Aidan O’Brien has been the private trainer at Ballydoyle for John Magnier since 1996 and has enjoyed spectacular success in the past 25 years.
You name it, O’Brien has won it. Probably more than once.
He has accumulated 38 Classic triumphs in Britain – including a record eight Derby wins and ten QIPCO 2000 Guineas triumphs. And in his native Ireland he has won 44, with 14 Irish Derby victories to his name.
His Derby heroes at Epsom have been Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002), Camelot (2012), Ruler Of the World (2013), Australia (2014), Wings Of Eagles (2017), Anthony Van Dyck (2019) and Serpentine (2020).
Success has bred more success. For instance, Galileo has long-been the most influential stallion in the world, his outstanding offspring including the mighty Frankel.
In 2017, O’Brien’s horses achieved a world record 28 Group 1 wins, beating the previous record of 26 achieved by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003. He won no fewer of the 13 of the 35 QIPCO British Champions Series races.
His Series victors that year alone were: Churchill (QIPCO 2000 Guineas), Winter (QIPCO 1000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Qatar Nassau Stakes), Highland Reel (Investec Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales’s Stakes), Wings Of Eagles (Investec Derby), Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup), Roly Poly (Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes and Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes), Capri (William Hill St Leger), Order Of St George (QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup) and Hydrangea (QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares).
Their exploits also made a fourth trainers’ title for him inevitable – and he has since won a fifth.
The previous year he had trained the first three home in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – Found beating Highland Reel and Order Of St George.
Saxon Warrior provided him with a 300th Group 1 success when landing the QIPCO 2000 Guineas in 2018.
He has won Group 1 races in nine different countries and before dominating on the Flat was a five-time champion jumps’ trainer in Ireland, with his best horse being triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq.
One of the few big races to have eluded him has been the Emirates Melbourne Cup. But his son, Joseph, has scooped it twice.
O’Brien is a deep thinker who does not drink alcohol. When asked for future running plans of his horses, he will often make reference to “the lads” – his powerful Coolmore associates who have one eye on the racing and another on their immense breeding operation.
One of six children and the son of a farmer, O’Brien is not related to the legendary Vincent O’Brien, who he succeeded at Ballydoyle. His father, Denis, was a farmer and small-scale trainer in Killegney, County Wexford, where he grew up. He attended Donard National School, located less than a mile from his parents’ home. He subsequently attended secondary school at Good Counsel College, also in County Wexford.
O’Brien first started working professionally with horses at P.J. Finn’s racing stables at the Curragh, and then he subsequently worked for Jim Bolger at Coolcullen.
He is married to Anne-Marie, daughter of later trainer Joe Crowley. They have four children, with Joseph, Sarah, Ana and Donnacha all becoming jockeys.
Joseph enjoyed giddy days as Ballydoyle’s No 1 rider before announcing he was quitting the saddle in March 2016 to concentrate on his own training career. Donnacha also enjoyed great success for Coolmore and his father during a brief career in the saddle before also turning to training.
If a horse trained by O’Brien Sr does not beat the opposition, then one trained by O’Brien Jr just might.