O’Brien hoping Plinth can take him back to Cheltenham festival
On His Own to successfully follow up Thyestes victory at Fairyhouse
Tony McCoy on board Plinth gets up to beat Ruby Walsh and Ivan Grozny. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The Cheltenham festival may not be Aidan O’Brien’s priority anymore but a Grade Two victory for Plinth at Fairyhouse today could see the festival right back in the champion flat trainer’s sights once again.
From 1996 to 2000, O’Brien saddled a festival winner each year at Cheltenham, most memorably when Istabraq completed his Champion Hurdle hat-trick at the first festival of the new millennium.
From when the JP McManus owned legendary performer was pulled up in the 2002 Champion Hurdle and retired, O’Brien didn’t have a runner at National Hunt racing’s greatest meeting until last year when Shield was out of the money in the Bumper.
Any ambition to go back in just over three weeks time rests on Plinth putting up a good show in today’s Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle where he faces 11 opponents.
Currently as low as 14/1 for the Triumph Hurdle and the Fred Winter, Plinth’s immediate objective will be to improve his jumping which let him down noticeably earlier this month in the Grade One won by Guitar Pete at Leopardstown.
Today’s other Grade Two is the Bobbyjo Chase where On His Own can take another successful step on the road back to a third Aintree National attempt in April.
An 11lb hike for winning the Thyestes puts the Willie Mullins horse level with the topweight Mount Benbulben in real terms and if it comes down to jumping, On His Own should hold the edge.
Jumping let down Si C’etait Vrai on his last Fairyhouse start three weeks ago when crashing out at the last after a struggle with Suntiep. The latter’s stable companion Kalmann can edge him in the Beginners Chase now that he’s stepped up in trip.