Born in Wexford on 16 October, 1969, Aidan Patrick O’Brien has been nothing short of a training phenomenon.
After a spell with Jim Bolger, he became assistant to his now wife, Anne-Marie, and her father Joe Crowley, before taking over the reins when granted a licence to train himself in 1993.
His impact on the Flat was made with backing of the highest calibre in the shape of John Magnier and Coolmore, who offered O’Brien the use of Ballydoyle Stables, where the trainer’s namesake, legendary Irish handler Vincent O’Brien (no relation), had enjoyed so much success.
In 1997, in only his third season at the helm of the Tipperary yard, he confirmed his intentions on the Flat when winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Irish 2,000 Guineas and Irish Derby. The following year, his first British Classic runner, King Of Kings, won the 2,000 Guineas and the second, Shahtoush, finished runner-up in the following day’s 1,000 Guineas and went on to land the Investec Oaks a month later.
The successes have since flowed thanks to the likes of Giant’s Causeway (five successive Group Ones in 2000), Stravinsky, Fasliyev and an embarrassment of riches in 2001 that yielded 23 Group One successes headed by Galileo, who triumphed in the Investec Derby and the Irish Derby as well as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Other Classic glory came via Imagine (Irish 1,000 Guineas and Investec Oaks), Black Minnaloushe (Irish 2,000 Guineas), Rose Gypsy (French 1,000 Guineas) and Milan (St Leger) while Mozart became champion sprinter and O’Brien totally dominated the two-year-old division as Johannesburg provided him with a first Breeders’ Cup success in the 2001 Juvenile at Belmont Park.
He was champion trainer in both Britain and Ireland in 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2008.
In 2002 he enjoyed success with the remarkable Rock Of Gibraltar (the only horse to win seven European Group Ones in a row including the 2,000 Guineas).
His prowess on the Flat is matched by his achievements with his jumpers. He will forever be associated with Istabraq, winner of three Champion Hurdles.
Rock Of Gibraltar and Hawk Wing gave O’Brien a 1-2 in the 2002 2,000 Guineas while High Chaparral and Hawk Wing provided him with the first and second in the 2002 Investec Derby.
The following season he sent out Yesterday to win the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Brian Boru triumphed at Doncaster in the Ladbrokes St Leger. O’Brien enjoyed further success with Hawk Wing in the Lockinge Stakes and High Chaparral in the Irish Champion Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2003.
He had an incredible Classic double at Newmarket in the spring of 2005 when he won both the 2,000 Guineas (Footstepsinthesand) and the 1000 Guineas (Virginia Waters), and added a third British Classic with Scorpion’s success in the St Leger at Doncaster. Oratorio captured the Coral-Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes, and O’Brien also unleashed a raft of high-class two-year-olds, ending the season with the top-rated European juvenile colt (George Washington) and filly (Rumplestiltskin).
George Washington captured the 2000 Guineas and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 2006, while Alexandrova took the Investec Oaks as well as the Irish and Yorkshire equivalents, and Dylan Thomas won the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes. O’Brien enjoyed further Classic success in 2007 with Soldier Of Fortune in the Irish Derby, Peeping Fawn in the Irish Oaks and Astronomer Royal in the French 2,000 Guineas, while Dylan Thomas collected the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
In 2008, O’Brien carried all before him winning six Classics – Henrythenavigator (English & Irish 2,000 Guineas), Halfway To Heaven (Irish 1,000 Guineas), Frozen Fire (Irish Derby) Moonstone (Irish Oaks) and Septimus (Irish St Leger) – as well as five Group One contests courtesy of Duke Of Marmalade, whose triumphs have included the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Juddmonte International.
O’Brien won the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 2009 with Mastercraftsman, the trainer’s ninth consecutive Irish Classic success. Other records to have fallen to O’Brien in 2009 included a record seventh victory in the Irish Derby with Fame And Glory and Yeats winning an unprecedented fourth Ascot Gold Cup. Rip Van Winkle took two British Group Ones, Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes.
Pictured above: Aidan O’Brien and Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the Course at Epsom on Derby day 2009.
Investec Derby Record: 1998 Second Empire (8th), Saratoga Springs (10th), King Of Kings (15th); 1999 Saffron Walden (7th); 2000 Aristotle (10th); 2001 GALILEO (1st); 2002 HIGH CHAPARRAL (1st), Hawk Wing (2nd), Louisville (9th); 2003 The Great Gatsby (2nd), Balestrini (5th), Alberto Giacometti (12th), Brian Boru (16th); 2004 Meath (14th); 2005 Gypsy King (5th), Grand Central (9th), Oratorio (10th), Almighty (12th); 2006 Dylan Thomas (3rd), Mountain (8th), Septimus (12th), Horatio Nelson (PU); 2007 Eagle Mountain (2nd), Soldier Of Fortune (5th), Yellowstone (8th), Acapulco (9th), Admiralofthefleet (10th), Mahler (11th), Anton Chekhov (12th), Archipenko (17th), 2008 Washington Irving (5th), Alessandro Volta (6th), 2008 Frozen Fire (11th), 2008 King Of Rome (12th), 2008 Bashkirov (15th); 2009 Fame And Glory (2nd), 2009 Masterofthehorse (3rd), 2009 Rip Van Winkle (4th), 2009 Golden Sword (5th), 2009 Age Of Aquarius (7th), 2009 Black Bear Island (10th)
Allison is the Publisher of Eclipse Magazine. She loves going to the Races and is learning to bet (despite being officially the worst bettor in the History of the Universe), there’s a lot more to learn…