herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

pitch perfect

One of the shrewdest and most respected judges in Irish racing, Gary O'Brien of At The Races fame is like everyone else in respecting the mammoth team that Willie Mullins is sending to Cheltenham but there are others that have caught the eye of the Dubliner known as 'The Voice of Ireland'.

"Carlingford Lough is one that I'm looking forward to seeing in the Gold Cup on Friday," O'Brien revealed.

"There is obviously the AP McCoy factor and it being his final hurrah at Cheltenham and from a selfish point of view I had a few quid on him a while back too so I wouldn't mind if he won!

"Don Cossack is a horse I have always been a big fan of and Gordon (Elliott) seems to be happy with him going there after his racecourse gallop last weekend and Dermot Weld's Windsor Park is a horse I think could go well in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle."

O'Brien realises the hype from this side of the pond seems to be quite high this year but admits that he tries to leave off the "green tinted specs".

"I try and look at it objectively and I think a few of the races we could get a rude awakening in. I think Sire De Grugy will win the Champion Chase, that's a race I don't see us winning, and The New One has to have a chance in the Champion Hurdle, although I think, like a lot of people, I would just love to see Hurricane Fly win. That's the race I'm most looking forward to."

In saying that, O'Brien can see exactly why hopes are high.

"Willie has got so strong, Gordon has probably got his best ever team going over and if you look at Noel Meade, he had two runners last year and they finished first and second and on paper he's got a much better team this year. So when you put the three of them together and throw in a few other Irish trainers as well I'd say you would be optimisic about maybe 10 or 12 winners anyway."

In the handicaps, Quick Jack is a horse O'Brien is keeping an eye on and having walked Bayan into the famous winners' enclosure last year when the horse he part owns finished third, like many of us, the dream remains that someday he'll be toasting a winner in his own colours.

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