I’m travelling to Dundalk as we speak and thought it might be a good time to write something. We’ve had a really quiet period since April marked by a single winner with Surac early August. The horses we have been running have been running by and large OK but not really threatening to win. Well, a few have but missed their chances and of the horses we have they can’t afford to miss their opportunities. We run Marvelosa later in an extended 10 furlong maiden. Her form has her battling for 3rd but you’re just hoping she can step up on her form and take on the front 2. One is a son of the mighty Atlantic Jewel and Lloyd Williams owns the other. He might not be a Melbourne Cup horse but it give you an idea of what we’re taking on week in week out. Selling the good ones comes home to roost of course and in the last 12 months Gwan So emigrated to Australia and our 2 lovely bumper horses relocated to Closutton. Evenwood Sonofagun would have won but was worth more as a maiden hurdler than with a winning bracket. That’s our business for now but it creates a situation where you’re working to unearth a new one and exhorting the lesser ones to contribute. That always impacted me in that I stressed a lot about how our momentum had disappeared and was I losing my marbles. I understand it better now and just stick to the principals and wait. Where it has an impact is it puts pressure on your existing owners. How can they have winners if you’re not having winners? An understandable conundrum but one, you hope, you can navigate. Good communication helps but you’re asking people to have blind faith or long memories. Not always easy. Luckily we have that with a core group and the support is humbling. Most of us love new things but new things get old. I still think we win with anything we have that is capable of winning but that’s not an unreasonable expectation. Why have a horse here? For that reason but also because of the way I conduct my business. David O Meara told me always tell the truth because then you never have to remember what you said. It’s good advice and I’d like to think it has helped us. Truth, when it comes to horses can be exhausting and has it’s pitfalls. It’s great relaying details of talented horses blossoming and coming forward and hitting their milestones. Less so detailing disappointments, injuries and an inexplicable failure to progress. What you know as a trainer and what you think you know aren’t necessarily the same thing but it seems important that what I know (or think I know) an owner should also. We’ve had a few enquiries recently and I laugh at myself detailing the cons of particular horses. They have pros but my instinct is to emphasise where things can go south. I’m not sure what my point is but I’d love that to mean more in growing this place. We’ve had 60 winners in less than 6 years and we rode 11 this morning. 11 is not a lot. That’s not Willie’s or Joseph’s fault, nor Gordon’s but it’s an extraordinary reality. We have terrific owners but we need more. Why not? Syndicates don’t need to cost more than it costs to buy and train a horse. We will invoice individually for up to 8 people. More that that gets messy. If one individual is taking care of 10 or 20 then of course a reasonable admin fee is understandabke but it doesn’t have to be a lot, or it shouldn’t. Anyway, keep us in mind. The Horses In Training sales are next week, we’ve got some dingers out of there. I’ll be there, Maths Prize or Beach Bar or Morph Speed might be too. PS I didn’t buy Morph Speed, I was sent him, but he still went on a 30lb improvement run. Next time I post I’ll be boooooooming a big win. 😂  

I haven’t blogged in a while. Not for any real reason. Circling around talking about the same bunch of horses and their chances or lack thereof is only of so much interest. The year has gone OK. I was thrilled with things to April end but we’ve been a bit stale since. It would be nice to be making more of an impact especially with our flat horses but plenty have been running well and they may or may not get their chance yet. A small yard like ours doesn’t need many flag bearers to be flying but things can be quiet enough in the absence of one. One will come through, always does. The National Hunt horses have been a lovely addition and with the exception of Abstract everything we have ran this year has been competitive. Long may it last. I just love training horses, be they flat or national hunt. Watching horses develop and thrive and push themselves up to being competitive is something I could never tire of. I hope people are keeping us in mind expecially for the store/bumper type horse. I think they’re ones we can do well with. Staff continues to be a right headache and trying to get a work permit for foreign nationals is the most extraordinarily costly and convoluted process that it is proving impossible. Someone needs to step up and help with this. We need staff. This is a small business, I need help, I need to get out of the yard, meet people, grow my business and give myself a chance. It’s the biggest obstacle to growth. The bigger yards are managing. Smaller outfits pay just as well, if not better but we’re not going to get the youngsters with a burgeoning riding career and the youngsters with a love for horses and the lifestyle are going to choose Gordon or Willie or Joseph. We have got to be allowed access the international market. I get several emails a week. Former jockeys, current jockeys and the like looking for work. Getting them a work permit is not impossible but as close as makes no difference. I’ve a feeling the IHRB have made some pretty telling inroads on the back of Mr Bolger’s grenades last backend. I think things are better and will continue to improve.   There’s been a lot of chatter about small trainers getting steamrolled by the super sized outfits. Some have suggested limiting the numbers trained by any one outfit. That shouldn’t even be discussed because it’s never going to happen. Not in this country and as a small outfit I’ve no desire to see it happen. If I can’t compete from here then I don’t think I can blame anyone but yours truly. Gordon was here, Ger was here and plenty others. They got where they are now and it’s very impressive but it was on the back of results and sustained results. What I do think should happen is we should be given the opportunity to be compared properly to the bigger outfits. I’ve put about 25 horses through my place this year, some have been sold, some retired, rehomed through injury or lack of ability. Every one of those had humble enough profiles from birth or before joining me as 2nd hand horses and one is on the back foot with them. You’re trying to develop a career for them and exhort them to do something and occasionally it works and occasionally you land on a nice horse. You run them in the hope they can find their feet and occasionally they do but often they’re at the pin of their collar from the get go and they find it difficult to hold their form or make the breakthrough. Now if I’m being compared to an outfit that has had over a 130 horses through their gates and with 6 figure price tags and a huge strike rate them I think that should be out in the open. If I can’t compete in that instance then fair enough. Every horse that steps in to a training yard should be recorded and published. Compare like with like. A bloodstock agent, a racing manager or an owner could look at those figures and conclude that Richard John O’Brien should have stuck to dentistry. The numbers going through those big yards would make your eyes water. It may be the case that when everything is distilled down one is still behind them. Maybe not. We’re small but have all the facilities and there are plenty yards like us. There’s no point in emphasising what we have or haven’t achieved, those that matter know or they should. I do think that there are advantages to having horses trained in smaller outfits but they’re mainly owner related. The experience has to be better. The access to the trainer, the staff, the horse. The input and the involvement has to be greater with the trainer of 40 horses than he or she of 200 horses. Don’t limit their numbers, just publish the data. A free market is the one that appeals to me. Preventing Irish trained low grade handicappers competing in the UK is the behaviour of a spoiled child. Let everyone join in, sink or swim then. The Irish rule discouraging those related below 60 coming here should be scrapped aswell. Bring ’em on over for a 25 runner affair in Cork with a prize fund of about €6.5k to the winner. 😁  

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.

2017 Richard O'Brien Racing Limited