Tom O’Brien’s Cheltenham Trio – Can jockey win at the Festival?


Last year, Tom O’Brien celebrated his 1,000th win, when he rode the Ian Williams-trained Head On to victory at Worcester. It was an incredible milestone for the jockey, who, so often fell under the radar – playing second string to Richard Johnson at Philip Hobbs’ yard.

Following Johnson’s retirement, O’Brien has been given the chance to shine – and with the 2022 Cheltenham Festival fast approaching, is hoping to add to his sole victory at Prestbury Park. 

It was back in 2009, that he was in the saddle for the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – riding Michael Quinlan’s Silk Affair to victory, three lengths clear of Ski Sunday to defy the Cheltenham betting odds.

And ahead of this year’s meeting, O’Brien – now 35 years of age – fancies his chances. He recently told the media:

“I’ve not had a winner for a while, so I’m due one. I’m a bit older, so I’m looking forward to it rather than feeling pressure.”

The jockey has a trio of hopefuls on the third day of the Festival this year, and here we will dissect his chances.

Sporting John – Pertemps Network Final

Sporting John is currently the favourite for the Pertemps Network Final at odds of 6/1. The seven-year-old won a qualifier at Warwick last month, with Aidan Coleman, the jockey. Last season, he won the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, before two disappointing runs – first at Cheltenham, and then at Aintree’s Grand National Festival. 

However, the gelding won on his season return – at Cheltenham – in the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle, before falling short in the Citipost Handicap Hurdle last December. Going out as favourite, O’Brien had been in the saddle when he was well beaten by nine lengths.

Thyme Hill – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

In the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, Thyme Hill is the second-favourite (at the time of writing), behind Flooring Porter. The eight-year-old missed out on a place in last year’s race, with a pulled muscle proving to be minor but timely setback. However, the gelding recovered in time for the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree – beating Roksana by a neck.

This season, the gelding was outpaced at the Grand Prix d’Automne, in Auteil, before returning to the UK, where he lost out to Champ in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. He is said to be in good shape ahead of the Festival, after the mid-winter break, and won’t be racing before the 2022 Stayers’ Hurdle.

cheltenham festival

Celebre D’Allen – Cheltenham Plate

Celebre D’Allen is the leading favourite (6/1) for the Grade 3 race, and understandably so – given his form. Since switching from Louisa Carberry’s French yard to Hobbs’ Sandhill Stables, Celebre D’Allen has won every race this season. 

In addition to two wins at Haydock over Hurdles, last December – after a lengthy break of over two years – the 10-year-old, also won the Warwick Castle Handicap Chase last month, going out as the 5/2 favourite. While he may not be fancied in the Cheltenham Festival top trainer odds, Hobbs has a great chance in the Cheltenham Plate. Given his vast improvement and current form, O’Brien believes that Celebre D’Allen should have a big chance at Cheltenham.

All current odds are correct at the time of writing.


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