Gloucestershire-based trainer Fergal O’Brien has opted to split from training partner Graeme McPherson and has gone back to training horses alone. It brings an end to a two-year partnership that emerged in 2021 when the pair merged their stables.
O’Brien decided to go it alone as the logistics of managing two yards proved too difficult for him to handle. McPherson and Dave Kilahena will take sole ownership of their Stow-on-the-Wold yard once again.
It has been an excellent start to the 2023/24 National Hunt season for O’Brien as he leads the Jump Trainers’ Championship standings after netting over £200,000 in prize money already, with 30 winners going his way, including a double at Uttoxeter last night.
May proved to be a very successful period for O’Brien as he had 20 winners across the month. That was the most winners the trainer has had in a calendar month in his career so far.
The split from McPherson means O’Brien is now down on the number of horses in his yard from this time last season. However, given how well he is doing in the campaign, the Cotswolds trainer will be hoping to attract some new owners to his stable.
Like many horse racing trainers, O’Brien has some owners that have been with him since he picked up his licence in 2011. He also has experience of training horses from racing syndicates, like RaceShare, who offer the option of racehorse shares gift vouchers from as little as £10. Not only do these give people the chance to own a share of a horse, but they get regular updates from trainers like O’Brien on the progress of the horse on and off the track.
If O’Brien is to keep up the pressure on the likes of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Dan Skelton and Willie Mullins this season, he is going to need more horses in his yard before the winter months begin in the sport. He has already started planning for a new barn which will increase the capacity of his Ravenswell Farm.
The highlight of O’Brien’s training career to date was his Grade Two success at Aintree last April. Dysart Enos prevailed in the finale on day one of the Grand National Festival in the Goffs UK Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, a contest worth £50,000.
O’Brien opted to avoid the Cheltenham Festival with his talented mare, who won all three of her assignments last season, including a Listed triumph at Market Rasen. She blew her rivals away at Aintree, scoring by nine lengths, a margin that could have been wider had jockey Paddy Brennan not eased her up close to the finish line.
Dysart Enos is expected to remain against her own gender in the 2023/24 campaign, with several distances likely to be open to her. As well as having strong speed, O’Brien believes she also has the stamina to step up in trip.
O’Brien could be set for more major festival winners if Dysart Enos improves once again. He will be hoping she can give him his first Grade I success as a trainer.
The target for O’Brien this season is to go at least one winner better than the 2022/23 campaign. That means his team will be chasing 141 winners before the season ends in April.