There are a plethora of Irish stables who each possess a string of talented horses that are often seen running in the UK. The likes of Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins, Aidan O’Brien and John Feane are familiar names to horse racing fans and their stables tend to fire in winners on a regular basis. These talented trainers are always on the lookout for winning opportunities and we take a look at whether their runners are worth following whenever they head over the Irish Sea.
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The 2018 Cheltenham Festival was a high watermark for Irish trainers with a total of 17 winners across the four days in Gloucestershire. It was their second-highest tally of all time with Gordon Elliott contributing heavily with eight winners including Samcro and Veneer of Charm, who was victorious in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. Willie Mullins wasn’t far behind with seven winners in total whilst there was also joy for Henry De Bromhead and Pat Kelly. It was a memorable four days for Irish competitors and the hot streak continued just three weeks later with Tiger Roll landing the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. Elliott has suggested that he is aiming his star towards the 2019 renewal of the race, although it’s his stablemate Borice who has been attracting the majority of the interest. The French import is currently an outsider for the contest but connections have talked up his chances in the Aintree Festival feature race.
Although Gordon Elliott is a trainer who has enjoyed enormous success in high-profile contests, he also sends a number of runners to lesser events and has a great record at a host of Northern tracks in the UK. He has a sensational strike rate at Perth with 20 winners from 43 runners throughout 2018 which is a terrific achievement considering that he had multiple runners in some of those contests. He’s enjoyed at 47% record at the Scottish venue this season and punters would be +15.53 in profit if they’d backed every single one of his runners at the track.
The likes of Make My Heart Fly (3-3) and Carrie Des Champs (2-2) have unblemished records at Perth and are definitely worth following when they return to Scotland next summer.
He also enjoyed a 6/1 winner at Leicester on December 6th and can also boast a 26% record at Cartmel. He doesn’t send many to Musselburgh but has still fired in three winners from his seven runners and can also boast two from three at Carlisle. He picks and chooses his races carefully and as a result, Gordon Elliott’s runners are undoubtedly worth following on UK soil.
The affable Mullins is less likely to be seen at Perth on a rainy Tuesday afternoon but his runners are always dangerous outside of Ireland. He has sent out 34 winners at Cheltenham and a further ten to Aintree. He’s also got a 64% strike rate at Warwick, although it’s been a long time since any of his runners were seen at the venue. Whilst the 62-year old doesn’t have the strength-in-depth of Gordon Elliott, he also has a decent strike rate at Perth with three winners from five runners.
Mullins is always likely to have five or more winners at the Cheltenham Festival and, although he’s played second fiddle to Elliott in 2018, his powerful yard should never be underestimated.
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Aidan O’Brien needs no introduction. The Ballydoyle trainer is a household name for flat racing fans and his statistics are absolutely outstanding. As well as winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas on seven different occasions, he also regularly sends his horses to the UK and has enjoyed success in the 2,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the Epsom Oaks amongst many others.
As well as having a terrific record in high-profile events, he’s also got a terrific record at tracks such as Chester (37%) and Newmarket (21%). O’Brien will often enter multiple runners into the same race although it’s always worth backing at least one of his charges. His recent stable heroes include Declaration of War, Order of St.George and Highland Reel and he is particularly adept at unearthing the next generation of two-year-old stars.
O’Brien doesn’t just restrict his runners to the UK with success in Canada, France, USA, Hong Kong and Australia. His only success down under came in the 2014 Cox Plate with Adelaide coming out on top. He had three competitors in the 2018 Melbourne Cup with Rostropovich finishing fifth in the prestigious contest ahead of stablemate Yucatan. The latter was tipped for success in the race by Oddschecker but wasn’t able to get the better of Cross Counter, who was victorious for British trainer Charlie Appleby.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Joseph O’Brien has also enjoyed plenty of success since taking out his license. 2018 has proved to be his best season since becoming a trainer and he’s fired in two winners from six runners at Kempton, one a Bath and another at Lingfield so far this year. He also claimed his first Leicester winner on December 6th with Camille claiming the Marston Trussell Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at a price of 7/4.
There aren’t enough statistics available yet to make a strong case for Joseph O’Brien but his stable appears to be getting stronger season-on-season and his runners are always worth keeping an eye on.
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John Feane isn’t a trainer who commands many column inches but he’s an astute operator who has a handy knack of returning from the UK with a substantial amount of prize money. He saddled Captain Dan at Wolverhampton on December 3rd with the 4-year old just managing to get its head in front. He was Feane’s fourth winner at the track this year and he’s also enjoyed seven winners from 21 starters at Ayr this season. The County Kildare handler also boasts a 66% strike rate at Ffos Las and has three wins from eight at Musselburgh. He may be under the radar but it can be hugely profitable to follow his runners in the UK.
Irish trainers have a terrific record in the UK and although it’s ill-advised to follow their runners blindly, they are always worth a market-check. A careful selection process can pay dividends and under-the-radar trainers such as John Feane are definitely worth following. Gordon Elliott’s midweek runners are always worth backing whilst supporting Irish raiders at the Cheltenham Festival is definitely advisable. It’s impossible to back every single traveller throughout the week but picking and choosing Irish participants in lower-profile contests is highly recommended.