2021 Cheltenham Festival preview – Joseph O’Brien’s Festival runners highlighted
Joseph O’Brien Cheltenham Festival runners
A top flat jockey and now a rising star in the Irish training ranks Joseph O’Brien has already enjoyed some notable success in the latter career both on the flat and over jumps since striking out on his own as a trainer. We look over some of the likely Joseph O’Brien Cheltenham Festival runners that could journey over from Ireland.
With 31 Group one winners as a jockey and an ever-growing collection of top-level prizes on the flat Irish handler Joseph O’Brien has made a big name for himself amongst the training ranks in Ireland and the Owning Hill trainer looks sure to enjoy further Cheltenham Festival success before too much longer having been credited with the success of Ivanovich Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle.
Fakir D’oudairies aside, O’Brien’s Cheltenham Festival team might be lacking anything considered as a top-class horse but the trainer is sure nevertheless to send over a strong raiding party with particular focus on the handicap contests and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone should one or more collect over the course of the four days at the ‘greatest show on turf’.
As such it will be hard to predict where his best chances of a winner might come from, but we look over some of the likely Joseph O’Brien Cheltenham Festival runners who can give punters a run for their money.
Joseph O’Brien Cheltenham Festival runners on day one
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
O’Brien could have a couple of entries in this contest where KESKONRISK could prove his main player in the opening race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
The No Risk At All gelding won a bumper last January for Tom Hyde prior to joining the O’Brien yard and he wasted no time in getting off the mark for O’Brien with a narrow win at Fairyhouse on his return and stable debut following eleven months off.
There was no caste lost in defeat behind Appreciate It in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas where he finished ahead of the likes of Ballyadam and Thedevilscoachman and with the prospect of further improvement to come he could prove a lively each-way play for punters holding a Cheltenham free bet.
Ultima Handicap Chase
A smart hurdler CHOUNGAYA has been steadily improving over the larger obstacles and will be coming into this competitive handicap contest on the back of a win at Fairyhouse in February .
That was his first success over the larger obstacles where he dug deep to hold off Fakir by one length and he could yet have more to offer over the larger obstacles although it is a worry he’s been disappointing on all his attempts at three miles over hurdles and fences and the trip of this race given it is usually run a decent pace might see his stamina stretched.
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
O’Brien has a number of entries in this race with Druid’s Altar, Scholastic and Busselton all in the potential line-up; however the latter might pitch up instead in the Triumph Hurdle although would have strong claims in this race if lining up.
DRUID’S ALTAR however could prove the pick of the O’Brien runners in the contest having won a shade comfortably when last seen at Naas and the Mastercraftsman gelding looks the type to make his mark in a race such as this.
Useful on the flat he has proven himself smart over obstacles with a win on debut at Punchestown before a fair third to Zanahiyr at Fairyhouse in a Grade Three contest although he was well-beaten.
He’s been beaten again behind the same rival at Leoparstown and Teahupoo at Fairyhouse before running out a ready winner when last seen but on the evidence of his prior runs he’d have a fair bit to do to win a Triumph Hurdle and it might be the demands of this race will suit him better.
Joseph O’Brien day two Cheltenham Festival runners
Darasso, Fire Attack and FRONT VIEW could both take their chance in the big handicap hurdle on day two of the Festival and the latter could hold sway as O’Brien’s best chance of a winner in the race of the trio.
The Konig Turf gelding was sent of favourite for the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the Festival twelve months ago but was ultimately disappointing when only finishing in midfield although it transpired he lost a shoe in the race.
Sent chasing this term he got off the mark at Fairyhouse before unseating back in there in January after which he returned to the smaller obstacles for his last outing at Leopardstown where he finished down the field behind Drop The Anchor.
He had travelled well into the race but found nothing when asked and faded; however he’s still one to note from what is likely to be a favourable mark in this competitive contest and he’s not one to write off.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES is likely to line up in this race rather than the Ryanair Chase and the Kapgarde gelding has been around the block already a couple of times here having finished fourth in the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and then finding only Put The Kettle On too good in the Arkle Chase twelve months ago.
He’d won a Grade One at Fairyhouse previously before being beaten by Notebook at Leopardstown ahead of that Festival outing and while he’s yet to win since his Fairyhouse success he’s acquitted himself well in defeat this campaign.
Runner-up to Notebook again in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas he pulled up in the Savills Chase having probably failed to stay three miles; but he bounced back to finish runner-up to Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase and while he needs more to overturn that form he should give a give account if running here in preference to the Ryanair Chase twenty four hours later.
Grand Annual Chase
Another handicap where O’Brien could be mob-handed with Us And Them, Embittered, Entoucas and A WAVE OF THE SEA all featuring in the entries with the latter likely to be the yard’s main hope of success in the race.
