Timing is often everything in racing – and Tom O’Brien not only got his fractions right, but secured a victory to thrust him back into the spotlight aboard Coole Cody in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
In what has been a difficult year for everyone in the sport following the coronavirus pandemic, the 33-year-old has struggled more than most with his all-the-way success aboard the Evan Williams-trained nine-year-old in the Grade Three handicap feature at Cheltenham just his ninth of the campaign.
While big-race wins are nothing new to O’Brien, who has tasted Grade One glory in the past, he hopes his latest landmark triumph can transform a season which has been slow to gather momentum into a campaign blessed with further opportunities.
He said: “It’s at the right time (this winner). I’ve gone a little bit quiet on numbers and it just puts you back in the limelight and hopefully I can just kick on from here.
“I’m not riding enough winners to be positive like that (and feel I had the others held). I was hoping for the line to come, but I had a very willing partner.
“To get back going again after the last and keep going to the line was a brilliant effort from the horse.”
Though O’Brien is now able to reflect fondly on the success of the 10-1 shot, it was nearly a case of what could have been had he not sat tight following a shuddering mistake at the fourth fence.
He said: “He slipped at the back of the last (on the first circuit).
“I jumped it right on the inside and that course did not have a big amount of runners on it so the ground is easy on top.
“I thought he was going down, but thank God he didn’t.”
Despite Coole Cody, who was making just his sixth chasing start, being one of the least experienced runners over fences in the field, the 2006/07 champion conditional jockey – who was standing in for the injured Adam Wedge – believed he had plenty in his favour coming into the race.
He said: “He came at it at the right time. He was relatively unexposed over fences though he had good form over hurdles around here.
“The light weight allowed him to do it and there were some very proven horses in behind him with a lot more weight.
“He just got into a good rhythm and I managed to fill him up at the right times and he kept going.”
Coole Cody may have ticked plenty of boxes coming into the two-and-a-half-mile prize, but with the calibre of opposition he was up against O’Brien felt making the frame would have been an acceptable result.
He said: “To be 100 per cent honest I thought he was just an each-way chance just looking at the two-mile-five form Simply The Betts had (from the Festival) and obviously there was David Pipe’s horse (Siruh Du Lac).
“Paul Nicholls’ horse (Saint Sonnet) was an unknown and there was also Mister Fisher. It looked very hot and what I knew I had was the light weight on my side and that was definitely a help when I got into rhythm out in front.”
It is not the first time Williams and O’Brien have joined forces to good effect this season, with the pair combining to take Listed honours with Silver Streak at Kempton last month, and O’Brien believes the Welsh handler deserves his fair share of praise for the victory.
He added: “Evan really got it right. He phoned me this morning and said he is difficult to get up on (as he is a character) and he went through that in detail.
“The position to get, which didn’t go to plan, was I was meant to take a lead off Tom (Scudamore on Siruh Du Lac), but he had all of his boxes ticked anyway.”