The Joseph O’Brien-trained horses to watch at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival

by Carter Toni

Joseph O’Brien might only be 29 years of age, but his CV is already very impressive. A successful rider on the flat, winning multiple Irish Classics, dual Irish Champion jockey titles and the British versions of the 2,000 Guineas and St. Leger, O’Brien turned his attention to training in 2016 at just 22 years of age.

The success has carried on for the Irishman as well, picking up major victories all over the world including training an Irish Derby winner, two Melbourne Cup victors, a St Leger winner and a Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf champion.

The sport is clearly engrained in the O’Brien blood, as his father Aidan is the most successful trainer in British Classic history with 41 wins. However, Joseph’s onus is not just on the flat. The 29-year-old has enjoyed victories over jumps, with Fakir D’oudairies arguably landing him his biggest successes thus far in the form of two Melling Chases and the Ascot Chase.

O’Brien has also saddled a few winners at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival, with Band Of Outlaws and Early Doors winning the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in 2019, while Banbridge won the latter for the trainer again last year.

If you’re looking for a horse racing bet, the Carriganog Racing handler has some solid claims to continue growing his list of high-profile winners at this year’s Festival. So, let’s take a look at some of the O’Brien-trained horses worth keeping an eye out for.

Nusret – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

One of the races we’ve already mentioned that O’Brien has won before, Nusret is the 6/1 second favourite to land a second Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for the Irish trainer on the opening day of the Festival.

The four-year-old former flat runner boasts some impressive form in his first year over jumps, winning by six lengths on debut at Leopardstown before finishing third in successive races behind respectable opponents in the form of Lossiemouth and Blood Destiny.

Nusret was back in the winner’s enclosure last time out, winning a Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton and the allocated weights could be in his favour as market leaderTekaocarries an additional seven lbs on his back.

Banbridge – Turners Novices’ Chase

Banbridge arguably holds O’Brien’s best chance of landing his maiden Grade 1 winner at the Festival, with the former Cheltenham winner as short as 7/2 for the Turners Novices’ Chase in the opening race on the penultimate day of the meeting.

The seven-year-old started the season off with back-to-back wins, including an impressive victory in the Arkle Trial here in November. However, he could fare no better than third in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in December, coming home over 18 lengths behind Mighty Potter, before being well beaten by El Fabiolo in the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival.

It is going to be tough for Banbridge to reverse that form over 2m4f when he goes back up against Mighty Potter, who is many punters’ naps in the Turners after going four from four this season. But experience over course and distance at Prestbury Park could play into his hands.

Home By The Lee – Stayers’ Hurdle

Another Grade 1 contender for O’Brien on the Thursday of the meeting, the penultimate day could be one to remember if Home By The Lee can go on to land the Stayers’ Hurdle. This year’s renewal of the joint feature is looking like a wide-open affair with no real standout performer and O’Brien’s eight-year-old is fancied at 11/2.

That’s good for fourth favourite behind Blazing Khal, Teahupoo and Marie’s Rock — who still appears more likely to defend her Mares’ Hurdle crown. Home By The Lee is two for two this season, beating Bob Olinger over 2m4f to win a Grade 2 in Navan from 28/1 before stepping back up to three miles and landing the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

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