- Fergal O’Brien claimed his second Grade One prize with Crambo on Saturday
- Shortest-priced British-based contender for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham
- Giant Autonomous Cloud won on his comeback run at Uttoxeter last month
O’Brien won only the second Grade One prize of his training career when Crambo landed Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle on Saturday to become the shortest-priced British-based contender for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The giant Autonomous Cloud, the mount of Paddy Brennan, is a very different physical specimen to Crambo but he is blessed with similar stamina reserves.
The seven-year-old, who won on heavy ground on his comeback run at Uttoxeter last month, is in his first season out of the novice ranks and seems to have matured enough to make his imposing physique a positive rather than a hindrance.
O’Brien said: ‘He is a big horse so the owners have been very patient with him so fingers crossed that can be rewarded.
Fergal O’Brien claimed his second Grade One prize with Crambo (R) at Ascot on Saturday
‘He had a lovely prep and gallop round at Uttoxeter. He didn’t have an overly hard race because one of his opponents fell and brought down another horse. ‘You could not have planned a prep run any better. From the end of last season when he also won at Uttoxeter, the Welsh National has been the plan.’
Conditions for a marathon usually contested in arduous conditions look set to change dramatically. Weather forecasters have predicted up to an inch of rain from late last night along with winds gusting at up to 50mph.
It is a positive that Autonomous Cloud is proven on heavy ground and that he has been allotted 10st 10lb. This century only five winners have hauled 11st or more to success and two of those — Synchonised (2010) and Native River (2016) — were future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners.
The last four winners were all at the foot of the weights carrying 10st 4lb, 10st 1lb, 10st and 10st 1lb.
That makes it tough for Sam Thomas’s top weight Iwilldoit, the 2021 winner.
With the race run in memory of the late Kim Gingell, a victory for last year’s second The Big Breakaway, trained by her brother Joe Tizzard, or Truckers Lodge, placed three times in the showpiece and ridden by her son Freddie, would be popular.
King George VI winning jockey Gavin Sheehan rides the Jamie Snowden’s Super Survivor who heads the betting at about 5-1. He has a significant weight pull with Autonomous Cloud compared to his third when they clashed at Uttoxeter in March.
But Autonomous Cloud, a winner twice over fences, has really found his mojo for the in-form O’Brien and he should come out on top again.