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Aidan O’Brien Earns Top Accolade

Hall Of Fame inductee

While dreams of Triple Crown glory have gone up in smoke for City Of Troy after Saturday’s dismal showing , leading trainer Aidan O’Brien can take heart from the fact that Auguste Rodin failed to fire as a hot favourite for last year’s 2000 Guineas before bouncing back to claim Derby glory at Epsom and the Curragh! So, all is not lost.

Tributes and accolades have been awash on media since Aidan O’Brien was inducted into the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame with a small ceremony at Newmarket on Saturday.

The world’s greatest trainer – Aidan O’Brien (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

He is just the fourth trainer to be inducted and follows Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute and Vincent O’Brien. Aidan has enjoyed monumental success for more than 30 years, having secured his 4000th career victory last September.

O’Brien has enjoyed spectacular success for more than 30 years and there is no sign of his relish for smashing ceilings, pushing boundaries, or raising bars to unimaginable heights diminishing.

He chalked up his 4000th winner in September 2023 – Dermot Weld and Willie Mullins have been the only other Irish trainers to reach this figure – and has been Champion Trainer in Ireland every year since 1999, having become the youngest person to scoop the title a couple of years earlier at the age of just 26.

The 54-year-old has also been Champion Trainer in Britain six times, including in 2017 when a jaw-dropping year ended with his horses winning a world record-breaking 28 Group 1 races. Thirteen of those triumphs came in races that fell under the QIPCO British Champion Series umbrella.

The previous record holder was Bobby Frankel, the legendary American trainer who gave his name to perhaps the greatest racehorse of them all.

O’Brien didn’t train Frankel, but he played a pivotal part in his story by guiding the racing career of his sire, Galileo, the 2001 Derby winner, who would go on to change the face of the sport with his astonishing exploits at stud over the next two decades.

Galileo was O’Brien’s first Derby winner, and he has since scooped the most coveted race of them all on eight more occasions via High Chaparral, Camelot, Ruler Of The World, Australia, Wings Of Eagles, Anthony Van Dyck, Serpentine and Auguste Rodin. The premier Classic was first run in 1780 and O’Brien’s haul is simply unprecedented.

Multiples in the Classics are a recurring theme when it comes to the man whose drive off the track is matched by the determination of his horses on it. The 2000 Guineas has been secured ten times, as has the Oaks, while the 1000 Guineas (seven) and St Leger (six) have also been plundered at regular intervals.

O’Brien’s dominance in Ireland is even more pronounced, with his 48 Classic winners on home soil including 14 Derby victories. He’s also had another eight in France, meaning he is just two-short of achieving 100 Classic winners across the three countries.

In Britain, nobody has trained more winners than him in the following Group 1 races:  2000 Guineas (10 wins), The Derby (9), St James’s Palace Stakes (9), Coronation Cup (8), Dewhurt (8), Gold Cup (8), Eclipse Stakes (7), Middle Park (7), Fillies’ Mile (6), Juddmonte International (6), July Cup (5) and Cheveley Park (4). And in Ireland, the list reads: Phoenix Stakes (17), Irish Derby (14), Irish Champion Stakes (12), Irish 2000 Guineas (12), Tattersalls Gold Cup (10), Irish 1000 Guineas (9) and Irish Oaks (7).

As for Royal Ascot, O’Brien became the most successful trainer in the meeting’s rich history in 2023 when achieving his 83rd success via Paddington in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

The subsequent victories of Warm Heart and Age Of Kings extended his lead over Sir Michael Stoute, the previous record holder, before the week was over.

For good measure, he has also won top-level races in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and, of course, the United States. His exploits at the Breeders’ Cup, America’s biggest meeting of the year, include a record seven victories in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and a record six successes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Found, his winner of that race in 2015, would lead home a famous 1-2-3 for him in the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, the following year.

His successes around the globe have all been gained with good manners and grace. He is the first to offer a handshake to his conquerors and is unfailingly modest in victory. All praise is deflected to his horses, staff and jockeys. Several riders have had long and fruitful associations with him, none more so than Ryan Moore who became his No 1 in 2015.

O’Brien is closing in on 400 Group 1/Grade 1 winners on the Flat, and he has guided the careers of many of the sport’s most celebrated champions. From George Washington to Churchill; Mozart to Stravinsky, Dylan Thomas to Yeats; Australia to Luxembourg; Caravaggio to Auguste Rodin; Minding to Magical; Dick Whittington to Camelot; St Nicholas Abbey to St Marks’ Basilica; Winter to Snowfall; Rhododendron to Hydrangea; Duke Of Marmalade to Paddington; Rock Of Gibraltar to Giant’s Causeway.

And before all of them – and many, many more – came the mighty Istabraq, the three-time Champion Hurdle winner. In what now seems another lifetime, O’Brien excelled at training Jump horses and was champion Irish National Hunt trainer five years in succession in the 1990s, rattling up huge annual tallies.

O’Brien has been private trainer to John Magnier, the bloodstock colossus, since 1996, and when invited to train at Ballydoyle nearly three decades ago the weight of expectation must have been daunting, bordering on overwhelming.

Vincent O’Brien, a genius of his craft, had excelled at Ballydoyle for 50 years and had seemingly set the bar impossibly high for any successor. The baby-faced O’Brien had been making a name for himself with a plethora of Jumps winners; but this job was on another level.

If that wasn’t enough, he kept the wheels of his original base in Owning Hill rolling, despite the yards being about 25 miles apart. Amid juggling two strings under both codes (and being a champion in each sphere for a time), he and his wife Annemarie soon had four young children on their hands, too, with Joseph swiftly being followed by Sarah, Ana and Donnacha.

O’Brien’s youngsters would each go on to ride at least one winner for their father, with Joseph and Donnacha enjoying numerous victories at the highest level for him.

They have since gone on to carve their own successful training careers. Success breeding success. It is the O’Brien way.

Back to the early days at Ballydoyle. O’Brien rose to all the challenges with the big winners flowing almost from day one. In turn, Coolmore’s breeding operation soared to new heights. They worked in beautiful tandem, and, of course, still do to this day.

O’Brien is probably at his most comfortable when at home, keeping an eagle eye on his 200 equine athletes. Ballydoyle is a phenomenal place, providing a tranquil setting for horses and humans, complete with its replica of Tattenham Corner. The Derby is never far from his thoughts.

Typically, the teetotaller rises at 04h45 every day and his phone is never switched off. His most relaxing time, he has said, is early evening when he walks from yard to yard, box to box, monitoring the beautiful, bewitching animals in his care.

His life revolves around horses, horses and more horses, although he sometimes finds time to watch the odd movie in the evening (by his own admission he generally falls asleep before the finish of them) and he attends church regularly.

He encourages everyone to stay in contact with their beliefs.“You can only control the things you can control, and you don’t worry about the things you can’t,” he said at a media morning not long after Saxon Warrior had given him his 300th Group 1 victory in 2018. “You just hope there is a far greater power there that might help control the things you can’t control for you.

“That’s the reality of life for us all, really. Everyone has their own beliefs, and nobody knows who is right or wrong but it’s always a help if somebody has a belief. We do our best every day and then if there is extra help out there, we are always very grateful for it.”

O’Brien doesn’t pray for his horses, but his faith in them is unshakeable. And with good reason.

His entry into the Hall of Fame is recognition of his genius and incredible contribution to the sport. There will surely never be another quite like him.

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