We’re fully on the stretch this weekend. All hands to the pumps. Chester first with Morph Speed in the Chester Cup. He has been prepared for this from a fair way back and the hope all along was he would get in to it in the weights proper. He has, he is fit, looks well and moving to his chin and it’ll be interesting to see. I ran him over a mile the last day as he could have a good blast out and a nice piece of work. I was fully expecting him to be outpaced when things heated up at half way and he was. I thought he’d rattle home thereafter and I’m not sure he did. His jockey was happy, he has been happy since, just have to trust him I suppose. He needs to settle and find the right tempo to the race and he needs to find that after 300 yards. If he sleeps and can rouse himself for the last half mile then hopefully he can be competitive. I think he can step up to this, I just hope he’s not one of those that needs to build through the summer. We’ll see. Bonnyrigg runs in Cork and has been drawn 1. I think his 2 runs this year have been OK. He was forward enough in an unbelievably hot handicap the last day and it told late on. This is a lesser race and Dan can put him where he wants him quietly. I’d like to see him run well. He seems in good form. Evenwood Sonofagun has his first run for us tomorrow. He was bought as a simple horse that could win a race over hurdles, on the flat and he has the size to go chasing as a 4 year old. When I saw him I thought we could knock a few kilos off him and it might bring about a bit of improvement. That hasn’t happened. He carries a lot of weight for a NH horse and it might be just his way but it might be that a few runs are required. His exercise has been excellent and if he looked a bit trimmer I’d fancy him. Looks can be deceiving, I hope. Uncharted has left for Hamilton on Sunday to compete in one of The SkyBet Sunday Series races. I haven’t seen the race in detail but it’s a great pot for the grade and it’s another exciting adventure. She ran well in Navan and a bit of improvement from that would help. We could be in Spain come Tuesday!

We’re Punchestown bound with Sparkling Stars tomorrow. Not an obvious destination at the start of the season but opportunities come from strange places. He has been terrific since he arrived. He looked well handicapped when we bought him and so it has proved. I thought he might grab a race before the season end and we could concentrate on chasing next year. He has been better than that and deserves to have a go at a race like this. He’s huge, as in Allaho huge and hurdling is square-peg-in-a-round-hole for him. I just want him to come home safe and sound tomorrow and head on his holidays. I assumed Danny would have had to ride something else in this, it was a pleasant surprise to learn he was riding our fella. Has to be a good sign. Anyway fingers crossed for a good run. We’ll use the Noble Yeats road map for next year and see how far he can get.

Super Saturday tomorrow with 4 runners maybe even 5 with Abstract a reserve. To be fair it was a super Friday with the sale of Shanbally Kid to Harold Kirk and Willie Mullins. Happy owners this side and new owners with every reason to be excited about their purchase. He could gallop, that fella, he’d skin some of my flat crew. I can’t bear the charm offensive that goes on with sales horses. Thankfully his bumper win sold him. To tomorrow. We run 3 in Limerick. Morph Speed is heading to Chester, hopefully for the Chester Cup but there’s a consolation race if he doesn’t get in. That’s May 6th and while I’m very happy with him and think he’s fit, there’s another level that he can come up to and a blast out over a mile should get him there. He’ll be exposed over that trip but should still get plenty from the run. Breaking Story is also in there and he has been running great. I haven’t felt at any stage of his recent races “this wins” but if he keeps showing surely he can get his act together some day. I’m not going to give Nathan any instructions but if he can get him to stop acting like an unfettered bull for the first 2 furlongs then he’ll be dangerous. Tongue ties and bits and cross nosebands don’t make any difference so he’ll have everything off bar a sheepskin noseband. He might gaze at it for the first 100 yards and take his mind off doing the clown. We’ll see. Forge Road runs in the last and she didn’t need to get drawn in Patrickswell. Her runs would suggest a draw like that will be enough to scupper her but occasionally things can work out and she might be able to get forward and across without burning too much petrol.  She might. Abstract is a 2nd reserve and he’ll run on the off chance he gets in. He needs to get his ideas straight. He can be so lacklustre in his races and hopefully a bit of a sharper recent routine will suit him. Will try him over hurdles or wait for dreadful ground if not. Uncharted runs in Navan and I’m looking forward to seeing her start. She’s fit and well drawn and we have crack apprentice Jake Coen claiming off her. She has always been very difficult to get fit and this year has been no different but I don’t think there’s much more I could have done with her this time. If she has to improve then so be it. It’s very competitive but hopefully we’re all looking forward to the season after she runs.

