It's curious how one adjusts one's horizons to the success of those horsemen around us so quickly. Only a few years ago, Fergal O'Brien was a middle-ranking trainer from a less than perfect premises off the Fosse Way. A new landlord and new premises at Ravenswell Farm transformed the business to put him in the top five of UK trainers. Last summer was akin to a new Marttin Pipe on the blocks: winners each day kept up a heady momentum and a lead in the Trainers' Championship well into November.
So, success is no longer news when it is expected. This makes it harder to raise the bar. Yet the versatile O'Brien continues to delight.
Last Saturday marked yet another first. A cross card double was, in itself, unremarkable. That it covered a 23rd Jumps winner of the season, just 7 weeks old is to be expected, given the blisteringly fast start to last season. However, the other half of the double was in a 1m6f handicap on the Flat at Sandown, mixing it with the big battalions. Expect to see winner High Wells, part-owned by business partner Graeme McPherson, come out again in similar company.
O'Brien's Flat runners are to be respected. Last season's 8 winners came with a 21% strike rate.
If you want to follow stats, there is really only one combination to follow though. When Paddy Brennan rides for Fergal O'Brien in the summer months, he achieves a 1 in 3 success rate. 12 winners from 38 rides is 10 more than any other rider for the Wothington handler. They are like peas in a pod together.
Come on Fergal! Challenging some of those Martin Pipe records has to be on your radar.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)