Gloucestershire based horse trainer Fergal O’Brien is hoping his yard will claim its first Cheltenham Festival winner this week with Imperial Alcazar being the “stand out”.
Following a comfortable win in the Pertemps qualifier in Warwick at the start of 2021, seven year-old Imperial Alcazar is set to race in the Pertemps Final on day three of the Festival.
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With a handful of horses running next week, O’Brien said: “Imperial Alcazar is the stand out for us really, so fingers crossed. He’s in great form – I wish Cheltenham was tomorrow. There’s not much more we can do now, he’s done all his work and all his schooling, so what will be will be.”
Despite assuring his yard is not defined by Cheltenham, O’Brien believes getting his first festival winner would top off his most successful season.
“It’s a lifetime ambition. It would be great for everyone here because of the hard work that everyone’s put in, I feel like I’d be repaying all the people that have backed me.
“If it doesn’t happen this year, I’m confident it will happen one year. We’ve got a great set-up here and great owners, so hopefully the rest will fall into place.”
Although the Festival averages an attendance of 65,000 over the four-day period, the runners will be competing without the Cheltenham roar this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions allowing no spectators at an event that is a highlight in the racing calendar.
Read more about which runners to back at Cheltenham Festival here.
“There are some horses that feed off the atmosphere and some that boil over because of it,” said O’Brien. “There will be some affected more than others. It’s no different to rugby players or footballers. I definitely think there will be some horses that will be inconvenienced by it and some will be helped by it, so it will even itself out.
“It is business as usual and you can’t wrap them up in cotton wool. We’ve got a great routine here, a great system and great people so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.
“We’ll turn up at Cheltenham on Tuesday – nothing on Wednesday – Thursday and Friday and all the horses will do their best.”