On the move? Plans submitted for O’brien’s new training base
PLANS have been submitted for Fergal O’brien’s new yard in the Cotswolds, as he continues to expand his training set-up.
The Grade One-winning handler hopes to move to Ravenswell Farm, Withington, as long as Cotswold District Council gives the project the green light, writes Melissa Jones.
O’brien will be based at Grange Hill Farm, Naunton, for the forthcoming jumps season, where he rents the Upper Yard from Cathy Twiston-davies.
As his horses have increased in numbers and Willy Twiston-davies starts to turn his attentions to training, learning the ropes from his father Nigel, the move looks set to benefit all parties.
O’brien has 53 newly refurbished stables at his current location but the new purpose-built facility will have 80-boxes, a round gallop, a four-furlong gallop and an allweather gallop over jumps.
A horse walker, office and accommodation for six members of staff are part of the plans for the 550-acre arable farm, which belongs to former Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe.
“If we get planning permission, it will be a fantastic place with great facilities,” O’brien said.
“It would be an 80-box yard which is bigger than our current one, which we have outgrown.
“We won’t be at Grange Hill Farm next season. I wanted to stay in the Cotswolds as our main owner base is here.
“Nigel’s yard has got some new owners now and Willy wants to crack on with the business. It’s the young generation coming through so best of luck to them.”
The trainers have shared the Naunton gallops since 2015, when O’brien moved from Cilldara Stud near Cirencester and was joined by his partner Sally Randell.
The link-up with the Twistondavies yard where the County Tipperary native spent 18 years as assistant trainer created the county’s biggest training hub.
Last season was particularly good for both businessmen, with Poetic Rhythm giving O’brien his first Grade One in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle and Twiston-davies achieving success at the highest level thanks to Bristol De Mai, as well as other notable triumphs in the colours of leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
The planning application for Ravenswell Farm says a ‘not insignificant figure’ will be invested to ‘create one of the best racehorse training yards in the Cotswolds.’
Some of the existing barns that were used for an agricultural contracting business on three fields will be converted- and 18 members of staff are expected to transfer over.
Lowe, whose land for the project is well-screened by trees, was the chairman of Southampton Football Club from 1996 to 2006.
In 2008, he teamed up with Michael Wilde to become chairman of the team’s parent company, Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC, before resigning in April of the following year.
It has been estimated horses and their associated costs are worth £54 million to the Cotswolds, a centre of excellence for racehorse training where yards continue to expand.
O’brien has trained 60 winners in the past two seasons, earning £1.3 million of prize money over that period.
Trainer Fergal O’brien hopes to move to Ravenswell Farm, Withington, from his current base at Grange Hill Farm