Everyone yearns to be a big fish in a small pond, and for the most ambitious, a big fish in a big pond. Today was one of the former for hero of the Cotswolds, Fergal O'Brien, securing a treble at lowly Southwell with three well-backed horses.
Even the Reuben brothers would acknowledge Southwell is not a racecourse that graces your arrival with an "I've arrived at a big event" ambiance. Nevertheless it is popular with many oif our Cotswold trainers for its straightforward configuration; there are no surprises in running at Southwell (although old-timers will remeber that extraordinary race or remounters with AP McCoy.
Today was altogether less eventful, but the stage was left to Fergal O'Brien and jockey Paddy Brennan. A 4 a/2l victory for ex-irish pointer Coole Well got the ball rolling in the opening 0-120 handicap chase. Later in the afternoon, Byzantine Empire made some amends for disappointing his impeccable Derby breeding by winning the Novices Hurdle to break his duck under either code. Time was when there were grander plans for him.
The afternoon was wrapped up by Dromahane maiden winner As Say High, winning under Rules for a second time in the UK this month in the concluding Mares Handicap Hurdle.
On the same card, Tanit River overcame Cat Tiger to win the Hunters' Chase, a welcome fillip for rider Bradley Gibbs, hoping for big things from Premier Magic and Captain McGinley in the two feature races of Stratford's Hunters' evening on Friday. The O'Brien stable, with several strings to its bow, will be expecting an interesting evening.
Barney Dwan is entered in a weak renewal of the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open Final, yet to be jocked up, with a reserve in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter. Albi Tufnell will be building up to a ride in either the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Novice Chase with I'm Wiser Now, and Captain Cattistock in the feature event.
Considering the truncated season we've endured, the level of interest is nothing short of remarkable, and augurs well for next season.
Going for Sunday April 3 - Good (Thursday)
6m SE Cheltenham, nr junction of A40 and A436 (Exit 11A, M5)