Teen Jock O’Brien Dreaming of Jumps

August 3, 2022

12 months after bursting onto the scene on VL Aesthetics Ladies Night O’Brien longs to be a jump jockey

CUMBRIA, England—Teenage rider Fern O’Brien has revealed that it is only a matter of time before she makes the transition to becoming a jump jockey and harbours dreams of helping her trainer father break his long-standing Cheltenham Festival hoodoo. 

The 17 year old burst onto the scene with a winner on her first professional ride when striking on 25-1 outsider Lord P for dad Fergal on VL Aesthetics Ladies Night at Carlisle 12 months ago.

Her father has enjoyed huge success since switching to his current base at Withington, near Cheltenham, and currently leads the trainers’ championship. But despite his excellent overall record at his local course, he is still without a Festival winner – coming within a neck of doing so with Alaphilippe in last season’s Pertemps Final.

And while O’Brien Junior now has her eyes firmly on becoming a conditional rider after completing her studies next year, she admits that it would be a “pretty cool” family achievement if she could be the one to strike on the big stage for her dad. 

Recalling her first ever winner under Rules at Carlisle’s Ladies Night 12 months ago, she said Monday: “That night still lives very clearly in my memory and I will never forget that day – it means a lot to me.

“I’m glad it’s a year ago now though, as I’ve come on so much. I’m not there yet but the amount I’ve learned is unbelievable and I’m going to carry on learning that much for a good few years.

“I’m really grateful to still be in that position to be riding those nice horses and to have live chances, it’s really exciting. I’m only doing two subjects in my A Levels now, they don’t normally allow it but they’ve let me drop one for the racing and I’m just loving it – even more than last year!

“I’ll 100% move over to the jumps at some point. I’m not built to be a Flat jockey in any way, for all that I love it. Jump racing just has my heart and it’s what I’ve grown up doing. I’m familiar with people in the weighing room and outside of it and I’ll hopefully turn conditional if I’m good enough when I come out of school in a year or so and we’ll go from there.

“My dad has come painfully close to that Festival winner, especially this year! It was pretty heart-breaking this year to come so close once again, so it would be pretty cool if I could do it for him. We’ll see though, as I’d rather him not have to wait and do it next season instead!”

VL Aesthetics Ladies Night is the only meeting in the UK exclusively for female riders and was rather fittingly staged just 24 hours after England’s historic victory in the Women’s European Championships at Wembley Stadium.

O’Brien was among the 17 million people tuning in to watch the action from home on Sunday evening and when asked about the impact it could have on women in sport, she added: “I watched the football on Sunday and it was absolutely brilliant. 

“Nights like that are so important. I said to somebody earlier that it’s showing all of the younger girls that there are opportunities and chances out there. It’s a massive cliché but girls can have the same chances boys do and it’s really important that the message is put out there.”

By Nick Seddon 
Photo courtesy of The Jockey Club UK

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