O’Brien has an uncanny ability for getting it right on the big day, writes Pat Keane.
You don’t need to be Mystic Meg to work out that jumping on the Aidan O’Brien bandwagon is the way to go for the rest of the flat campaign.
The two-day meeting at Newmarket last weekend re-emphasised that, when it comes to O’Brien, you are looking at is a trainer who is out of the ordinary.
Add in a 1-2-3 for O’Brien in last Sunday’s Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, and another 1-2-3 for him in Thursday’s Chester Vase, and what you are dealing with is a modern-day phenomenon.
At Newmarket, he targeted five races and won four of them. O’Brien took the 2000 Guineas with Churchill, the 1000 Guineas with Winter and his Seventh Heaven and Somehow landed Group 2’s. His Washington DC was beaten a neck into second by Marsha in a 15-runner Group 3 over five furlongs.
O’Brien has an uncanny ability; it goes back a long time, including those great days with Istabraq over flights, for getting it right on the big day.
Somehow and Winter are two cases that emphasise the point. All the evidence indicated Somehow being at her best with an ease in the surface.
Prior to Newmarket, she ran at Gowran Park just seven days earlier. On soft ground, Somehow overcame trouble in running to score easily in the end. It wasn’t the first occasion she signposted an apparent liking for such conditions.
The ground was completely different at Newmarket, good to firm, but she floated across it to win in a canter and indicate there may well be a big season ahead for her.
Winter then beat the poorly Ryan Moore-ridden Rhododendron in the 1000 Guineas later on Sunday and this was some training performance.
The daughter of Galileo ran three times for David Wachman last season, ending by taking her maiden at Dundalk in August.
As a result, she arrived at Ballydoyle with a relatively low rating of 89 and the notion she might win any sort of classic bordered on fanciful.
But a first outing for O’Brien showed her rating was now miles wide of the mark. She contested a Group 3 at Leopardstown last month and was beaten a head into second by Hydrangea (111), with Rehana (107) three parts of a length further away in third.
There was nothing for it then, presumably, but to attempt another massive rise in class and head to Newmarket for the 1000 Guineas, off a new rating of 106.
That, realistically, still left her way short of what was required, considering Rhododendron had 10lbs in hand of her.
But, with Winter enjoying a dream run from start to finish, under Wayne Lordan, she had two lengths to spare over Rhododendron, after she had been the recipient of a drive that would have embarrassed a 7lbs claimer.
In contrast, of course, Moore was seen at his brilliant best the previous afternoon when guiding Churchill to a smooth success in the 2000 Guineas.
There is little flashy about Churchill, but he gets the job done and O’Brien’s next move with him will be fascinating.
Already the experts are being wheeled out as to whether or not he should now head the Epsom Derby route, given the doubts regarding his stamina on the dam’s side.
But let’s leave the experts to enjoy their fun and just wait for O’Brien, after he’s chatted to “the lads’’, to tell us his decision, before getting too caught up in the subject.
That Guineas double set you thinking about what O’Brien has achieved so far in his career, having been installed at Ballydoyle in 1996.
Many of us grew up believing Vincent O’Brien was irreplaceable and that no one could ever be spoken of in the same breath. We were wrong.
Aidan O’Brien is self-effacing, modest and shy. I suspect that if you began to make comparisons with Vincent O’Brien he would run a mile.
In his world, when something goes wrong it is nearly always his fault and when going right, as it frequently does, then the credit is spread far and wide, with O’Brien at the bottom of the pyramid.
He was certainly not born to be a public speaker and is not in the same league as say John Gosden or Dermot Weld when a microphone is shoved in his direction, but is in a different league when it comes to training horses.
You can argue he has so much going for him, he would be the first to make that case, with Coolmore, Ballydoyle and the mighty Galileo on his side
But it is O’Brien who stitches all the many pieces together and, no matter how much he plays it down, this man is a genius.
O’Brien is just 47 and it is staggering to compare his record with Vincent’s. O’Brien senior won 16 British classics, but Aidan is already on 27. Vincent won 27 Irish classics, but Aidan is currently on 35.
It is essentially only when it comes to the Epsom Derby that Aidan trails Vincent, the score being 5-6. But otherwise Aidan has outstripped Vincent in every aspect when it comes to winning British classics.
Aidan has won the Oaks six times to Vincent’s two, it is 4-1 in the 1000 Guineas, 8-4 in the 2000 Guineas, and 4-3 in the Leger.
It would be quite wrong to try and make the case that Aidan O’Brien is a better trainer than his namesake and Vincent O’Brien’s record isn’t all about flat racing.
His earlier exploits in the National Hunt game are the stuff of legend. Indeed, comparing the records of sportspeople that are generations apart can be grossly unfair.
But is surely entirely fair to at least mention Aidan in the same sentence as Vincent. Aidan has many years of training ahead of him, if that’s what he wants and continues to enjoy good health, and his record, when finally pulling the plug, could literally be anything. In the meantime, we’ll just continue to go along for the ride!
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