It’s exciting news for sure that – as predicted here quite a while ago – Joseph O’Brien is about to become a fully fledged trainer and is more or less hanging up his boots as a leading flat jockey.
It’s unlikely to cause too many sleepless nights down Closutton way, yet Willie Mullins will know – as indeed will Gordon Elliott – that this new kid on the block could go a long way in a very short time.
For one thing it’s in the genes – and we don’t mean Levi’s.
Both his mum and dad were Irish Champion Jumps Trainer in their time, indeed Aidan won it in each of the five years that he held the license.
And all that from the Pilltown yard in Kilkenny where Joseph will operate from now.
Joseph would have the full trainers license by now only that the Breeders Cup clashed with the closing of his qualifying course, and he was in Keeneland when he should have been doing his final exams as it were.
He dare not miss the next one which is pencilled in for March or April.
This leaves us with the intriguing situation that he may not have his license when Ivanovich Gorbatov lines up for the Supreme Novices – indeed he may not be able to attend.
No doubt Aidan will step in and do the honours, but O’Brien snr. will have plenty on his plate that week as the Irish turf flat season kicks off the following Sunday at The Curragh.
Incidentally Joseph’s yard will not be exclusively jumpers and point to point, he already has some flat horses in his care and a few versatile dual purpose ones too.
In looking forward to this new adventure though let’s not forget the great – if all too fleeting – flat jockeys career that he now has to relinquish.
His meteoric rise to being Irish Champion Jockey – and all those great Classic and Breeders Cup victories – came against the backdrop of a gruelling and never ending battle with the weighing scales.
Nor was his size or shape ideal for the task in hand but like Richard Hughes and the remarkably enduring Kevin Manning he managed it somehow.
For sure he grew up in a dream environment and had great horses to ride.
But working for Ballydoyle and Coolmore can be a pressure cooker situation – just ask Jamie Spencer – and competing within your own yard with people like Johnny Murtagh and Ryan Moore leaves little margin for error.
Whatever, Joseph sailed through it all and his naturally friendly demeanor should not disguise a steely determination to succeed coupled with an eagerness to listen and learn.
That’s a formidable combination which should continue to serve him well in his new role.
To win the Supreme Novices would be fairytale stuff, but even Walt Disney would hardly have dared script Joseph’s remarkable career so far and the next few chapters should be interesting to say the least.
For all that though it’s a shame that his brilliant riding career has to end at such a young age and something special will be missing when we kick off on the flat with the Tally Ho Maiden at The Curragh on opening day.
Of course the bookies would have us believe that the Supreme is done and dusted already.
Min is apparently “gone by” , and should he scoot home today at Punchestown then his already way too skinny price will no doubt collapse even further.
Quite how we got 6/1 about Champagne Fever three years back is still a mystery. but the layers certainly took no chances with Vautour and Douvan in the traditional Festival curtain raiser in the last two seasons.
Yet the history of the race is littered with Irish bankers that failed to deliver – need we mention Dunguib?
And, interestingly, while Mullins has just completed a hat trick in the race with two favourites and one that should have been, his two other winners Ebadiyan and Tourist Attraction were priced at 40/1 and 25/1 respectively.
Make no mistake either, Mullins will undoubtedly have at least one if not two other strong contenders for the Supreme.
Better to wait until nearer the day until we know for sure what they are.
For, despite all the hype that will surround Min – unless of course he fluffs his lines today – all Closutton runners, no matter what their price, will be worthy of very serious consideration.
Nicky Henderson has gone close in the race in recent years and again provides a huge danger in Altior who has been little short of brilliant so far and really should be favourite.
He could very easily upset the Mullins hot pot and all the massive roll up type bets that were cruelly spiked when Annie Power took a tumble at the last in the Mares Hurdle last March.
Is there an Irish dark horse? Yes, very much so.
Supasundae was still very green when slamming the hotly fancied Silver Concorde at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Formerly with Andrew Balding – who won bumpers with him at Wetherby and Ascot – his first run for Henry de Bromhead was the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last year where he led before fading in the final furlong.
He showed massive improvement last time from his promising first run over hurdles at Gowran Park.
It’s no secret that de Bromhead, who has some serious young talent to go to war with this season, rates him very highly and the Supreme Novices is very much the aim.
SUPASUNDAE – 2 pts. each way Supreme Novices 23/1 Betfair Exchange, 20/1 generally
Back next Saturday.
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