O'Brien shows thinking outside the box will be a potent weapon for 2018
Joseph O'Brien has every reason to be striding confidently into the new year after a 2017 gilded by Melbourne Cup glory with Rekindling, and he can do so with a new attribute to call upon.
Thinking outside the box has been added to an already glittering CV.
O'Brien had ten runners on Thursday at three different tracks in two different countries and ended the day with four winners, the accumulator paying a whopping 4,171-1.
The lights might not have been as bright as at Flemington or indeed Galway, but a four-timer over the festive period is not to be sniffed at and it proved O'Brien can pick out suitable races for his huge string no matter where they are.
Hardback won the 2m novice handicap hurdle at Leopardstown at 16-1 and Alighted made a winning debut in the bumper at the same track. He also returned at 16-1.
High Sparrow justified 13-8 favouritism in the bumper at Limerick, but perhaps it was the victory of Art Nouvelle in a 6f Class 5 handicap at Lingfield later that night which raised most eyebrows. How could a race like that possibly come into his head on such a busy day in Ireland?
Explaining the blue-sky thinking, O'Brien said: "To be perfectly honest, I had pencilled in that exact race for Art Nouvelle for about three weeks ago, maybe more.
"There was nothing suitable at Dundalk so I had to go through the calendar and find something appropriate. Just because the most suitable race for her was at Lingfield didn't make any difference. It was the right race for her and she needed to run there."
He added: "The double at Leopardstown came as a surprise to me. I knew they were both nice horses but I thought they had their work cut out in the races they were in. For the other horse to win the bumper at Limerick was great."
Good horses solve only half of the equation, good staff completes the puzzle and O'Brien believes he is blessed with a superb squad.
He said: "I have a brilliant team and it's because of them that Thursday happened. It would not have been possible without them.
"We had a few lads in Limerick, a few in Leopardstown and Tina Evans went over to Lingfield with Art Nouvelle. It was a real team effort and I was absolutely thrilled."
Look back on a sizzling year of racing in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual, which has 208 colour pages packed with the best stories and pictures of 2017. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858