We could do with a winner on the flat. Nixers are one thing but need to get on with the main job.

I lost the login details for this blog and haven’t updated in a while. I’ll give a brief update on the year so far before previewing today’s runners. Apologies for the lack of paragraphs, I can’t get the correct format on my phone. Anyway, things have been ticking along fine in 22 thus far. We’ve 4 winners under our belt and as a general rule if we can operate at 1 a month then we’re treading water. It would be nice to get a blast of good fortune as it might kick-start something but we’ll stay patient and fingers crossed we can grab our chances. Most of ours have been running away fine but 5th of 22, 6th of 13, 7th of 20 etc etc doesn’t trouble the headline writers.   Things have been trying enough in terms of keeping the show on the road. With covid, vertigo, concussion, some brutal weather allied with a lack of riders I’m hoping for a smoother summer. Georgina, Colm and James dug in, Jesus, I get the heebee jeebees thinking back on it. National hunt men and women are a tough breed. Battling weather in the key months of the season is a tough station.   Seeing the resurgence of Ken Condon, Ado, the Nolans amongst others gives one hope. Cling on in there, keep on focusing on the basics and getting the occasional winner and things can take off. They need to but I’m convinced they will.   Anyway on to more pressing matters. We run 2 today. Satono Chevalier runs at 6 over 12 f. His run the last day was a very good effort. They went a good gallop and he settled well and came home well having been slightly delayed in his run. All things being equal I would have him favourite here. He is quirky though, he’s too quirky to go on and make his own running and he could try and get his head up back amongst horses. Ben rides because we thought Sean was suspended and it’ll be down to Ben to get him doing things right. If he lobs then he should be dangerous.   Pandemic Princess had a great winter. I thought she was maiden material before starting her but it took me ages to get the hang of her. She’s progressing up the ranks quietly and she ran well again the last day. She tripped at half way. Over 5 furlongs it’s no harm to have your shoe laces tied. She couldn’t get back competitive but I loved the way she grafted and grafted to get closest at the line. She’s not well drawn but I suspect Sean will take his time on her and it might work out OK. Like plenty of days recently, going more in hope than expectation.

We had our biggest winner at Naas a few years ago but generally I feel ours perform underwhelmingly there. I’ve no idea why that is, variance most likely. Anyway we head there with 2 tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to seeing them both. Gwan So debuted recently at Fairyhouse and it was OK. He fluffed the start and made up his ground very quickly. He floated for a couple of furlongs and then got tired. If he was more streetwise and more efficient in the run he could run well. I’d like to think he’s good enough to win his maiden. It doesn’t have to be tomorrow, that’s a good race, but encouragement would be nice. Morph Speed got a nasty cut between his hind legs the last week in June and I definitely thought he would be at least 3 weeks recovering and a further 6 getting back fit. He missed 2 weeks ridden exercise and has been rolling along over the last 3. He will have lost that edge he had for his last win and I won’t get it back without a run. A mile is on the short side but with a view to getting him firing on all cylinders then it’s a trip that should work well. He is well and the race has cut up but a fully operational miler on the right side of the handicapper will have too many guns for him. We have a few runners to finish out the week so it would be nice if one of them grabbed something. Racing is navigating another serious controversy. Once an industry falls in the sight hairs of a programme like Panorama then there’s only going to be one outcome. It is to be hoped however that everyone thinks about their own involvement in the ongoing care of these animals. There are wonderful 2nd career options. We’ve rehomed plenty and from time to time receive updates on their ongoing care. We’ve also had to make the most difficult decision of all for horses that have suffered injuries from which they won’t recover. Euthanasia should always be kept as simple as possible for the injured animal. It’s a terrible reality of the game but a responsibility we’ve always taken seriously. Owning a racehorse brings with it a load of expense and responsibility far beyond getting it to the races and winning. A trainer has to insist on that responsibility being upheld.   Regarding racing’s most recent storm, the IHRB need to get on with ensuring the sport is clean and policed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. I can’t change anything, in this instance, for me there are no learning points. Last night’s programme has made me sit up. There are a few candidates I’ve checked up on today. The ongoing care of our horses needs to be front and centre. We need to be better.