Seventh in last season’s Triumph Hurdle his form this season over fences has been a little hit or miss, but he has managed to register wins at Kilbeggan and Leopardstown latterly where he gained a neck verdict over Top Moon in the Matheson Handicap Chase and a repeat of that performance would put him in the mix in what is sure to be a typically competitive renewal of this race.
He had been out of his depth previously in a Grade Two contest at Punchestown but ran well in fifth at Leopardstown on Boxing Day before registering that success latest and he could still have room for further improvement.
Joseph O’Brien Cheltenham day three runners
Pertemps Network Final
RHINESTONE could be an interesting candidate in the competitive handicap contest on day three of the Festival where he’d be returning to the smaller obstacles having cut little ice over fences in two runs last term.
Runner-up in a Grade One hurdle at Leopardstown back in February 2019 he pulled up behind Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle he was absent for nine months before returning to finish sixth on his first run over fences at Leopardstown where he was beaten forty lengths by Easy Game and it was a similar margin in defeat next time at Gowran Park behind Chosen Mate.
He’s not been seen since but that doesn’t usually matter with O’Brien who usually has his runners fit, while he’s won first time up in the past following a break and an Irish handicap mark of 138 back over hurdles could mark the Montjeu gelding as a possible handicap blot to be wary of.
Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase
Having won at Navan in December FILS D’OUDAIRIES lost nothing in defeat when finishing runner-up to Envoi Allen next time at Punchestown but the Saint Des Saints gelding couldn’t match that level in a Grade One next time when readily brushed aside by Monkfish in the Flogas Novices’ Chase.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge is also entered in both the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the Marsh Novices’ Chase where he’d lock horns again with Envoi Allen in the latter if lining up.
However those both seem unlikely and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see O’Brien switch the six-year old to the handicap ranks where an Irish handicap rating of 142 could prove to be very workable given he’s lightly raced and likely to improve.
Dawn Run Mares’ Hurdle
O’Brien has another bunch of entries in the race with four possible runners in the Cheltenham day three contest where MIGHTY BLUE might be the pick of his bunch.
The Authorized mare proved herself useful on the flat where she made the frame in a Group Three contest at the Curragh last September. Since switching to hurdles though she’s looked a fair prospect, chasing home Gauloise in a Listed contest at Thurles on just her second start over obstacles and she ran better than the bare result when fourth to Roseys Hollow in the Solerina Mares’ Hurdle latest.
That form does leave her with a bit to find given the front three – Roseys Hollow, Royal Kahala and Gauloise are all likely to reoppose – but her smart flat form suggests she may yet have further scope over obstacles and she could improve further.
Kim Muir Challenge Cup
THERMISTOCLES got off the mark over fences with a defeat of Myth Buster at Thurles last March and in two runs this term the Oscar gelding hasn’t disgraced himself.
Fifth on his return over hurdles at Naas behind Capilano Bridge he possibly just found the test of the Grand National Trial in testing ground at Punchestown latest just stretching his stamina. But he’s won over three miles in the past over timber and less testing ground might show him to better effect while the Irish assessor has eased him further in the ratings.
Likely to be given a relatively low-weight in comparison to others he could be one to be interested in come post-time and a big run wouldn’t come as a surprise in what will be a typically open renewal.
Joseph O’Brien runners on day four of the Cheltenham Festival
Although the Boodles is a very viable target for BUSSELTON it wouldn’t surprise to see O’Brien pitch the Mastercraftsman gelding into the Cheltenham Festival day four opener.
A useful French hurdle winner for David Cottin for whom he won at Auteuil he hasn’t disgraced himself in a couple of runs this term in Leopardstown where he found only Zanahiyr too strong on the first occasion although that rival had a race-fitness advantage.
He then ran better than the bare result when crossing the line in third behind Quilixios in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown where he ran in snatches early and possibly might just have found the heavy ground against him.
Likely to have further improvement to come he does need a shade more but there’s every chance he could continue to progress and he can deliver a big run if taking in this race over the Boodles earlier in the week.
DARASSO has been contesting in Graded company with no success, latterly finishing a well-beaten third behind Beacon Edge in the Boyne Hurdle; a switch though to handicapping could suit the Konig Turf gelding however and the JP McManus-owned eight-year old would be worth a second look if lining up.
A Grade Three winner over hurdles a couple of seasons ago he’s been mixing chasing with hurdling and he was thought good enough to take a crack at last season’s Champion Hurdle where he finished tenth.
Runs this term over fences were underwhelming, finishing last of four behind Presenting Percy at Thurles before being twenty lengths into second by Chacun Pour Soi in the Hilly Way Chase. Back over hurdles the last twice he’s shown up a bit better over longer trips than the extended two miles of this contest although his two wins for O’Brien have come at this trip so he’d have no issue dropping back.
An Irish rating of 150 could be workable dropping into the handicap ranks and he could be one to keep onside at a big price.