2019/20 National Hunt horses to follow – Five Joseph O’Brien jumpers to track this term
Our expert takes a look through Joseph O’Brien’s yard and highlights five horses who are well worth tracking during the 2019/20 National Hunt season.
Joseph O’Brien was always going to be a successful trainer. An ambitious, tenacious young man who’d learnt his trade under the watchful eye of one of the greatest trainers of his generation, his father, Aidan. Since retiring from riding and opening his own dual-purpose yard, Joseph O’Brien’s numbers have grown rapidly – both in terms of top class horses within his barracks, and the number of high-profile prizes O’Brien has collected year-on-year.
The last National Hunt campaign was Joseph’s best, thanks mainly to the exploits of his talented crop of juveniles. The demise of budding superstar Sir Erec, who suffered a fatal injury in the Triumph Hurdle, was hard to watching, but Band Of Outlaws gave O’Brien a reason to smile when he claimed victory in the Fred Winter and any juvenile of Joseph O’Brien’s must be greatly respected.
We’ve taken a closer look through Joseph O’Brien’s ranks and picked out five horses that punters should follow during the upcoming jumps campaign.
Joseph O’Brien Horses To Track
Scarlet And Dove
A tight tussle was expected in the card-closing Pro/Am Flat Race for mares at Limerick at the end of November, with the bookmakers going 7/2 the field. Under a patient ride by Laura Hourigan, who had only ridden four winners in over 50 attempts at that point, Scarlet And Dove travelled beautifully throughout the race, powering clear of a handful of future winners to secure a very taking six length success.
Sadly, a muscular injury ruled O’Brien’s mare out for the remainder of the season soon after that success. Her trainer has revealed that this daughter of Jeremy is now back in fully training and looks to have developed significantly during her time off the track. There will be plenty of winning opportunities for Scarlet And Dove in races within her own sex during the regular season and it wouldn’t surprise me if she arrived at Cheltenham as a leading contender in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
After owner Lloyd Williams – part owner of many Joseph O’Brien horses, including Irish Derby winner, Latrobe and Melbourne Cup hero, Rekindling – paid over £400k for him at the sales, Dlauro featured on my list of horses to track last season. O’Brien then endured a frustrating season after Dlauro suffered a setback, but it was certainly worth the wait when he made his debut under rules at Punchestown in May.
O’Brien’s debutante cruised through the race under Derek O’Connor. Dlauro hung left a little once he hit the front, but once O’Connor managed to settle his mount down, O’Brien’s five-year-old strode clear down the home straight, easing over the line some eleven lengths clear of his rivals.
The second and third placed horses both went on to win bumpers later in the season and Dlauro brushed them aside with ease. Plans are to start Dlauro out over hurdles during the winter and there’s no doubting O’Brien’s charge has the class to compete in the best Grade Ones for first season hurdlers this term. A possible clash with Envoi Allen in the Ballymore is a mouth-water prospect.
Defeats at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown may have taken the gloss off Fakir D’Oudairies‘ campaign. However, I was extremely impressed with the attitude Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile showed during a high-profile campaign and he’s a horse I will certainly be keeping onside.
Fakir D’Oudairies looked beaten a long way from home as he tackled his elders in the Supreme, only for Mark Walsh’s mount to rally and finish a staying-on fourth. O’Brien’s front-runner was picked off by Pentland Hills at Aintree and the impressive Fusil Raffles at Punchestown, but runner-up finishes in two prestigious Grade Ones are results not to be sniffed at.
O’Brien confirmed the team are torn between going novice chasing or staying over hurdles to tackle trips beyond two miles. I’m hoping the team decided to go chasing, as juvenile hurdlers can often struggle on their second season over the smaller obstacles and Fakir D’Oudairies looks like he’s built to jump a fence. Plus, being a four-year-old, he will be gaining weight on his elders in the novice chasing sphere, something which would only boost his chances in realistic targets like the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Somewhat of a forgotten horse in O’Brien’s stable, having missed the entirety of last season through injury. Before that setback, Speak Easy had impressed during his novice hurdling campaign, jumping straight into Grade One company after a six-length maiden triumph, before rounding off his campaign with a strong second in a competitive handicap hurdle at the Fairyhouse Festival.
During a recent stable tour, I was delighted to hear O’Brien confirm that this son of Beneficial was not only completely over his injury problems, but he had also started schooling over the larger obstacles. Speak Easy always looked a chaser in the making during the early stages of his career and I expect he will progress quickly through the novice chasing ranks when he makes his return in the winter, when the ground should be suitably soft.
I was devastated when Le Richebourg was forced to miss the second-half of last season, as I really fancied him to win the Arkle at Cheltenham. As it was, the rain-sodden ground may have dampened his turn of foot if he had made the trip to Prestbury Park and an extra summer on his back could ensure Le Richebourg is a formidable force when he makes his triumphant return.
O’Brien’s charge first caught my eye in a bumper at Leopardstown at the start of 2017 and I’ve followed his progress closely ever since. A slick, powerful hurdler at his best, I wasn’t sure how well Le Ricehbourg would cope with the larger obstacles. As it turned out, Joseph O’Brien knew a damn-sight more than I and his imposing gelding flourished over the larger obstacles, claiming back-to-back Group Ones at Leopardstown either side of the New Year.
Although Le Richebourg seemed to stay well when he lost out to Delta Work over two-and-a-half miles in the Drinmore, I’m hoping O’Brien confines his top chaser to two miles when he’s back from injury, as that’s clearly his most effective distance. On good ground, Le Richebourg’s record is impeccable and he will be hard to beat in any Grade One Chase over two miles when ground conditions are in his favour.