Yes Sir Brian (extreme left)
©Healy Racing Photos
By Thomas Weekes
Aidan O'Brien's first venture, for eight years, into National Hunt racing in the AES Family Saturday At The Festival Bumper at Punchestown today, was upstaged by his former employee and lesser known Co Kilkenny based Gareth Power, whose newcomer Yes Sir Brian (20/1) claimed many of racing's best known scalps in the race.
O'Brien hadn't had a National Hunt runner since 2004 prior to this but introduced both Egyptian Warrior (ridden by his daughter Sarah O'Brien) and Shield (Kate Harrington) in the race. Both ran with promise behind Yes Sir Brian with Shield finishing fourth, just ahead of Egyptian Warrior.
O'Brien's previous jumping/Piltown connections were to the fore in the aftermath of the race in that Gareth Power had previously worked for the Champion Trainer and ridden winners for O'Brien's father-in-law Joe Crowley and sister-in-law Frances Crowley. This win was just Power's seventh success as a trainer.
Today's race also featured the Tom Taaffe trained Guns And Malt (representing Fame And Glory's owner Fitri & Jim Hay), which was heavily supported into 9/4 favourite (from 5s), while Ange Balafre represented Noel Meade in the race.
Yes Sir Brian's rider Derek O'Connor played more than a passenger's roll on the gelding though, helping him relax before the race, having been quite keen to post. O'Connor settled the gelding in last before making his move along the inner before the straight, staying on well for a two lengths win over Meade's Ange Balafre with Guns And Malt back in third.
O'Connor later said “he (Yes Sir Brian ) was very unruly and he needs to learn about the art of racing. He even ran away with me going to the start – he's a big baby but when he learns more he could be top drawer.”
Trainer Power, who operates a “one-man show” and led up his winner, later reported by phone “I used to work with Aidan many years ago and myself and Aidan used commune between Piltown and Ballydoyle at one stage.
He added “I had five horses in training last year and all were in the money but it is very hard to get owners and this horse is currently my only horse riding out.
“I originally planned to point to point him but Derek rode him in a piece of work recently and I decided to run in a bumper instead. He is a hyperactive horse and is quite hard on himself but he is a really nice type. If the money is right, he is for sale!
He added “Derek (O'Connor) had now ridden for me seven times and has won on all seven (including six point to points).”