When talking about the greatest horse trainers of all time, Aidan O’Brien’s name has to come into the equation. The Irishman has established himself as one of the dominant forces in racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, with his Ballydoyle horses often producing the best performances and landing the biggest prizes.
When analysing the race odds ahead of any major flat racing event, O’Brien-trained horses are always ones to watch out for, and his name has become synonymous with success in the sport.
But what makes O’Brien stand head and shoulders above his contemporaries? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why the Irish trainer enjoys such success in flat racing.
O’Brien was raised in a family where looking after animals, and horses in particular, was par for the course. His father Denis was a farmer and horse trainer, and a young Aidan soon picked up the knack of how to best prepare horses for racing.
Being brought up in an animal-centric environment helped O’Brien learn the ropes, but it was by no means easy.
“When I was 14 or 15 my dad would let me train four or five of his horses at home and that was my first introduction to it and none of them made it to the track so I knew how difficult it was and how much we had to learn,” O’Brien said in a 2022 interview.
A combination of experience and hard work would eventually bring O’Brien success, but you can’t deny that the Wexford native has a unique talent for the art of horse training. His ability to get the best performances out of his charges is part of why he has been so successful.
A quote in that same 2022 interview gives an insight into O’Brien’s inherent talent of understanding the unique emotional make-up of each horse:
“I was always fascinated by horses and my dad always had difficult horses to train at home. They would have been unmanageable for other people but he would get them and sort them out. We were used to working with horses’ minds really.”
Of course, talent means nothing without hard work, and it’s clear over the last couple of decades that O’Brien has been intensely devoted to becoming the best in the business. Horse training is an unrelenting profession, with few opportunities for rest or relaxation, especially at the Ballymore stables, where O’Brien is the private trainer for John Magnier and Coolmore Stud.
Ever since earning that position in 1996, O’Brien has stopped at nothing to achieve his goals, getting some of the sport’s best jockeys onside to give his horses the best chance of winning, all while continually adapting to the ever-changing demands of modern racing.
His track record
The proof is in the pudding. O’Brien’s track record in flat racing is simply astonishing. With 41 wins, O’Brien is the most successful trainer in the history of the British Classic races, comprised of the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, The Oaks, The Derby and the St Leger Stakes.
With every passing season, O’Brien racks up dozens of winners in Ireland and the UK, and although stiff competition is emerging on both sides of the Irish Sea, O’Brien has set a gold standard in flat racing.
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