When I first interviewed the fresh faced Joseph O’Brien, a week before the 2015 Cheltenham Festival for Setanta Sports Ireland, I left his yard with the indelible thought that here was an absolutely consummate professional and likeable young man.
We had only asked for a 30 minute time slot to speak to him and possibly see some of his four-legged inmates, but instead he and his mother, Anne-Marie, insisted we stay for a bite to eat and take our time.
Their love of the sport and the animals they looked after shone through with great transparency.
So it was with a great deal of delight that I watched the Melbourne Cup in the early hours of Tuesday morning and despite a full slumbering house, cheered to the rafters the victory of his Rekindling.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) November 7, 2017
I still have his full interview on file and remember his exact words when I asked him what he wanted to achieve in his new career, his answer?
“Well, Paul, god willing I just want to do the very best I can and try my hardest. If I can do that then I will have succeeded.”
And boy, he has already done that and some more! Since his first winner under his own banner as a trainer on June 6th, 2016 (he actually had four winners that day), the 24-year-old has gone from strength to strength.
It is of course worth remembering that he was all but in name the winning handler of Ivanovich Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle having masterminded the campaign of the four-year-old for his father.
Now the youngest ever trainer of the Melbourne Cup, Joseph said after that great triumph: “I never believed this could happen. To actually win it I can’t put it into words.”
But you can bet your bottom dollar he didn’t send this three-year-old colt down under just for a bit of Melbourne sunshine and the fact that he beat his father’s Johannes Vermeer into second place gives you an indication that he is more than just a chip of the old block.
In years to come we can look forward to many more inter family battles between father and son, a tribal match-up to relish.
This brings me onto Saturday’s action and the end of season flat racing finale at Doncaster, the November Handicap at 3.15.
Sent off at 12/1 for the Dante Stakes in May, Syphax finished a never nearer 7th behind Permian that day.
Since then, the son of Arch has run two under stated race over a mile, but his second to Dark Red over an extended mile and a quarter at York last month off 98 could be the tip of the iceberg for Kevin Ryan’s charge.
That run should have put him spot on for his first attempt over 12 furlongs and on ground likely to be good to soft he has huge claims. The advice is to grab a nice slice of the 12/1 each-way currently on offer.
Paul Nicholls has landed the Elite Hurdle seven times in the Last 16 years and looks to have a strong hand in Saturday’s renewal
(3.00) with Old Guard, Zubayr and High Secret all entered.
However, his chance of an eighth success could be scuppered by rival Nicky Henderson who has surprisingly only won this Grade Two event once way back on 2008 with Chumba Wumba.
Ante-post favourite Call Me Lord and Lough Derg Spirit represent the Seven Barrows handler this time around and it is the latter that is preferred.
Musselburgh held no terrors for him last year when he made all in the Supreme Scottish Novices Hurdle and I can see a similar scenario here with him making all the running and putting his quick-fire jumping to good use and his rivals under pressure.
Finally, put staying chaser Fourth Act into your little black book. He was fancied to run a big race in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday, but his sloppy early fencing always had him on the back foot.
However, the eight-year-old stayed on in eye-catching fashion from Swinley Bottom to finish a never nearer seventh and off his current mark of 129 looks sure to land a nice staying prize on a slightly softer surface.