Irish Derby weekend marks the approximate halfway point of the season and there will be a few spectators on sight this weekend. At least that is my understanding. Standing in the wide open empty spaces of racecourses on balmy summer evenings is starting to feel more than a bit ridiculous. Chessman runs tomorrow evening and it might be his last hurrah for us. His form this year is neither good nor bad and despite the fact he continues to drop in the handicap it’s not bringing him closer. Travels well, flattens out, repeat. There is a better version of him, I just can’t seem to find it. We have a blank day Saturday but we should be back in tow come Sunday. I have a 2yo colt I might start on Sunday. He is the famous Ulysses colt eulogised by The Bloodstock Connection’s own Johnny Hassett. He has ticked along since his breeze up sale and if he pleases me Friday and Saturday I’d be inclined to let him start. It’s kind of fatalistic but once these lads take shape, keep their action and behave themselves then they’re as well starting. You’re giving them the springboard to get themselves going. It’ll be interesting to see what a run does for him. Irish Acclaim should run shortly after and this little terrier appears in great form. I was a bit worried he might be set for a spell in the doldrums after his first turf run for us. He left that behind him the last day, travelled brilliant and looked right back to his best. A repeat has him competitive. I had the lovely Morph Speed for the 12f Premier Handicap on Sunday’s card but a bastard pheasant put paid to that plan Monday morning. He and I were floating through some fast work when the squawking fucker got me buried and Morph Speed managed to jump some white railing. He cut himself between his hind legs and had to go on pain killers and antibiotics. A right nuisance, we were both feeling sorry for ourselves Monday but perspective is often easy to find. He’ll be fine soon enough. Speaking of meds I wonder is it time for trainers to come together and sign up to a charter, some sort of a memorandum of understanding when it comes to PEDs in the sport. There is a lot of doubt, suspicion, uncertainty swirling around at the moment. I don’t think the IHRB are allaying the fears of Messers Bolger or Kimmage. Repeating the words testing and zero tolerance isn’t proving enough. Holes can be picked in both. At the end of the day if trainers can behave themselves then we can have a sport to be proud of. As Ger Lyons said on Off The Ball it is possible to be clean AND competitive and his outfit is proof of that, presumably the majority of others are too. How to frame such a charter or to police it would take a bit of doing. It would involve veterinary buy in and would have a cost. There’s some version of it that would help. Mr Bolger says we have a problem, we have a problem, even if it’s just a cloud hanging over us. A racehorse is the most extraordinary animal, he doesn’t need anything, just point him in the right direction and look after him, he’ll take you somewhere if he has the head and the engine.

There’s a decent amount of flat racing behind us and it’s coming thick and fast these days. It just dawned on me it was this day last year racing resumed post lockdown. We head to Cork tomorrow with 2. Morph Speed won last Thursday in Leopardstown, he got on top reasonably quickly when the race developed but he didn’t really turn away the second at any stage. The shape of the race may explain that but he needs to be a good bit better to cope with these. He might improve for the run aswell as there had been a bit of a gap prior to the last day. He has been a lovely horse to have, a real pleasure to train and it would be lovely to see him compete with these. Dynakite continues to be disappointing, he threatened to run very poorly Saturday last when looking likely to drop out at half way. H1e ran on and avoided disgracing himself but he’s on borrowed time. Literally any horse that embraces training and keeps his head down and keeps galloping will get a race. They have to help. We’ll see. The year has gone OK. 5 winners once you include Dundalk seems like a very modest return but for an outfit as small as ours it’s about what one can expect. A bounce of a ball here and that figure could be 8 but a bounce there and it could be 3. Even though numbers are small you could get on a little roll and go from ticking along to having a bit of momentum. Hopefully we have a busy June and it would be nice to think there might be a 2 year old or 2 that could develop into something.  

