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Ton up for Team O'Brien and a top 10 slot in the Trainers' Championship

21-April-2021 9:22
in General
by Peter McNeile

It's impossible to feel anything but admiration for the superlative achievement of Fergal O'Brien in training his hundredth winner at Kempton on Monday evening, and it's only a shame that there could be no fan club there to celebrate with him. This has been a breakthrough season where the only witnesses have been on TV or online. 

The O'Brien story is not quite a rags to riches one, but make no mistake: this is no silver-spooned trainer. He started at the base of racing's pyramid and worked his way up, using the traditional Point-to-Point route to win credibility and a route to accessing those with the wealth to buy better horses. 

Some have said that Fergal was the nous behind the resurgence of Nigel Twiston-Davies, which is palpably untrue but they certainly made a great team. The Twiston-Davies success story has accelerated since O'Brien's departure, but you can be sure O'Brien learnt the importance of early season fitness to win his share of big races before the heavy duty bloodstock from Ditcheat, Lambourn and Minehead exerts itself on the racecourse in late autumn. 

 Fergal, centre, with backer Chris Coley (left) and the late Lord Vestey

The Ravenswell performance  puts O'Brien in seventh place in the British Trainers' Championship, behind leader Paul Nicholls, who despite drawing a blank at the Festival, has still managed to accumulate over £2.3m from his 170 odd winners. Above him in the list is included the two Irish trainers that dominated Cheltenham - Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead - so this season's performance has put the yard ahead of well-established names like Philip Hobbs and Tom George, and O'Brien's old governor, Nigel Twiston-Davies. 

With a significant uplift in the number of runners for the yard since the move to Ravenswell, there's been no drop off in the winning strike rate. 59% of the yard's runners have reached the frame and an 18% winner ratio compares equally well with others in the top flight. 

This break through season will hopefully see an influx of quality among the summer's purchases to put Ravenswell in among the Saturday winners. It is through developing horses rated 150+ that a yard in the ascendant can maintain and improve its position in the top rank.

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