Aidan O’Brien Profile
|Born||Oct 16, 1969|
The calm and collected Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has proven the power of the Ballydoyle stables and Coolmore stud by winning the Epsom Derby a record eight times.
The presence of the 22 times Irish Champion flat trainer in the parade ring is an ominous sight for opponents with O'Brien collecting the majority of the world's top Group One races in his stellar career.
On top of his eight Epsom Derby wins, O'Brien has won the Irish Derby 14 times, the Newmarket 2000 Guineas 10 times, The Breeder's Cup Turf on six occasions and also collected a pair of Prix de l'Arc De Triomphe victories.
The early years
Given the military operation at O'Brien's Ballydoyle stables, it is strange to think that his early dealings with horses was more informal on his father Denis' farm in Killegney, County Wexford.
Life could have been very different, as a young O'Brien had to leave school at 17 and work as a fork-lift truck driver after his father became ill. But, O'Brien was mad about horses, reading the Coolmore catalogue while other teenagers read football magazines, and it was fate that the young O'Brien would one day work with the famous stud farm.
O'Brien's father let him train six horses on the family farm, none would ever race but it cemented a desire within the ambitious young man to seek a career in horse racing.
He got a job working in real Irish horse racing country, for PJ Finn at the Curragh, and then moved on to the respected Jim Bolger yard at Coolcullen.
From there O'Brien made the momentous decision to move to work with Joe Crowley at Carriganog.
Not only did the late trainer Crowley teach O'Brien much of his horsemanship but O'Brien also married his daughter Anne-Marie, herself a capable trainer.
National Hunt trainer
For such a precocious talent, it was natural that O'Brien would pick up Ireland's leading amateur jumps jockey gong in 1993/4, almost for kicks, in the same year that he took out his training licence.
Of course, O'Brien would win his first race with his first ever runner as a trainer in June 1993 as Wandering Thoughts got up at Tralee.
It is fair to say that O'Brien hit the ground running in his first season training over jumps.
Aged 24, he rattled home 176 winners, winning the Irish National Hunt trainers' title at the first time of asking. He won it another four times on the spin after that too.
In 1995, O'Brien showed a glimpse of future mob-handed tactics by training the first three home in the Galway Plate as Life Of a Lord, Kelly's Pearl and Loshian finished one, two and three.
Although the famous green and gold silks of leading owner JP McManus are more associated now with horses handled by Nicky Henderson, Phillip Hobbs et al, it was Aidan O'Brien who trained perhaps his greatest ever hurdler-Istabraq.
Out of the famous Coolmore sire Sadler's Wells, Istabraq was bred for the flat but took to hurdles like a fish to water.
Istabraq won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham three years in a row between 1997 and 2000, while also taking the Irish equivalent five times.
O'Brien had shown his versatility with Istabraq but his future was very much on the flat with Ballydoyle.
The name O'Brien is synonymous with the imposing Ballydoyle stables in Tipperary given the late, great Vincent O'Brien helped establish the centre of equine excellence in the 1950's.
The name was just a happy coincidence as there is no relation between the two, but Aidan O'Brien was nonetheless chosen to take over from his namesake by head honcho John Magnier in 1996.
The Ballydoyle Stables is known as a five-star workplace for horses with replica gallops of Epsom and Ascot and every conceivable facility to produce outstanding animals.
Again, O'Brien hit the ground running, winning his first Group One on the flat with Desert King in the National Stakes at the Curragh in September 1996. Desert King would go on to win the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish Derby, giving O'Brien his first taste of classic success.
O'Brien then started an assault on the English Classics, collecting his first 2000 Guineas winner at Newmarket with King of Kings and then the Epsom Oaks with the talented filly Shahtoush.
Ballydoyle in the noughties
The trainer with nerves of steel had an "Iron Horse" on his hands at the new millennium as Giant's Causeway proved a consistent winner in 2000.
The American bred Giant's Causeway counted the great Secretariat in his bloodline and collected several notable wins including the Group One St James' Palace Stakes and the Sussex Stakes.
The 2001 victory for O'Brien's Galileo in the Epsom Derby was monumental, not just in the scope of the win but in the breeding potential for what would become Coolmoore's star sire.
Galileo's prize money for the Magnier connections was £580,000 but has earned many times that through his breeding, with offspring including the superlative Frankel.
O'Brien became Champion Trainer in England during the same year, the first Irishman to do so since Vincent O'Brien in 1971.
