Perfect could be a National Cadidate

Trainer Fergal O'Brien was visibly delighted in the winners' enclosure after Perfect Candidate gave him another big race success in the Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.

The 7/1 shot was recording his third victory at Cheltenham and gave O'Brien his second success in this race following Alvarado's win in 2013.


Jockey Paddy Brennan had to work hard on the 10-year-old but his mount responded after the pair got into a protracted battle with eventual third Three Faces West coming down the hill.


Runner-up Vicente stalked this pair but Perfect Candidate always had his measure, though the winner had to dig deep as the runner-up renewed his challenge with a strong finish on the run-in.


Both Brennan and Perfect Candidate had enough in reserve though to hold on, a neck being the margin of victory as they passed the post.




Perfect Candidate lands over the last, photo Liesl King



O'Brien's stable has been in rude health over the past few weeks and the trainer is delighted to see his horses running so well.


"Paddy made this horse today," said the trainer.


"We came here on the back of a nice run before and Paddy has made his mind up for him today. These sort of fields suit him - small fields - and he probably lacks a gear for a National but he certainly rides like a National horse.


"We were lucky today with Minella Rocco (pulled up) being declared as we got in on a nice weight and the ground's come right for him.


"For three weeks in a row now, Paddy Brennan has been amazing. He just gave everything and gave the horse every chance. I'm delighted and I'm very lucky to have both the horse and jockey. The horse runs so well round here so it's probably easier to ride him round here. He's a phenomenal horse. We bought him for £16,000 I think and he's done both the owners (ISL Recruitment) and myself proud.


"We'll see how he comes out of this - the Becher Chase (at Aintree) will probably come too soon for him. This was always the plan though - we'll just have to see. He looks like a National horse and runs like a National horse so we'll just have to see."




A muddy Paddy Brennan and Perfect Candidate return, photo Liesl King


Brennan was full of praise for the winning trainer, but also for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who once employed O'Brien as an assistant trainer in the days when Brennan was first-choice jockey at the same yard.


As he returned to scale, Brennan said of O'Brien: "What a trainer! He has campaigned him beautifully. He's a horse that takes a bit of stoking up at times, but he wanted it today as much as me. I was happy he was a little slow at the last, because I was conscious of using my stick and wanted another horse to come to me.


"He jumps too well sometimes, and goes up in the air, but he was brilliant today and it's always good to get winners, especially here - hopefully we get another one today. The mare in the bumper was our best chance coming here today, so to pinch one on the way is nice.


"Fergal learned from the best. Nigel Twiston-Davies is for me the best trainer of a jumper that I've ridden for in England - I say that of a horse rated 80 or 160, and Fergal learnt from him. One day he could be the best himself."



1.50pm Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

1 PERFECT CANDIDATE (ISL Recruitment) Fergal O'Brien 10-10-12 Paddy Brennan 7/1

2 Vicente (Trevor Hemmings) Paul Nicholls 8-10-10 Harry Cobden 9/2

3 Three Faces West (Paul & Clare Rooney) Philip Hobbs 9-10-07 Richard Johnson 5/1


4/1 Fav Premier Bond (pulled-up)


Distances: nk, 17

Tote Win: £7.90 Places: £1.90; £1.70; £1.90 Exacta: £40.80