'Fingers crossed he can go there and be our first Festival winner' – O'Brien eyeing first Festival success with Crambo

Locally based trainer Fergal O'Brien will be hoping Crambo can provide him with a first Cheltenham Festival success in next month's Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle.

CRAMBO (red cap) winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in England.
CRAMBO (red cap) winning the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The improving seven-year-old has gone up 24lb in the handicap since his victory over two and a half miles at Aintree back in October and will head to the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle on the back of a first Grade 1 success, having battled on bravely to deny Paisley Park in the Long Walk at Ascot just before Christmas.

"Crambo is not a great workhorse, but he does everything very well and he's very fresh after his work, which is what you want to see," said O'Brien, speaking at a Jockey Club press morning at his Ravenswell Farm stable.

"He's got a great temperament. He hasn't won around Cheltenham yet, but fingers crossed he can go there and be our first Festival winner.

"You look at the likes of Paisley Park and all those (Stayers' Hurdle) horses, that's their one common denominator – they always have that little flat spot.

"In the Long Walk, it was actually the best I've seen Crambo travel and jump. He's normally a bit behind the bridle and he's made it hard work for Connor (Brace) on a few occasions."

Although Crambo came up short twice in Grade 1 company last season, O'Brien always believed his son of Saddler Maker had what it takes to mix it with the very best at the top-level.

 "We're very lucky to have him and we always hoped he would develop the way he has. As a novice we ran him in two Grade 1, in the Challow Hurdle, where it never happened for him in wet ground, and then we took him to Aintree after he won the EBF Final at Sandown," said O'Brien.

He added: "He was running a big race at Aintree, and I think he would have been fourth, but Rachael Blackmore's horse (Cool Survivor) fell in front of him and that sort of stopped him.

"I always believed in the horse, he won the first time up this year at Aintree and then we were a little bit unlucky at Haydock. We could have gone down the Pertemps route, but I really wanted to have a crack at another Grade 1 and his owners were happy to go to the Long Walk."

O'Brien made the decision to bypass the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham following his Long Walk success and while Crambo is yet to hallow the famous Cotswold turf, his trainer believes we could see improvement from the seven-year-old when he steps onto Prestbury Park for the first time.

He said: "He had a hard race at Ascot, and it took him a couple of weeks to get over it and get his spark back, but Eve who rode him this morning knows him inside out and she's delighted with him.

"I'd love to be able to tell you he's very difficult to train, but he'd train himself. Johnny Burke took him to Lambourn on Friday and jumped 10 or 12 hurdles and he said he felt great, so I'm really happy with where he is.

"I think Cheltenham will suit him, to be fair. I think it will bring out a little bit more improvement and he does need to improve again from the Long Walk."

The Gordon Elliott-trained pair Teahupoo and Irish Point spearhead the betting for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle held on March 14, with Crambo heading the British challenge and currently available at 11/2 with race sponsor Paddy Power.

"Gordon's (Elliott) two horses at the head of the market (Teahupoo and Irish Point) are two very good horses and there'll be plenty of others there," said O'Brien when questioned about the likely opposition.

"Dashel Drasher will be there, Paisley Park will be there, Emmet Mullins' horse (Noble Yeats) and I'm not sure what Gavin Cromwell is doing with Flooring Porter.

"They've all been there and done it and got the T-shirt, but Crambo's got youth on his side and we think he's a very good horse, so fingers crossed."

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