hurdle in July, but has been below that form since.
“He will run in the County Hurdle. He went up plenty for winning the Galway Hurdle and has just struggled since then. He seems in good form at home and maybe a bit a better ground will help him, but there was plenty of ease in it when he won at Galway and he won a good handicap on soft ground on the Flat last year, so I might be grasping at straws with that hope. We’ll get him there in the best form we can and hopefully he’ll bounce back to form. His rider will be decided after declarations.”
A 142-rated hurdler, he broke his maiden over hurdles in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
“It looks as though he’ll be supplemented for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Friday as that looks a more suitable and winnable option for him than the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Wednesday. I think the trip will be fine for him and the better the ground, the better his chance. He obviously took a very big step forward in form terms last time and I’d be hopeful that he could find more improvement if he gets the trip as well as we hope he will. JJ Slevin is likely to keep the ride on him.”
A 136-rated hurdler, he has won two of his three starts over hurdles, most recently finishing second to Duca De Thaix in a Grade 3 novice hurdle at Limerick’s Christmas meeting.
“The plan is to run him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday. He looks up against it based on what he’s shown so far, but I do think that less testing ground will definitely suit him, as will a stronger pace in front of him. It was always the plan to freshen him up after he ran at Christmas with a view to running at Cheltenham. He has been leased to the Melbourne 10 for the day and they’ll have a good day out with him regardless, but I’d be hopeful he will represent them well in the race. JJ Slevin is likely to ride him.”
I’m sure there were plenty of trainers that had it much tougher than us around the country, but it was a definitely a testing week for the team here.
The road leading up to our yard is quite steep and narrow, so once the big snow drifts settled on it, access was a problem. What we ended up doing was that the staff parked down in Owning village and we ferried them up and down to the yard with a tractor and trailer.
Fair play to all the team here, as everyone that had any prospects of making it safely into work, made a big effort to do so and thanks to that we had very close to a full squad every day.
The weather that we had last week creates all sorts of issues within a racing yard.
Our water pipes froze, so a lot of time was spent hauling buckets of water around to the horses to make sure they had enough at all times. I don’t think we’ll ever take automatic water troughs for granted again!
There was a lot of snow to be cleared and surfaces to be made safe just so that the horses could be taken out of their boxes. The gallop was also a big concern and we had a rotating crew of people manning the tractor and harrow all night every night to try and keep it useable.
When all was said and done, we managed to get all the horses out onto the gallop every day and were able to maintain their routines as best we could.
I know it has almost become a cliché for trainers to deflect praise from themselves onto their staff, but there couldn’t be better examples of the importance of team efforts within racing yards than those that kept the show on the road all over the country last week.
It really was a herculean effort from all the staff here and thanks to them, the horses we are hoping to run at Cheltenham didn’t have their routines interrupted too much.
We can’t be sure how many runners we’ll have at Cheltenham yet as a few of them will be touch-and-go to get into the handicaps, but the number is likely to be between six and 10. Plans are in the process of being finalised at the moment and the first of them are likely to leave the yard here on Sunday.
It’s a very exciting time for all of us here. All we can aim to do is get them down to the starts of their races in the best shape we can and after that, it will just be a case of hoping for the best.
Horse racing betting is about to get even better at Matchbook with the news that two of the very brightest young stars in the sport in Joseph O’Brien and Bryony Frost are joining the Matchbook stable as our latest horse racing ambassadors.
The hottest names in racing are linking up with racing’s hottest exchange to give you exclusive insights throughout the year to help you bet smarter.
Still just 24 years of age, O’Brien has already won the Derby twice as a jockey as well as the Irish Gold Cup and the Melbourne Cup as a trainer among a host of other achievements. He’s the trainer everyone wants to hear from and he will be giving you exclusive advice, insights and commentary only here at the home of 0% commission where winners are always welcome.
Even younger at just 22, Bryony Frost has been a revelation in her first professional season in National Hunt racing. In December, she became only the second female jockey to win a Grade 1 aboard the exciting novice chaser Black Corton and the pair will team up at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in the RSA Chase. With her talent in the saddle being complimented by her infectious enthusiasm for the sport, there couldn’t be a better representative for Matchbook racing.
“Becoming part of the Matchbook team with Joseph is incredibly exciting. We’re the next generation in the sport and the partnership feels like a perfect fit as we’re all in the early stages of our racing careers! I’m looking forward to seeing how we all progress together,” Frost said.
Both O’Brien and Frost are very well placed to give you the inside line on both the Flat and the jumps and you now can read and listen to their views exclusively on Matchbook. They will be sharing their extensive knowledge on Insights and the Matchbook Betting Podcast in a range of innovative content.
Joseph O’Brien said: “I am delighted to become an ambassador for Matchbook. They are a young, innovative and ambitious company who I am very much looking forward to being involved with going forward.”
O’Brien will be providing in-depth previews on the major racing festivals starting with Cheltenham and will be making regular appearances on the Matchbook Betting Podcast.
Matchbook will also feature a range of exclusive content from Frost as she continues to dazzle the racing world. Both her and O’Brien will appear in exclusive video content later this year as Matchbook looks to take you as close to the action as possible.
Having surged into the top 10 trainers on the Flat in Ireland in his first full campaign in 2017, O’Brien currently sits in third position in the National Hunt trainer’s championship in what is his first full season in that sphere. For her part, Frost has gone from a virtual unknown to Grade 1 winner in just a year and will be one of the most closely-watched jockeys at Cheltenham.
Just as Matchbook is the next generation of betting exchange, these two individuals are the next generation of racing. As is the case with Matchbook, you sense from both of these high achievers that the best is yet to come from them. So whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to hear, read and learn from these two stars who are setting the horse racing world on fire.