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Fergal O’Brien shines at Grand National meeting

Cheltenham-based trainer Fergal O’Brien landed his first winners at the Aintree Grand National meeting last week in terrific fashion.

The Withington operator, who sits fifth in the jump trainers championship with over 1.5 million pounds in prize money, visited the infamous winner’s enclosure twice at the three-day event on separate days.
The first of his yard to pass the post with his head in front was the emphatic Dysart Enos who bolted up by nine winding lengths in the concluding Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper on day one under Paddy Brennan.

Beaming with happiness post-race, the esteemed trainer said: “We didn’t go to Cheltenham because this is where we wanted to come and to have a winner at one of these Festivals is incredible.
“She isn’t easy at home; she gets a bit gassy – Tom Broughton rides her at home and it’s a big effort from the team.
“We took all of our Aintree horses away recently to Lambourn and she was very impressive in her work; it wasn’t a big piece of work, but she was still very impressive with what we asked her to do, and we were very happy with her coming into Aintree.”

A season over hurdles is next on the agenda for the £95,000 purchase, as O’Brien said: “She’s got speed, but I think she’ll stay plenty as well and you have to stay well to win bumpers and they went a good, honest gallop.
“We’ll go down the mares’ route with her over hurdles.”

O’Brien’s first success at the marquee spring festival was quickly followed up 24 hours later as the consistent Punctuation landed the spoils in the final race of day two at odds of 40/1.
The win was jockey Liam Harrison’s first start onboard the six-year-old and he was grateful to stable jockey Brennan for the insight offered in the lead-up to the race.
“Paddy [Brennan] rode him last time in the Imperial Cup, and he ran a lot better than the bare result, but that’s why we’re lucky to have a man like Paddy riding for us,” explained Harrison. “He pulled him up, looked after him and realised there was another day, and here we are today. It’s brilliant.
“I keep mentioning Paddy, but I came up with him today and he gave me the confidence to ride this horse like that.
“He spoke to Fergal and said, ‘Look, let’s just ride him to finish, and if we can get there at the last with a chance, he will go close’, and thankfully the race worked out exactly how he said and I was just lucky to be on his back.”

Elsewhere in Merseyside, the world’s most famous race created an equally memorable result despite the tribulations of protests pre-race, as Corach Rambler built on his Cheltenham Festival success to win the one-million-pound event.

Thanks to the gallant nine-year-old, trainer Lucinda Russell joins Jenny Pitman as one of two female trainers to have sent out two Grand National winners.
When welcoming back Scotland’s heroic horse to fans and the media on the Sunday morning after the National, Russell said: “I couldn’t believe the amount of people here, parked in the field and on the side of the road. I thought the police might come along and say we were disrupting things!
“There were more people today than for One For Arthur [her first Grand National winner] because Arthur started it all for us.
“He got the local and national interest up with racing in Scotland and it just feels great to see everyone here to come and see Corach.
“I don’t know how I will celebrate today – my four hours of sleep last night is catching up with me!”

Peter Scudamore, the legendary eight-time champion jockey and now an assistant trainer at Arlary House Stables, rides out Corach Rambler every day at the yard.
The victory for him was one of pure joy for the team at home, his connections, and for Russell.
“He has spoken for himself with his victory which is typical of him. We couldn’t get out to watch the race so watched it on television in the Chairman’s box – Lucinda watched one TV and I watched another.
“She cried the whole way through the race – that’s what it means to us, it’s so emotional. It’s usually me who bursts into tears!
“It’s easier to be emotionally cold as a jockey. I remember Fred Winter saying to me when I first rode 100 winners in a season, which used to be a really big thing, that no matter how many winners you ride it will never make you happy. He was right – it’s family and the people around you that make you happy.”



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