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17th Jan 2018

Joseph O’Brien on training Ronan O’Gara’s horse to victory

Niall McIntyre

“He’s a great fella, and we get on well.”

Joseph O’Brien trained Bachelor to victory in the Class 4 Matchbook Casino Handicap in Kempton last night. Bachelor is owned by Irish rugby legend Ronan O’Gara.

O’Brien took huge satisfaction out of the win. It was by no means the biggest race he’s won and the prize money was nothing special, but it’s the smaller triumphs like these that define a trainer. And Joseph O’Brien is quickly defining himself as one of the shrewdest handlers in the business.

He’s not in the training business long, but he’s already one of the most prolific in the game. He was cut out for the Sport of Kings from a very young age and he showed that throughout his five year, success-laden riding career.

Ever since he turned in his whip with 10 Classics and countless Group Ones to its name, O’Brien’s career graph as a trainer has taken off at a similarly rapid rate.

O’Brien, who is unique in that he trains horses across National Hunt and Flat racing codes, saddled 102 winners in 2017. He’s getting down to business in 2018 in a similar vein.

So, too, is Ronan O’Gara. And he was delighted with last night’s victory. The pair caught up after the race over the phone, with O’Gara saying “the owner will be even happier the next time when trainer tells him he’s fancied.”

“He was over the moon (on the phone),” said O’Brien. “We were both delighted – for the horse as well. He had shown plenty of promise, he just hadn’t fulfilled it, and it’s nice that he’s on the way back, and we’ll have an exciting year with him,” said O’Brien to SportsJOE.

O’Brien has also been impressed with O’Gara’s other horse in training, Downdraft, and he’s one to follow.

“He has another horse called Downdraft that has shown us plenty of promise early in his career. He hadn’t really fulfilled it. But he’s starting to come good now. it’s had two very promising runs. He hasn’t won yet, but he’s one to follow.”

O’Gara is no stranger to the horse racing game, with a couple of his horse having won for other trainers.

” It was nice to get our first winner together. That was his first winner for me but he has had a couple of winners before.

The young trainer, who is based in the family gallops in Ownings in Kilkenny enjoys the partnership.

“We chat a bit. He loves racing and enjoys the involvement with the horses and all the different sides to it. He loves sport, and I’m just privileged to have him on board and am delighted to have had a winner for him,” he said.

O’Brien is carving out a niche for himself in picking the right races for the right horses. They say the toughest challenge facing every trainer is keeping himself in the best of company and his horses the worst. Joseph O’Brien has made an art out of that this year.

He’ll send them across the water if he thinks they’ll win there, and that must make him an owners’ dream.

“We do. It’s all about trying to find the right opportunity for every horse. Different horses have different strengths and different weaknesses so we try to get a horse his best chance of winning.

“It doesn’t matter if that’s in Lingfield, in Dundalk, in Wolverhampton or in Kempton. We’re trying to get our horses to show the best of their abilities in finding their optimal conditions,” he said.

After winning the Melbourne Cup, one of the most prestigious races in the sport on the first Tuesday of November with Rekindling last year, the horse’s owner Lloyd Williams nailed it.

“I’ve been telling people the father needs to watch out,” he bellowed in the parade ring.

Joseph is a new kid on the block and he won’t be slowing down anytime soon.