Dark clouds gather over Ballydoyle

So, the rumours that were rife for weeks, regarding Aidan O’Brien’s future at Ballydoyle, finally found their way into the media over the last seven days or so.

Dark clouds gather over Ballydoyle

It seems matters came to a head somewhat at York’s Ebor meeting, with persistent word that the rather sensational David O’Meara was set to-be-installed as the new Ballydoyle maestro.

That particular rumour, of course, had been doing the rounds here at home for weeks prior to York.

O’Meara has since categorically denied he has ever been approached by anyone from Coolmore about Ballydoyle and that is the end of the matter, one supposes.

In any case whatever about the possibility of O’Meara replacing O’Brien what isn’t in doubt is that there are clearly major tensions between O’Brien and the Coolmore partners.

At the start of the season, Ryan Moore was unveiled as the new Ballydoyle number one rider, with weight problems cited as the reason why Joseph O’Brien had to be replaced.

Joseph, however, following a couple of less than auspicious attempts over flights, soon had his weight under control, but the bird had essentially flown and Moore was, by then, safely sitting in the best seat in the house.

When Moore enjoyed an amazing Royal Ascot it simply confirmed that getting him on board full time was an inspired decision.

But then Moore suffered a neck injury and there is no indication will be returning to action any time soon.

And, it seems, that has meant much tension has again arisen between O’Brien and “the lads”.

Let’s cut to the chase here. My understanding is that one of the partners does not want Joseph riding the Ballydoyle horses, at least not in the top races.

I gather the situation may have reared its head before the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. That contest had been mapped out for the star three-year-old, the dual 2000 Guineas winner, Gleneagles.

The son of Galileo, of course, wasn’t actually declared because of the likelihood of soft ground, although the surface rode good on the day.

Then at York, O’Brien was anxious to run Gleneagles in the Juddmonte International, with Joseph in the plate.

Joseph was certainly going to ride the horse, although it seems at least one of the partners was less than happy with the arrangement.

As it transpired Gleneagles was again forced to miss out. O’Brien wisely decided against running him, on rain-softened ground and over a trip that was much further, two and a half furlongs, than he had travelled previously.

Had Gleneagles run it is more than interesting that Joseph would have done 8-12, a weight he hasn’t ridden at all season.

It is also interesting to note he was not on Found, when the hot-pot landed a Group 3 at the Curragh last Sunday. Like Gleneagles, she was also on 8-12, with Seamie Heffernan assigned to do the driving.

It is not, obviously, the first time controversy has raged during O’Brien’s tenure at Ballydoyle.

Why, for instance, did the greatest flat jockey this country has ever produced, Michael Kinane, leave Ballydoyle when at the peak of his powers?

Why did the second best flat jockey Ireland has ever seen, Johnny Murtagh, also leave Ballydoyle rather earlier than might have been anticipated?

Then there was Jamie Spencer, who was barely settled into the job when he was on his way. None of those cases has ever really been adequately explained and probably never will!

What’s next? Well, we have to be forgiven for thinking that for Aidan O’Brien to continue to train at Ballydoyle someone has to blink first.

If O’Brien was to decide to move his family from Ballydoyle at any time in the near future, or was requested to do so, then there is a ready-made facility waiting for him at Piltown in Co Kilkenny.

But would it actually make any sense to break up a team that has proved so wildly successful and must have even surprised, at least mildly, the overall supremo at Ballydoyle-Coolmore, John Magnier?

Aidan O’Brien has proved to be one of the greatest success stories in Irish sporting history and there will be no winners should he ever depart Ballydoyle before his time.

Magnier will be well aware that he may find another Galileo, Danehill Dancer, Kinane, Murtagh or Moore, but is unlikely to ever find another O’Brien.

Ballydoyle-Coolmore has a well-known policy of never commenting on speculation, and who can argue with that. It has clearly served them quite nicely over the years.

Basically everyone - the media and the general racing public alike - will be left to do just that, speculate, until Coolmore decides, if needs be, to issue a statement. That statement may never be deemed necessary.

We can be virtually certain nothing will happen before the end of this current campaign and it will, at least on the surface, be business as usual. But next season…!

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