O’Brien’s Shield heralds Cheltenham return

O'Brien - back to Cheltenham

O'Brien - back to Cheltenham

Aidan O’Brien’s first venture into the National Hunt arena for eight years paid dividends last month when Shield gained a placing in the first four of a race at Punchestown that qualified him to run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

His run that day did not convince O’Brien that Shield should take his place, but success in the Kilkenny INH Bumper at Leopardstown yesterday did. It was his first winner under NH rules since The Alamo won a bumper at Galway in 2004, and Shield will be his first Festival runner since Istabraq was pulled up in the 2002 Champion Hurdle.

Shield was not particularly expected to win yesterday, going off the 8/1 fourth favourite, and indeed, was a bigger price in the market than stablemate Egyptian Warrior, who was ridden by the trainer’s daughter, Sarah. O’Brien said he was likely to have a few more bumper horses specifically for his daughter to ride.

Yesterday, though, the riding plaudits went to another famous Irish racing family, as it was 22-year-old Kate Harrington, daughter of trainer Jessica, who was in the saddle. After the race O’Brien said, “ I'm delighted with that and Kate thought that she wanted to drop him in a bit more after Punchestown. Kate gave him a great ride and he travelled well and quickened well. He was just ready to run the first day and just ran a bit green.”

Looking forward, O’Brien suggested that a change of jockey was likely for Shield. He said, “There’s a good chance Joseph will ride the horse. I think he is able to get special permission to ride him in the Cheltenham bumper – he enquired about it during the week.

Meanwhile, there was good news about last year’s dual Derby winner Camelot, who is scheduled to remain in training this year as a four year old. He was recently hit by a severe dose of colic. O’Brien told At The Races “He’s in full work. We’re delighted with him really; he’s made a good recovery. He’s half speeding away and it’s so far so good.”

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