We’re heading to Mallow with 2 runners tomorrow. The horses have been running away well and it has been slightly disappointing to see several of ours start favourite, rún their race and still get beat. Every yard hits a seam of form where a few horses come together, land on good races and take their opportunities. For a small yard we have a few in that kind of shape but they haven’t been converting their chances. Still I’ve been in worse spots, hopefully we’ll grab one or 2 soon. Chessman goes for a 7f Premier handicap tomorrow and it is very very competitive. He’s just not the horse he was 2 years ago but he has been running away well without that real zip that I know he has. He’s in good form at home, the trip will suit and he should run his race. He’s so talented and it would be a pity for his entire career to pass by with just one maiden win to his name. Hopefully. Golden Valour runs in the 1 mile Apprentice handicap. He could have easily won first run back when roaring home late at Leopardstown. He then went to Cork and it was a poor enough race choice from me. He started favourite and ran well without ever looking like winning. Accounting for his claim he was carrying 9lbs more at Cork in a higher grade of race. He’s not up to that over that trip. He’s down in grade and up in trip tomorrow. He should be competitive but it’s still sharp for him. Cheek pieces may help.   I’d be happier with the horses than I have been for a while. They’re taking plenty of tough training, running their races and holding their form. It’s not quite enough at the moment. It’s pointless expecting the competition to ease and I suppose the handicapper isn’t going to relent either. Just get on with it I suppose, it’s that simple.

We head to Naas tomorrow before a Punchestown enforced pause. The horses have been generally running well. A bounce of a ball and we could have another winner or 2. If they keep showing up and giving themselves chances then we’ll be fine. Pandemic Princess turns back 6 days after a nice debut run in Tipperary. She had one piece of work before that run and  had never been on grass. If she improves as she should then she has to run well. It’s probably a deeper race tomorrow but that’s how it’s going to be from now on. She has retained her appetite and her action so I can’t see any value in delaying pushing on. Chessman is immediately after and I think this is a good race for him. Cheek pieces will help and he appears happy, fit and well. He isn’t operating at the level he was 2 years ago but he is still running to a high level. I’d love him to sneak one.

We head to Tipperary tomorrow. I haven’t ran too many on turf but they’ve been running away well. That doesn’t last and it would be nice to grab a winner or two. We have 18 riding out and it seems maybe 12 are capable of doing something so the numbers are stacked against us. Pandemic Princess starts her career tomorrow. I just can’t get these babies on their job first time. They tend to leave their brains at home and generally step forward a lot from their first runs. She is expected to do the same. I think she is nice enough to win a maiden. Whether that is on her 2nd or 3rd run or whether she will wait til nurseries to show us her level, tomorrow will tell a lot. If she jumps slowly and picks up 2 or 3 late that will be fine but if she grabs more than half of them I’ll be getting excited. Dynakite goes next. He was showing very little through his sequence of maiden runs. He won’t do anything off 63 or 33 if he stays at that level. There is cause for optimism however. He has been training with blinkers and they appear to make a big difference to him. They’re like his safe space, he is focused and relaxed with them on and he appears to be in better shape as a result of more meaningful exercise. One hangs one’s hat on these minor changes, hopefully they have made a difference. They need to. Morph Speed has his second run for us in the first division of the 9f 45-65 handicap. If he steps forward from his first run then he should be very competitive. I thought he was in great shape 10 days ago and not a lot went wrong, that’s preying on my mind a little but hopefully normal rules apply. Musalsal bumped into a well handicapped, well drawn, well backed, well ridden rival that happened to be on fire last Wednesday night. That’s racing I suppose. He’s due a turn, hopefully it’s tomorrow night.

2017 Richard O'Brien Racing Limited