Racehorse trainer Fergal O'Brien is aiming for the top
When Fergal O'Brien goes to the Festival this week, half of him will be going as a racehorse trainer and the other half will be very much in a public relations role.
As an up-and-coming trainer, he knows how important it is to give owners the full experience owning a thoroughbred brings.
He is the first to admit his job is part-trainer, part-socialiser, particularly when it comes to meetings like Cheltenham.
"When you're trying to build up your reputation and business, ultimately it is about having winners, of course," said Fergal, who runs Fergal O'Brien Racing at Fossebridge, near Cirencester.
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"But it's also about giving people a good day out so they get the whole experience of what being a racehorse owner is all about.
"This is part of the leisure industry and owning a racehorse is more often than not people's hobby so they've got to have fun.
"Luckily for me I'm quite an outgoing and sociable person so it's not difficult for me to do that bit of it."
He says the Festival is the big one as far as National Hunt racing is concerned and worth getting excited about.
As a lad growing up in Ireland, Fergal admits his wasn't a racing family but he caught the bug from his two older brothers.
Then at nine he got a pony for Christmas and the seed was well and truly sown.
Now 40, Fergal spent 19 years as head lad at Gold Cup and two-time Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard at Guiting Power.
"The Festival was always a really exciting time for us," said Fergal.
Indeed Fergal helped to train and look after 2010 Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander during his time at Nigel's yard.
"Now I have my own yard I would love to go there with lots of my own horses."
This year however, the horse most likely to run in the Festival from Fergal's yard will be Creevytennant, entered in the CGA Foxhunter Chase, the race immediately after the Gold Cup on Friday.
As well as his charge, Fergal's top tips for Cheltenham are horse of the moment Sprinter Sacre, owned by Caroline Mould, who lives just outside Cheltenham, racing in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday.
It is early days for Fergal, who has been running the yard at Fossebridge for less than two years, but he insists he's aiming for the top.
"At the moment we are a medium-sized yard but I am ambitious and I will work very hard to succeed," he said.
Working days for Fergal start at the ungodly hour of 5.30 in the morning with feeding his string.
At present his yard has 30 National Hunt horses and 10 point-to-pointers, which Fergal has been particular successful in, topping the West Midlands Point-to-Point Trainers' Table for the last four seasons.
"We then exercise them on the gallops, followed by mucking out and general care of the horses," he said.
And that's not to mention all the administration he has to do, as well as being on call 24-7 to owners ringing to find out how their horse is.
"Some of these people live abroad or work late so whenever they ring me, they want to have a chat about how things are going," he said.
Somehow or another he also manages to fit in time with his family – wife Jelly, who works alongside him, and daughters Fern, seven, and Daisy, five.
"The girls have always ridden but actually they are more interested in being at the yard with the staff, who are brilliant with them," said Jelly (whose real name is Angelica).
Fergal added: "They come with us to the races but they prefer the point-to-point, where they have the space to run around a bit, which is more fun for them."
For now though, all eyes are on Cheltenham where, although he doesn't have a string of horses running, Fergal will be wearing his social hat and living the Festival experience with his clients.
"Running this yard is like living my dream," he said.
"Sometimes it can be a nightmare, more often it is a joy, but for us it is a way of life."