Aidan O'Brien in a league of his own

Sat 28 Oct 2017

It seems Aidan O'Brien has been breaking records from almost the day he first took out a licence.

That he now holds the world best for number of top-level winners trained in a calendar year seems only fitting for a man who has been crowned champion Irish Flat trainer in terms of prize-money won in every season since 1999.

O'Brien - no relation to his namesake Vincent O'Brien, the original master of Ballydoyle in County Tipperary - began his career with Curragh trainer PJ Finn and was later assistant trainer to both Jim Bolger and Annemarie Crowley, whom he was later to marry.

O'Brien, 47, took out his trainer's licence in 1993, being based at Piltown in County Kilkenny - from where his son, Joseph, now trains after hanging up his very successful riding boots - and his first winner was Wandering Thoughts at Tralee in June of that year.

It was actually in the National Hunt world he first made his name, becoming the first trainer to saddle a 1-2-3 in the 1995 Galway Plate, led home by Life Of A Lord, who went on to win the Kerry National at Listowel and the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown, before going back to Galway to claim a second consecutive victory in the Galway Plate.

And he will always be associated with the mighty Istabraq, three times the winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and four times victorious in the Irish equivalent.

O'Brien moved to Ballydoyle in 1996 and quickly established himself as one of the leading trainers in the world, becoming the first to win the Epsom Derby in three consecutive years when Australia won in 2014, following on from Ruler Of The World and Camelot.

Camelot's success was all the more remarkable as it was the first father/son (Joseph), trainer/jockey partnership to win a British Classic. O'Brien's first Classic had come with the appropriately-named Classic Park in the 1997 Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

At Royal Ascot in 2015, O'Brien saddled eight winners over the five days. Minding gave O'Brien his 250th Group/Grade One winner on the Flat when taking the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2016.

He saddled his 50th winner at Royal Ascot when Even Song won last year's Ribblesdale Stakes. In October of the same year, he recorded an unprecedented 1-2-3 in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly when the Ryan Moore-ridden Found led home Highland Reel and Order Of St George.

O'Brien recorded his 70th European Classic success when Churchill landed the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh in May. The same colt had won Guineas at Newmarket three weeks earlier.

There have been so many champions for Wexford-born O'Brien - the likes of Galileo, High Chaparral, Hawk Wing, Giant's Causeway, Rock Of Gibraltar, Fame And Glory and so many others - and he bagged his 300th Group/Grade One winner (Flat and National Hunt combined) when Highland Reel took the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

His daughter Ana rode in the English and Irish Derby this year, but suffered a terrible fall at Killarney in July and continues to recover from her injuries, while son Donnacha also rides to a high level and was in both races.

Another daughter, Sarah, has had her share of success, too, further cementing the family's racing dynasty.

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