Fern O’Brien makes winning start at Carlisle
Fergal O’Brien was left brimming with pride after his daughter Fern made a winning start to her riding career at Carlisle
A card confined to professional and amateur female jockeys gave the recently-turned 16-year-old the perfect opportunity to make her competitive debut aboard her father’s 25-1 shot Lord P in the VL Aesthetics Honours Shona Cunningham Handicap.
A winner at Kempton last year when trained by Richard Hannon, the four-year-old had disappointed on his first outing over hurdles and twice on the Flat since switching stables.
But having undergone a wind operation since his latest appearance at Newbury in early July, Lord P appeared much improved, travelling strongly before comfortably kicking three and a quarter lengths clear of Singe Anglais.
The jubilant jockey said: “It was a bit of a steering job to be honest! He’s very good and it was just very easy, I didn’t need to do much more than push the button.
“I did my pony amateur course back in June so I was all ready to go the second I turned 16. I had my last pony race four days ago, turned 16 two days ago and now I’m here. I had five winners on the pony circuit, they all came on the same pony who’s for sale if you’re watching!
“We got very lucky with her and I’m even luckier now with my first ride.”
She added: “A lot of people said to me before that it would be over before I know it, but it wasn’t really. Maybe pony racing helped with that because it’s flat out from the start in that.
“I was lucky with the draw in that I was in quite late and only sat in (the stalls) for a maximum of 30 seconds and it was very easy after that. From halfway I was thinking he was still travelling very well and I found a bit of a gap which opened up for me, he went through that and just stayed on all the way to the line.
“I got in a bit of trouble last week in pony racing because I didn’t ride out to the line, so all I had in my head was to get over the line as soon as possible and I wasn’t worrying about what was going on behind me.
“Horse racing is the long-term goal for me, but I’m staying on for A Levels at my school now so that if racing goes wrong I’ve got something to fall back on.
“I’ve been broken up from school since the end of May and I’ve been riding out since then. We’ve been working flat out, but it’s been really good.
“I’m so lucky, my dad, my mum and Sally (Randell) are all horsey so I’ve grown up around it all my life and it’s worked out so well.”
O’Brien senior – who has had three winners on the level – said: “It’s amazing really, for a little girl who started off riding ponies – this has been her dream. Every day I watch her fulfilling her dream.
“It’s unbelievable, for her to come up here on her first ride, on a not overly-fancied horse. Sally gave her some great instructions and she followed them through.
“When I watched how she was going two out and pull her stick through I thought she was feeling confident, so I did look away. All week I’ve been really excited, then at the weekend I started to get a bit nervous. (But) it all went really well.
“I’m unbelievably proud of her.”