Joseph O'Brien Stable Tour: Five To Follow and dark horses for 2020/21 season

Betfair Ambassador Joseph O'Brien
Will Fakir D'Oudairies be Joseph's star this season?

There's plenty to get excited about in Joseph O'Brien's stables this season as the Betfair Ambassador picks his five to follow and the dark horses that could make an impact...

"Fakir D’Oudairies was a real star for us last season. His juvenile hurdle form was strong enough to suggest that he could be a high-class novice chaser last season and we were thrilled with how well he adapted to the larger obstacles."

Listen to our exclusive Stable Tour podcast here and read Joseph's in-depth thoughts below

Embittered was a high-class bumper horse and he transitioned well to hurdling last season. He did a lot in his first five starts over hurdles. Having made a winning hurdling debut, he was fast-tracked into Grade 1 novice company. He didn't quite come up to that level at the time, so we switched him to handicaps. Considering his inexperience, he did very well, finishing third in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

He has always had the look of one that would make a chaser. He has plenty of size and scope. We have a few nice horses to go novice chasing this season and he is right up there with the pick of them. We'll start him at two miles and will step him up in trip if he looks in need of it, but he has never looked short of pace. He should be ready to run by late-October or early-November. He's exciting.

Entoucas is a horse that we always liked a lot, but it just took him time to get his act together. It took him seven runs over hurdles for us until he got off the mark in a maiden hurdle at Naas in February, but when he won he did it in great style. He decided to skip Cheltenham with him and run in a Listed novice hurdle at Naas instead. He ran well to finish third, but we had hoped he might go a bit closer than that.

I'd like to think that he'll find more improvement this season and he has settled back into his work well. We haven't decided yet whether he'll go novice chasing or stay hurdling, but whichever way he goes I think he'll win races this season.

Eric Bloodaxe is a horse that would take your eye as soon as you see him. He's a big, black, good-looking horse that is very striking looking. He worked well from an early stage and it was hard not to be excited by him. He made a winning debut in a bumper on the Hatton's Grace card at Fairyhouse, beating the subsequent Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow. He went on to win a winner's bumper at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting.

We had hoped he'd keep improving from there, but he picked up an injury when finishing down the field in a Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival. That ruled him out for the rest of the season, but he is in full work now and remains a really exciting prospect. We'll send him novice hurdling and you'd have to hope that he'll be a Graded performer.

Fakir D'Oudairies was a real star for us last season. His juvenile hurdle form was strong enough to suggest that he could be a high-class novice chaser last season and we were thrilled with how well he adapted to the larger obstacles. From day one he was a particularly good jumper of a fence and that was a big help to him. His defeat of Melon on his chasing debut at Navan set the tone and while his task was made easier by the fall of Samcro in the Drinmore Novice Chase, I'd like to think he might well have won anyway.

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That proved to be the highlight of his season in terms of wins, as he ran very well in defeat in his other two starts in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown and the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. If things had gone a little differently on those days, he might well have won one if not both of those races, but he had to settle for second on both occasions.

He is in great form at home and we are looking forward to further exploring longer trips with him this season. Mid-range trips are likely to be the focus, but he might try three miles at some stage if he is shaping as though he is ready for it. Soft ground will always be a help to him. We haven't picked out a target for him yet, but he'll be ready to run in a few weeks.

Forged In Fire is a horse that we liked from an early stage. He made his debut in a strong bumper at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting and produced a really good effort to beat Ferny Hollow by half-a-length. He had to be brave that day given the tight quarters he found himself in and it was impressive to see him battle as well as he did considering his inexperience.

That form was obviously very well boosted later in the season, but we didn't get another run into him for the rest of the season. The plan is to go straight over hurdles with him this season and you'd have to be excited about him. He's a horse that should stay further than two miles and we are looking forward to getting him going.

Dark Horses

Of the more established horses Darasso is a talented performer on testing ground and I'd be hoping he'll win races over hurdles and fences this season.

We have had to be patient to get Le Richebourg back, but he is on great form and we'll look to start him back in a few weeks.

Assemble wasn't a world beater over hurdles, but he is the type to make up into a better chaser and I'm looking forward to seeing him over a fence this season.

Of last season's bumper horses that are going hurdling, Fire Attack, Uhtred and Castra Vetera could easily have made my five-to-follow and are exciting prospects.

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