O’Brien expresses gratitude after hitting 1,000-winner mark

Tom O’Brien hit a career milestone at Worcester on Sunday afternoon when Head On became his 1,000th winner in Britain and Ireland.

The jump jockey was contesting the Royal Equestrian Bedding Crushed Pellet Bedding Handicap Chase aboard Ian Williams’ gelding and was triumphant by a length and a half.

O’Brien’s name will now be added to a list of only seven active jump jockeys in Britain and Ireland who have achieved the feat.

“I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve had since the start of my career,” he said.

“People have shown me a lot of loyalty, from my family to my agent and my boss.

“Dave Roberts is my agent, Philip Hobbs is my boss and Ashby Underwriting are my sponsor, they’ve all been behind me since I started and have shown me great loyalty – thanks also to all of the other owners and trainers who have put me up along the way.

“I’ve had my eye on it for a while and it felt like it was never coming, it hasn’t sunk in just yet.

“It’s definitely a good start, I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.”

The 34-year-old rode his first winner aged 18 in 2004 and was champion amateur rider the following season, turning professional the subsequent year and taking the champion conditional title.

Thyme Hill and Tom O’Brien struck Grade One gold at Aintree
Thyme Hill and Tom O’Brien struck Grade One gold at Aintree (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Much of his success has been linked with the Hobbs stable in Somerset, where he rode as second jockey to four-time champion Richard Johnson before his retirement earlier in the year.

The vacancy left by Johnson saw O’Brien become the chief rider for Hobbs’ yard and resulted in his one of his most significant winners to date when he took the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle aboard Thyme Hill at Aintree in April.

O’Brien has also enjoyed two Welsh Grand National victories and was the rider on board when Dream Alliance took the race in 2009, a success that has since become the subject of a documentary and a film.

Worcester facilities hit by ‘mindless vandals’

Staff at Worcester racecourse arrived at work on Friday morning to find the track had been the target of an overnight attack by vandals.

The weighing room, a temporary structure built to comply with Covid-19 regulations, had been broken into by individuals who tore down the internal structures and left the furnishings upturned.

Another structure, a stable staff catering facility nearby, was also damaged as the intruders left bins, furniture and catering equipment strewn across the floor.

“The weighing room has been completely trashed overnight by mindless vandals, and an adjacent one where we have a catering arrangement on a race day,” said Rebecca Davies, executive director at the track.

“There’s a public right of way through the racecourse and they’ve broken into the facility.

“There’s absolutely no reason whatsoever, nothing has been stolen or taken, it’s just mindless, pointless vandalism.

The Worcester team are currently at work repairing the damage ahead of next week, where the track races on both the Wednesday and Sunday.

“The team are sorting through the broken bits, we’ve had to ring various contractors because it’s the jockeys’ changing rooms that we are using for racing next Wednesday and Sunday,” Davies said.

“If we were racing today we wouldn’t be able to go ahead, but everyone’s been fantastic actually and we’ve got everything lined up for the companies to come in who provide various bits of equipment that need replacing and changing in time for racing next week.

“It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of wasted money, plus time that we don’t really have, but the people that have done it don’t see that or think like we do.”

There is CCTV footage of the incident that has been passed over to West Mercia Police and Davies is thankful for the supportive words she has received from those within the industry.

“There’s CCTV and that’s in the hands of the police, they’ve got their job to do now,” she said.

“We’re just working through the site and making sure that we can put it back together and that we’re fit and ready to welcome racegoers next week.

“I’ve been very humbled by the support we’ve been shown on social media, and also I’ve had a number of calls and messages this morning from trainers and jockeys and colleagues in the industry.

“It’s just the question of why, we’ll never know but sadly some people just have a mindset where they think it’s acceptable to behave in this way.”