Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

O'Brien unleashes bumper duo

Aidan O'Brien will field two runners at Punchestown on Wednesday
Aidan O'Brien will field two runners at Punchestown on Wednesday

Aidan O'Brien saddles his first National Hunt runners in well over eight years as Egyptian Warrior and Shield make their racecourse debuts at Punchestown on Wednesday.

The master of Ballydoyle is no stranger to the jumping game, having trained the mighty Istabraq to win many Grade One prizes for owner JP McManus, including three successive victories in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

However, the stable's last runner under National Hunt rules was The Alamo, ridden by Coolmore supremo John Magnier's son MV, in a bumper at Tipperary in October 2004.

Easily the most fascinating of O'Brien's two runners in the AES Family Saturday At The Festival INH Flat Race is Egyptian Warrior, who will be ridden by his daughter, Sarah. The four-year-old is a full-brother to last season's Racing Post Trophy scorer and this year's Derby favourite Kingsbarns.

Joseph O'Brien, last season's Irish champion Flat jockey, revealed Egyptian Warrior has been far more backward than his sibling, but he is looking forward to seeing how he fares on the track.

He said: "He's a fine big horse who has just taken a bit of time to come to himself. I would imagine he'll be very green as he's not been away from home before, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. It's a good starting point for him and if he runs a nice race we'll be delighted."

Given his stout breeding, it is no surprise to see some bookmakers quoting Egyptian Warrior in their ante-post betting for next month's Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, with Stan James offering just 12-1.

Were he to impress, Joseph would theoretically be able to take the mount at Prestbury Park, but the level-headed young jockey, who won last year's 2000 Guineas and Derby aboard Camelot, is refusing to look that far ahead.

"Although Cheltenham is only three weeks away, it's a long way off when you've never run before. We'll just have to see how he goes," said the jockey.

The stable's second runner Shield, a four-year-old son of Dylan Thomas, will be ridden by Kate Harrington, the daughter of one of Ireland's leading dual-purpose handlers, Jessica Harrington.

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