FERGAL O’Brien is making training horses look easy. Just over a year since striking out alone following 19 years as Head Lad to Nigel Twiston-Davies, the affable Irishman and his team are thriving at his base at Cilldara Stud in Gloucestershire. Tipped by Donald McCain as a “trainer to watch” Fergal spoke exclusively to Horse Racing Chat…
Fergal, how many horses do you have in the yard at present?
About 25 to race and about six three year olds we’ll bring along quietly.
You’ve had a great start to the season and the winners seem to be coming thick and fast. How happy are you with the condition and fitness of the string?
Very. It’s been a big help to be able to get on our grass gallop a bit more. Also having good staff who know their jobs makes life easier.
You only started training just over a year ago. How pleased have you been with your overall progress so far?
You’d always like to have more winners and we’ve had a lot of seconds but I suppose I should be happy, but you’re only as good as your last winner.
Any particular target of winners for this jumps season?
Yes, as many as possible!
What about your team. Which of your horses are exciting you?
They all excite me and if you ask anyone who heard me shouting Dark Energy home in a ladies’ hurdle the other day at Market Rasen then you’ll know how important every horse and winner is.
What plans for Fiddlers Bid, who was very impressive in the Ascot bumper the other day?
I’m hoping a rich owner will come and offer us a lot of money for him but if they don’t his next run will be over jumps.
Could you ever be tempted by the riches of the flat? Or is it jumpers all the way?
I’m sure I could be tempted!!! Only joking, flat racing isn’t for me.
Who has been the biggest influence of your career?
Without a doubt, Nigel Twiston-Davies, not only in my career, but he was a massive influence in my life.
Has the economic climate made it difficult to attract owners?
Yes, but it’s the same for everyone so no point in moaning. I’m very lucky to have Chris Coley as my business partner. Chris is the man that keeps the wheels turning.
The Peopleshorse free racing club is a great idea. How many members do you have?
We think it’s a great idea and Steff Jones does a great job running it. We have more than 3,000 followers at the moment.
While with Nigel Twiston-Davies, you were involved with a couple of Grand National winners in Bindaree and Earth Summit. Do you think there is a potential national horse in your yard?
You always hope you’d have one good enough. Bradley looks the type for a National and maybe Alvarado once he’s got a bit more experience.
The accident to Ambrose Princess at Cheltenham the other week was an example of the downside of racing. How do you cope with the lows?
That’s the hard part. It’s always sad to lose one especially as she seemed to be coming back to her best. I’m lucky in my wife Jelly understands racing and I’ve got two great daughters who put things into perspective.
Do you have any horses for sale?
Ha Yes, We’ve got a very nice three year old by Royal Anthem and a four year old by Tickenan. I’ve also got Bubbly Bruce for sale/lease if anyone’s interested.
Away from racing, what do you do to relax?
I love sport so I’ll watch almost anything. I enjoy going to watch Gloucester play rugby and Cheltenham Town play football.
Who’ve you got on your iPod?
I’d embarrass my wife if I told you!!!! I like country and folk music.
If you had a magic wand what one thing would you change about racing?
I should say prize money but I’d like every racecourse to give owners a free meal when they have a runner. Some do but a lot don’t.
And, finally, what race would you love to win more than any other.
The Gold Cup. My dad just passed away and he loved Cheltenham so I think that would be special.
For more details of Fergal’s training operation including current horses for sale visit www.fergalobrienracing.co.uk
To join the Peopleshorse racing club go to http://thepeopleshorse.co.uk/index.php