With 19 winners already this autumn at a promising strike rate of 17%, Fergal O’Brien continues to build a stronger looking team at his Naunton yard.
O’Brien has amassed a wealth of racing experience over the years, having left his native Ireland at the age of 16. He has worked for renowned trainers of the stature of Ginger McCain and Captain Tim Forster, but is best known for his lengthy spell as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies.
He spent a ‘mind-blowing’ 18 years in the company of NTD, and during that period the stable won a Gold Cup and two Grand Nationals. O’Brien also spent eight years training point to pointers, with huge success. He topped the West Midlands Pointing Trainers’ Table on four occasions.
When finally taking the plunge and going it alone, O'Brien set up camp at Fossebridge, near Cirencester. This was his training base for three years, but it seems he was unable to stay away from his old boss, and decided to move-in next door.
Now at Upper Yard, Grange Hill Farm, surrounded by stunning Cotswold countryside, and a few furlongs from a famous watering hole in the Hollow Bottom, O’Brien is more than prepared for a successful winter campaign.
The yard boasts 42 newly refurbished stables, with further facilities including all-weather gallops, a horse walker and an equine swimming pool. O’Brien has the backing of several well-known owners, including Mr and Mrs Rucker (of State of Play and Alvarado fame), Paul and Clare Rooney and the Imperial Racing Partnership (Imperial Commander’s gang).
O’Brien strongly promotes ‘inclusion for all’ in a sport he loves. The Fergal O’Brien Winter Racing Club is a terrific way for people to get a taste for racing at a reasonable outlay. The club are represented by a number of horses and a greyhound, with an emphasis on learning about the sport in a wonderfully sociable environment.
As with all fledgling trainers, one of O’Brien’s major aims over the coming years will be to improve the quality of horses in the yard and to win high profile events.
Barney Dwan looked a gelding with a bright future, when staying on powerfully to win the valuable novices’ handicap hurdle at Sandown in March. Owned by the Rooney’s, he is now three from six over hurdles, and should make a decent staying chaser. By Vinnie Roe, he appears to cope well with testing conditions.
I’m Still Waiting and Pemba are also owned by Paul and Clare Rooney. The former is nicely bred, and starts his career at Worcester this afternoon. The latter will have needed her comeback run at Market Rasen, but had decent form as a juvenile last winter, and should be capable of winning more races over hurdles.
Colin’s Sister looked a mare to get excited about, when winning well at Chepstow recently. She’s a huge horse, and may take time to strengthen, before going on to make a decent chaser in time.
Another exciting youngster who stormed to victory at Chepstow, is the Winter Racing Club’s Poetic Rhythm. The five-year-old son of Flemensfirth still looked babyish at times, but showed a great attitude in pulling well clear to win the bumper by seven lengths. Paddy Brennan was clearly thrilled with his mount, who still looked full of running at the post.
Fergal O’Brien and his team will be hoping that these youngsters can provide a bright future for his Naunton yard. Early signs are certainly promising.