He’s been riding on the New South Wales Central Coast since 1997 but amazingly Chris O’Brien has never once had a race start in Queensland.
The former New Zealand apprentice will change that this weekend though when he climbs aboard Viking Legend in the $200,000 Listed Glasshouse Handicap at the Sunshine Coast.
O’Brien is probably more widely known by one of his horses in 2011, he is the regular rider for Stradbroke Handicap champion Sincero.
O’Brien has ridden the horse on nine occasions for eight victories but the horses feather weight in the Stradbroke meant he couldn’t cut down enough to take the ride.
While this Saturday isn’t a Group 1, it would still be a very special victory for O’Brien, especially at his first ever Queensland meeting.
Viking Legend is a four year old gelding worked out of Warwick Farm for co-trainers Ross Simpson and Tracey Barnes.
He’s only had a single start since running second in the Randwick Guineas in March of 2010.
O’Brien partnered him for that start earlier this month, he only ran fifth but he was only a length off the leader and was carrying 58.5kg on a very heavy surface.
“It was a terrific effort,” O’Brien said.
“The track was bottomless and at one stage he was about 15 lengths from the leaders but he was beaten only a length.”
Despite never setting foot on the Caloundra surface he’s not completely ignorant of how it plays, he’s watched many races from the club on TV when Damian Browne has been riding.
The two have a long history together and even though Browne will be his rival on one of the favourites Woorim, he still expects a little bit of friendly advice as well.
“Damien and I rode together a lot in the South Island of New Zealand when we were apprentices and we’ve stayed close mates,” he said.
This will be only the horses second start under his new trainers after transferring from the Waterhouse Stable after the Randwick Guineas run.
They decided to get rid of the horse after they found a sever tendon injury in his leg, something his new trainers are very wary of.
“He had an operation to cut the check ligament and then a long time resting. We bought him into the stable for a couple of short preparations trotting on a firm road,” Simpson said.
“He spends a lot of time now on the water walker and the leg is iced every day but so far there has been no soreness with the tendon.”
He’ll be a big chance on Saturday if he can recapture some of his form of old, the horse proving to be consistent at all grades.
His career record only shows two wins from 14 starts but he’s also placed seven times.
Most notably is a string of third placed finishes at the end of 2009 in the Champion Stakes, AAMI Vase and Victoria Derby.
Not only will Viking Hero be O’Brien’s first ever ride north of the border, he’ll also be Simpson’s first runner in Queensland since Midnight Star ran unplaced at Doomben way back in 2002.