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Press Release 27th February 2024 Cheltenham

By Ben Cox

Fergal O’Brien is pinning his hopes on unbeaten Dysart Enos and Grade One winner Crambo to end his search for the first Cheltenham Festival success of his career.


Despite training hundreds of winners since taking out his license in the 2011-12 season, a victory at Jump racing’s most prestigious event has so far eluded him.


However, this season has seen six-year-old Dysart Enos and seven-year-old Crambo emerge as genuine contenders at the Cheltenham Festival and hopes are high that one of them could finally deliver a winner on the biggest stage of them all for O’Brien and his team.


Speaking today at a media event arranged by The Jockey Club at his Ravenswell Farm yard in Withington, Gloucestershire, he said: “The Cheltenham Festival has been part of my life for the last 30 years and is the best week.


“It eats away a bit a little bit that we haven’t had a Festival winner and it’s a box we definitely have to tick. Hopefully, it will be this year…


“All I know is if Dysart Enos and Crambo turn up in the form they have been in since we’ve had them, then whatever beats them is going to be a good horse. They both have an amazing will to win, so fingers crossed.


“I would delighted if we can give Paddy a Festival winner as he has been a huge part of Ravenswell and whenever he retires I hope he will still play a role here.”


Crambo has won two of his three races this season, including landing a second career Grade One for O’Brien in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December after a thrilling tussle with Paisley Park, who is likely to line up against him in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday 14th March.


O’Brien added: “He is not a great work horse but does everything very well and is very fresh after his work which is what you want to see.


“He has a great temperament and although he hasn’t won around Cheltenham like Dysart has, fingers crossed he can go there and be our first Festival winner.


“It helps that he is laidback and if you look at horses like him and Paisley Park, the one common denominator is that they hit a flat spot. In the Long Walk at Ascot, it was the best I had seen him travel and jump as he is normally behind the bridle. I remember one day in an ordinary race at Bangor, he looked flat out at one point when we were trying to qualify for the EBF Final (at Sandown Park, Crambo won both races).


“He has a great temperament and we are very lucky to have him. We always hoped he would develop the way he has done. We ran him in two Grade Ones last year – the Challow at Newbury where it just never happened on very wet ground and at Aintree after he won the EBF Final. He was running a big race and I think would have been fourth if a horse hadn’t fallen in front of him.


“I am very lucky and very thankful to (owners) Chris Giles and Jared Sullivan. I always believed in the horse and after he won first time out at Aintree this year, we were a little bit unlucky at Haydock. We could have gone down the Pertemps route with him but I was keen to have a crack at another Grade One with him.


“He is fantastic now. He had a hard race at Ascot which took him a while to get over and get his spark back. Eve, who rode him this morning, knows him inside out and is delighted with him. I’d love to be able to say he is really difficult to train but he trains himself really. Johnny Burke took him to Lambourn on Friday and jumped 10 or 12 hurdles – he said he felt great so I am really happy with how he is.


“I’m delighted to have a championship race contender. I woke up this morning thinking there are 25 or 30 people coming today and I could do without this two weeks’ before Cheltenham on a work day! But we do it for a reason and the media has come for a reason to talk about horses like Crambo and Dysart Enos, not just for tea and cinnamon swirls!


“I think Cheltenham will suit Crambo and bring out some further improvement in Crambo. He needs to improve again after the Long Walk. There are other horses in there that have been there and got the t-shirt but Crambo has youth on his side and we think he is a very good horse so, fingers crossed.”


O’Brien is also excited to see unbeaten mare Dysart Enos, who is general 9-2 chance for the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, run next month.


He added: “She has been phenomenal for us and is six from six. From day one, I felt we had a good horse because Noel Fehily was under-bidder and he and David Crosse are very shrewd. Noel brought her back from the Aintree sale for us and rang up the next day asking ‘are you sure you have an owner for this mare?’ and I said ‘yes we definitely have!’


“The day we bought her I never expected that she would take us where she has. First time out at Ludlow, Connor Brace rode her and did well to drop in behind in a 15-runner race as it’s not easy to do there. She beat the geldings that day and the race worked out well.


“She then went to Market Rasen and we thought we would be second to Queens Gamble. In the race Paddy (Brennan, jockey) gave her a lovely ride and I think Market Rasen suited her as she had the speed for it.


“We then rolled on to Aintree where she really blew us away. It was a very good field and the form has worked out really well. She travelled well and the way she opened and quickened when Paddy asked her was spectacular.


“Over hurdles, we have planned our route to Cheltenham and we are going there without a 5lb penalty. Most winners of the race have carried a penalty in recent years but we just thought if you can run without a penalty then surely that must be an advantage.


“The owners (The Good Stock Syndicate) are very much on board, which I am very grateful for. The plan was always to start off at Huntingdon and then go to Newbury for a Listed race but we ended going to Cheltenham. None of the owners could make it that day so I am glad they let me run her. I thought it was important for her to go to Cheltenham because she can get a bit hot and stressy so it was good for her to go there, have a walk around the paddock and come up the hill. I thought it was a good race that day.


“Hopefully we can get to Cheltenham and I think she can be in the mix. It looks a strong race but she ticks a lot of boxes – she has won at Cheltenham, travels well and has got a lot of speed.”


O’Brien admits he might not have many other runners during The Festival but did single out Teorie for the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle on Day One as a potential contender, albeit at a price.


He added: “I love Teorie – he has a great attitude and loves being a racehorse. He is a big price at 25-1 but is in great form.


“He disappointed us a little bit at Musselburgh but had won well first time out and came back and won well at Southwell last time. He likes be in among horses and I am hoping that he can run well.”


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