Withington trainer Fergal O'Brien, who more than doubled the stable strength of National Hunt yards within close proximity of Andoversford with his move to new premises last year, has started the season in fine style.
The new yard has sent out more winners than any other British trainer in July, recording 10 winners from 35 runners at a strike rate of 29%. One could be forgiven for thinking yard investor Chris Coley was wielding a big stick to incentivize him, but in truth, Fergal has always been a driven man, despite his jovial exterior.
The approachable Irishman who branched out on his own after a lengthy spell at Nauton with Nigel Twiston-Davies, has flourished running his own ship, and is never afraid to run his horses where they're most likely to excell. And in Paddy Brennan as pilot, he's chosen a similarly ambitious character with a keen taste for winners.
Based at that time off the Fosse Way near Chedworth, he enjoyed his best season in 2016-17 with 60 winners amassing £711.945. Don't expect records broken this year on a like for like basis, given the pandemic's impact on prize money levels, unless the yard has acquired higher value and better bred stock over the summer. However, impressively, the 10 winners have come from 9 individual horses, spreading the joy among many owners, however modest the races may be at this time of year. All a trainer can do is work with what he's got.
Those 10 winners doesn't sadly put him at the head of the Trainers' table which is ranked on prize money only.
It's testament to the team at Ravenswell Farm that they are achieving good results with modest horses; modest in talent and price. Last season's abridged total of 63 winners before lockdown came from 97 individual runners and a spread of 44 individual winners. The highest rated horse was 156, but in the main, winners were rated 105-130. Breaking into the top rank requires a phalanx of horses rated 140+.
It's a trainer's lot to tease the best out of what he is sent, but Ravenswell is long overdue a Saturday horse or two to push Fergal into the top flight. But this is a stable in the ascendant; look out for the momentum to be maintained over the coming months.