His American Craftsman made a winning hurdling debut in Wetherby’s season-opening race last month and reappears in today’s £20,000 Arkle Finance Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle, the opening day highlight of the Charlie Hall Chase meeting.
It’s a tough test. City Dream has already won twice for trainer Alan King while Paul Nicholls, who took the spoils last year with subsequent Grade Two scorer Cliffs Of Dover, saddles the highly-regarded Malaya.
However, O’Keeffe is hopeful that American Craftsman, the mount of Sheffield-born jockey Joe Colliver, will hold his own in this illustrious company.
The Coverham handler said: “American Craftsman is fine and we are very happy with him.
“We were delighted with him at Wetherby a couple of weeks ago. We knew the horse was all right and that he could jump well, but we did not expect him to win
“We think he will have improved for the experience, but he will need to if he is to make an impact in the Wensleydale.
“We know we are facing a difficult task, but he likes the track, it is local for a lot of his owners (The Fatalists), and we want to give it a go.
“The ground will be slower and, although he handles decent going well, I have always thought he wanted a bit of cut in the ground given his action.”
The classy line-up is completed by French import Eneko, who scored by 13 lengths last month for Scottish-based trainer Keith Dalgleish.
Defending champion Indian Stream, trained by Neil Mulholland and the mount of Noel Fehily, tries for a repeat success in the Listed bet365 Handicap Chase.
The weights are headed by Colin Tizzard’s Royal Vacation, who won last season’s Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton when the Daryl Jacob-ridden Might Bite fell at the final fence when well clear.
Meanwhile, jockey William Buick is confident four-time Group One winner Ribchester can round off his career in style in tomorrow night’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in America.
Though a wide draw won’t help Malton trainer Richard Fahey’s stable star, fast conditions should suit. The question will be whether the horse’s second place finish in Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes a fortnight ago left its mark – the celebrated race was staged on desperately soft ground.
Buick is hopeful the Godolphin-owned Ribchester, who is being retired to stud, will bow out on a high. “Richard has handled the horse beautifully,” the rider told the Racing Post.
“He knows the horse inside out and is a top-class trainer – he wouldn’t send him here to make up the numbers. I have every confidence the horse is here in good shape.
“He’s champion miler this year and last year, probably the best miler I’ve ridden and one of the most exciting horses I’ve ridden. He deserves to go out on a high.”