The O'Brien trained Rock of Gibraltar bought a record seven Group One wins in a row in 01/02 and also a legal wrangle between the horse's owners the Magniers and the Manchester United football manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Hawk Wing became the highest Timeform rated O'Brien horse in training at 136 after success in the 2003 Lockinge Stakes, while High Chaparral won back-to-back Breeders Cup Turfs in 2002/3.
As the decade topped out, O'Brien was to produce two class horses named after literary greats in Dylan Thomas and Yeats.
Dylan Thomas was poetry in motion in 2007 when winning the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes and then following up with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
Yeats, named after the famous Irish poet, was fluent as early as 2006, winning his first Ascot Gold Cup and then taking the marathon race a further three times in a row, setting a record in the process.
Aiden O'Brien in the last decade
By 2010, the O'Brien operation was bolstered by the entry of Aidan's son Joseph O'Brien as a jockey. Like his father, Joseph O'Brien showed plenty of early promise in the saddle, winning the Weatherbys Insurance Â£300,000 2-Y-O Stakes in September 2011 on 20/1 outsider Reply.
O'Brien Jnr would fly out to the USA to bring home the 2011 Breeders' Cup Turf on St Nicholas Abbey. At just 18, Joseph O'Brien became the youngest ever jockey to win the Churchill Downs marquee race.
Not content, the father-son combination teamed up again to spear the opposition in the 2012 Derby with Camelot. Again, records were tumbling as it represented the first father/son combination to win the Epsom event.
Not prone to doing things by halves, Aidan O'Brien won the Derby twice more in succession making a record hat-trick of consecutive Epsom Derby wins.
Ruler of the World was an apt name for O'Brien's Derby winner in 2013 while Australia turned the world upside down to take the big Epsom race, giving O'Brien his epic three-timer.
Found certainly wasn't lost in the field when winning the Breeders' Cup Turf for O'Brien in 2015 and then going on to take the Prix de l'Arc De Triomphe in October 2016. The race had been moved to Chantilly, as Longchamp was being renovated, but it didn't seem to bother the Ballydoyle stable who returned home the top three in the race with Highland Reel and Order of St George following Found home.
In 2016, O'Brien equalled Sir Henry Cecil's record of seven winners at the Royal Ascot meeting.
Cecil had the honour of training the superlative Frankel but O'Brien got one over the man the horse was named after. In 2017 O'Brien surpassed U.S trainer Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Group One wins in a calendar year when Saxon Warrior won the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
O'Brien went on to 28 Group One victories that season in a staggering training achievement.
Saxon Warrior went on to rack up O'Brien's 300th career Group One success when winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2018.
In 2019, O'Brien tightened his grip on the Epsom Derby, a race he's won so many times the engraver is tired of etching his name. Anthony Van Dyck showed plenty of gears in the pink Magnier, Tabor and Smith colours to score by half a length from Madhmoon.
Serpentine Derby 2020 controversial win
At the start of the 2020 Epsom Derby, all televisual eyes were on Andrew Balding's 2000 Guineas winner Kameko.
Yet, the 5/2 favourite was never in it as O'Brien's 25/1 outsider Serpentine made all to claim a shock five and a half-length win in a behind-closed-doors Derby.
COVID-19 meant there were no racegoers in attendance but the shocked silence would have been similar if the place had been full, as Serpentine opened up a 12 length lead round Tattenham Corner and was never headed.
The third string jockey Emmet McNamara, on the horse named after the London lake, had the rest drowning as he surged home from 50/1 long-shot Khalifa Sat in second.
Post-race there was controversy as the first three horses after a furlong and half were the same horses that filled the first three positions at the post.
That didn't stop O'Brien from claiming yet another record in becoming the winning-most trainer in Epsom Derby history with eight victories. That number of wins in the world's greatest flat race shows what an irrepressible force Aidan O'Brien is.
Aidan O'Brien is married to Anne-Marie O'Brien. Anne-Marie was a decent trainer herself and won the 1993/94 Irish Jumps Jockeys' Championship.
Together they have four children Joseph, Sarah, Anastasia and Donnacha, all who have tasted success as jockeys.
With a notoriously strict work ethic, O'Brien has little time for other pursuits outside of racing.
"I don't have any other interest - not another thing. This is my golf and everything rolled into one. The only time I'm not here is when I'm at the races for a few hours - you need every minute of the day to get it all together and you need to stay as fresh as you can the whole time."
Aidan O’Brien News
- May 23, 2022
- May 19, 2022