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Experienced rider Tom O'Brien amazed by attention following 1,000th career winner

Tom O'Brien is not new to being under the radar, having spent most of his illustrious career as number-two rider to only Richard Johnson at Philip Hobbs' Sandhill Stables.

Watching Richard Johnson, who is in second place behind Sir Anthony McCoy in the list of all-time winners for jump jockeys, at first motivated O'Brien to join the side, but the move meant playing a second fiddle role.

While Richard Johnson stole most of the publicity with his heroic battles to keep stride with McCoy, Tom O'Brien was silently adding winners of his own, riding more than 105 in his best campaign in 2006-07 and he was frequently on racing accumulators during that campaign.

When Richard Johnson announced he was retiring earlier in the year, Tom O'Brien stepped up into his shoes and on Sunday included his name to a prominent list of riders to have ridden 1000 winners in their career in Ireland and Britain, with a win on Head-On at Worcester.

O'Brien told Sky Sports Racing during an interview, "I'm very proud,"

"I thought it'd just be my wife and I going for a steak dinner after to celebrate, I didn't realise that it'd make headlines. It wasn't until then that I really appreciated it.

"It's all I've ever dreamed of to be a jump jockey and I'm delighted to reach that landmark."

Talking about his journey to the apex, he said: "I was riding out for Aidan [O'Brien] and Ballydoyle and always watching jump racing through the winter and was really interested in English jump racing.

"My dad took me over to Cheltenham and I was there for Rooster Booster's win [2003 Champion Hurdle].

"We got there early every day and I remember watching Richard Johnson and thinking that's all I wanted to do.

"From day one he [Johnson] has always helped me along and he's very easy to approach. Any question, any time, even now.

"All the way through he was been helpful, but that's the man he is."

Of a truth, the journey has not always been smooth sailing for the 34-year-old jockey, managing fewer than 35 winners in his last two complete campaigns, but he has learned to exercise patience and trust the process.

Questioned if he had ever thought of leaving his position with Hobbs, Tom O'Brien said: "I was always very keen to stay because I loved working at Sandhill with all the team.

"My agent Dave Roberts has always done a wonderful job of keeping me busy and satisfied, which wouldn't have been easy.

"It can be frustrating, very up and down but you've got to stick at it. Sometimes it's hard to see the winners coming but if you don't turn up then they definitely won't."

Meanwhile, Former champion rider Richard Johnson said he could not reject the opportunity to help solicit funds for racing charities by taking part in this year's Mondialiste Leger Legends Classified Stakes holding at Doncaster.

In April, Johnson retired after an illustrious career which saw him ride more victors over jumps than any other rider bar Sir Anthony McCoy - who in 2015 won the Legends race.