Dobbs banking on Girl power to break Cheltenham duck

PRUNELLA DOBBS has had no luck at the Cheltenham Festival – but that has not deterred her from having another go.

The Wicklow-based handler, who barely has more than 10 horses in training at a time, sends Our Girl Salley across the Irish Sea for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, run this year as the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

A year ago, the horse was all set to run in the same race, only to scope badly a week before the Festival.

That setback was doubly disappointing for connections as she had also missed the Punchestown Festival in 2010 after suffering an injury.

Dobbs, who is assisted by her husband, George, and has held a licence since 2002, has had one previous runner at Cheltenham.

That did not go to plan, either, as Farringdon beat only one horse home in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in 2009.

Undeterred, she is looking forward to having another bite at the cherry.

“We were all on song for last year but her last piece of work before the meeting she didn’t go too well and we found she had a dirty scope. That was very disappointing,” she said.

“We came to Ascot in January and she was third in a mares’ race.

“We’ve had Our Girl Salley since she was a four-year-old. We’ve had her all the way through and brought her on.”

Looking back to her Ascot run, which was her first over three miles, Dobbs said: “I don’t think the trip was a problem – she did stay the three miles. I think it was more how the race was run that was against us.

“There was no pace because the horse that would have probably made the running was taken out in the morning – it became a sprint and that didn’t really suit us.

“I think a strongly run two and a half miles at Cheltenham will suit and the better ground at Cheltenham will not bother her.

“The race will be very testing with Quevega in the field and it will be a big ask to beat her, but I hope we will have a good outing.”

Dobbs went on: “She’s owned by a neighbour of ours, Jim O’Neill. He and his wife, Ann, have a few horses in training and they get huge pleasure from it.

“We train on our own farm so we have all our facilities here.

“We look out to sea and sometimes in the winter we can see the peaks of Wales from the house when there is no vapour on the water.

“We only keep 10 or 12 horses in training at any one time. It’s absolutely huge to have a horse that might be competitive there.

“Farringdon didn’t fare too well in the County Hurdle in 2009. He didn’t run a very good race, but that was my first venture and there’s nothing like Cheltenham for the hype.

“We have a few Flat horses as well and we won a race in Nottingham a couple of years ago with Take It Easee.

“In the 2010-2011 season we had 10 horses in training and six individual horses won that year which was pretty amazing.

“Some of them won a few races. I don’t know if that’s going to happen again.”

With that impressive record, it would be foolish to underestimate a Dobbs runner anywhere – even at Cheltenham.

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