With the 2022/23 jumps season now reaching full flow, we’re all looking for some horses to follow this winter and Fergal O’Brien’s stables are packed full of equine talent.
After combining forces with fellow Cotswolds trainer Graeme McPherson, Fergal sent out a record 128 winners last season, passing the £1million prize money mark for the first time. H&H went behind the scenes with the Ravenswell team to find out some of the secrets to the team’s success (which you can read in Horse & Hound magazine issue, dated 20 October) and here are some insights as to their horses to follow during the 2022/23 National Hunt season.
Fergal O’Brien’s horses to follow: Hullnback
“We went to Chepstow for his first start [last season] having not really done a great deal at home,” explains Fergal of the first of his horses to follow. “He’s owned by a great bunch of lads from Hull and they were really keen to back him and I was trying to calm them down!
“Evan Williams had a couple of runners and he doesn’t have many in bumpers so I was thinking that a top six finish would be a great result and I was telling them that. We rode him like that and [jockey] Paddy Brennan said once he gave him a squeeze turning into the straight he just took off. It does happen sometimes that horses that show very little at home just light up at the track. For a bumper horse he absolutely galloped through the line and I was just thinking ‘jeez’.
“We then went to Newbury for a Listed bumper and it just didn’t work as well for us dropping him in that day,” says Fergal of the son of Schiaparelli. “The owners took it on the chin and we went to Aintree after that as he’s a big raw horse and he ran a screamer.”
“He could still be on a good mark,” says Fergal of Nic Brereton’s nine-year-old, who finished third in his season opener at the Cheltenham Showcase Meeting (22 October). “His first target will be the Edinburgh National [at Musselburgh in February]] once again. We’ll see how we go there and I’d love to get him into the Grand National. Nic Brereton who owns him and sponsors me has always dreamed of having a runner in that race, so it would be lovely if we could do that.”
Paint The Dream
“He was smashing last year and we’ve got a bit of a divided camp on whether he’ll stay or he won’t stay, our only way to find out is hopefully aiming him for the Hennessy [Coral Gold Cup] at Newbury and then we’ll see where we go from there,” says Fergal of the eight-year-old chaser, a son of Brian Boru owned by David Brace.
Horses to follow: hurdler Poetic Music
“She was sixth in the Champion Bumper when it went very heavy; she wants a bit of soft ground but it was very soft that day,” says Fergal. “She travelled really well down the hill and didn’t quite come back up it, but she’s only a four-year-old and she ran a blinder. She’s come back in looking a monster and hopefully we can move forward with her this season, she’ll go over hurdles.”
“He’s a lovely horse and he’s from a nice jumping family,” says Fergal of Grant Leon’s five-year-old, bought from The Queen. “Charlie Longsdon was just a bit unfortunate with him and it didn’t happen for him there and when we got him we were able to give him a break because that’s what he needed.
“Paddy Brennan was very good at him at Warwick the first time and I thought he was very good at Newbury last time. I thought going to the last there that we’d be second, but he absolutely winged it and put his head down and really tried. He wants a bit of cut in the ground and two and a half miles minimum, but hopefully there’s a nice race in him somewhere.”
“She was great for us last year and she’s three from three, she got a heart murmur but if we can get that right she’s got a massive engine,” says Fergal. “She’s got a great temperament and does everything you’d want her to do, we just need to get over that heart murmur. She literally lives with an ECG machine on her and it’s so far so good.”
Fergal O’Brien’s horses to follow: Silver Hallmark
“Nothing went right for him last year, he was either right and then the ground was wrong or the ground was right and he wasn’t,” reveals Fergal of the next of his horses to follow, an eight-year-old chaser by Shirocco. “He’s a lovely horse and he’s got a huge engine in him, he beat McFabulous on his first hurdle run at Chepstow and I probably haven’t placed him the best since, but he’s won a Grade Two Chase for us [Altcar Novices’ Chase] at Haydock Park. On his day he’s very good and I think he’s got stronger this year. I think if we can get a few more runs into him, there’s a good race in him.”
Pull Again Green
“He was a superstar for us last season and he’ll go novice chasing this term,” says Fergal of the six-year-old, who finished third at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting (21 October). “Paddy wanted to stick over hurdles with him but he’s such a good jumper that I just felt that handicap hurdles might be a bit tough for him. He’s a big beautiful horse so fingers crossed he makes up into a nice chaser.”
“We call him the cash cow, because he’s won six for us and he’s been placed in all of his other races!” says Fergal of the seven-year-old. “He’s been a great horse for us this summer, but I can’t see him going too much further into the season. He’s very straightforward though and a pleasure to train.”
Horses to follow: hurdler Shallow River
“He’ll want further in time and I think he showed that in his bumper win at Wincanton,” says Fergal of Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club’s Ocovango six-year-old. “He was very good in his hurdle race at Huntingdon [in January], so he’s a lovely horse.”
“[Jockey] Connor Brace said he was never going to get beat that day [at Huntingdon in March], so he’s really exciting,” says Fergal of the last of his horses to follow this season, a five-year-old, owned by Sullivan Bloodstock Ltd and Chris Giles. “He jumps really well and I’m looking forward to him.”
With thanks to The Jockey Club
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