NOBODY is above the law.
Except, perhaps, top trainer Fergal O’Brien.
That’s because he is enjoying a stunning season with practising lawyer Graeme McPherson as his new right-hand man.
The dream team already have 84 winners and £800,000 in prize-money in the bag this season, and their ambitions know no bounds.
O’Brien is firmly on course to smash his personal best of 128 winners this winter, while the feeling in the yard is that this could be the year they break their Cheltenham Festival hoodoo.
McPherson, a successful trainer in his own right up until last season, knows a good thing when he sees one and was more than happy to take a step down to assist O’Brien as he continues to expand his operation.
That’s when he’s not in his wig and robes at court, of course.
What is the secret to their success? Well, they’re good pals for starters, and McPherson is more than happy to play the supporting role.
If O’Brien is Harry Kane, McPherson is Jude Bellingham, pulling the strings in the background.
Nobody likes a backseat driver, but there was never any doubt in O’Brien’s mind that McPherson would try to stick his oar in where it wasn’t welcome.
And since the pair rubber-stamped their new partnership earlier this year, things have taken off.
O’Brien said: “I’ve always got on with Graeme. Before we decided to work together as O’Brien-McPherson Racing we’d just been friendly rivals.
“I’ve known him for a while, since he moved out to the Cotswolds, and got to know him at point-to-points.
“He represented us once in a legal case, he’s a top-notch KC, and we’ve just got very similar values.
“He’s let us get on and do what we do but he’s a very important part of the team, the switch has worked well.
“Graeme has some great facilities at his stable at Martins Hill and it compliments us at Ravenswell really well as the two yards are very different.
“We’ve got a great team of people there and for us it was just a case of trying to integrate all of our staff together. Things are going absolutely great.”
McPherson shares O’Brien’s sentiments – and reckons that a trainer’s championship could be in the offing in the not too distant future.
He said: “I prefer being in the backroom! I’m very happy and I’m still based at Martins Hill, so I’ve really enjoyed my role and just taking a step back.
“Ferg does an amazing job as the trainer and being the frontman of the business.
“No doubt I have a better work-life balance now. I was struggling to cope with the training and the legal work and my family is growing up, so I didn’t want to miss out on that.
“We have had an amazing start to the season, everything seems to have fallen into place nicely.
“We have some real quality horses in the team now. I know Ferg has a target of getting as close to 150 winners as possible. If we could do that it would be amazing.
“I genuinely hope that in the near future he is champion trainer. Considering the dedication and the effort he puts in, nobody would deserve it more.
“With a little bit of luck, I don’t see why it won’t happen soon.”
With Paul Nicholls setting an unprecedented pace at the top of standings this season, it looks like O’Brien will have to at least wait another season to get his hands on the trainers’ title.
But he could make some inroads into Nicholls’ commanding lead at Newbury today, with several strong contenders across the card.
Among them is exciting four-year-old mare Poetic Music, who O’Brien hopes could be the real deal.
She was an excellent sixth in the Champion Bumper at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and bolted up on her hurdles debut at Ludlow.
She tackles the Mares’ Hurdle this afternoon under Paddy Brennan, and O’Brien said: “She travelled really well down the hill in the Champion Bumper but didn’t quite come back up it.
“She’s only a young horse and she ran a blinder that day. She’s came back in looking a monster and hopefully we can move forward with her this season.
“She is her owner Ismal El Magdoub’s first horse and she won her first three races for him. She jumps well and she is a very exciting young mare.”
Mortlach goes in the John Francome Novices’ Chase, Dublin Four will take his chance in the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Chase and the talented Peking Rose will try to back up her recent Aintree win.
O’Brien added: “The horses are in good form so let’s hope that continues this weekend as we have some nice chances at Newbury.
“We don’t mind where we have winners – we just want as many of them as possible!”
He might not admit himself he wants to be champion trainer – but with talk like that he is guilty as charged.
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