Aidan O’Brien is 20/1 to win all ten Classics in Britain and Ireland this season and he can add two more to his tally with Churchill (Irish 2,000 Guineas) and Winter (Irish 1,000 Guineas) at the Curragh this weekend. Both horses won the English equivalents at Newmarket earlier this month and are favourites to follow up in Ireland. O’Brien continues to dominate the major races on both sides of the Irish Sea and the structure is in place to keep that going.
The trainer has the backing of the wealthy Coolmore syndicate that is made up of a number of successful Irish businessmen. The group have an amazing crop of breeding mares and stallions which perpetuates their dominance. The members love the sport and will back the faith in their horses with hard cash in the betting ring. However, the objective is to send animals proven on the track to the breeding sheds to produce the next Classic winner and they keep delivering.
O’Brien started his career training jumpers. When he is asked what is the best horse he has ever trained his answer is Istabraq. The horse won three Champion Hurdles and was denied a fourth as the 2001 Cheltenham Festival did not take place because of the foot and mouth epidemic. O’Brien has won 27 Classics in Britain and 35 in Ireland averaging over three a season across both countries. This weekend he celebrates the 20th anniversary of his first Classic win.
The O’Brien organisation is very much a family affair. Mrs O’Brien looks after the admin at the stable and there seems to be a conveyor belt of offspring who can ride horses that win races. Coolmore invest massive amounts of money into racing and breeding so O’Brien must deliver. The shy and unassuming character is in control of millions of pounds of the very best race horses and they must be looked after and prepared to win Classics and other Group contests so the pressure is immense.
O’Brien’s bosses own some of the best breeding lines in the world. They mix and match the best male and female horses to produce a steady stream of champions. It is a relentless job and in effect a group of self made Irish racing enthusiasts are taking on the vast wealth of ridiculously rich owners from Qatar and the UAE. Coolmore are always near the top of the tree and much of their success is down to the homespun philosophy adopted by O’Brien and his close family. It’s very much a team effort and all the parts contribute and work seamlessly.
The next stage of that process is sending Churchill and Winter to the Curragh this weekend to win the first two races in the Irish Classic season. The best form guide to any Classic is previous Classics which suggests both horses can bring home the bacon. On Sunday night the possibility of the clean sweep will still be realistic as O’Brien will have won the first four and it’s the English Derby and Oaks next. The trainer houses the favourite for both races so the bandwagon can roll on at Epsom.
The trainer seems content with his main chances in the two Guineas in Ireland this Saturday and Sunday. He can sometimes hype up his horses but having won both Guineas in England on this occasion he is justified. Rather than analyse their form too much its better to quote what O’Brien said in the Racing Post this week:
“Churchill has come out of Newmarket very well. Everyone associated with him has been very happy since the Guineas and it’s a case of so far so good with him. Winter has also come out of Newmarket well and all being well she will line out in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday – we’re very happy with her”
O’Brien trains from Ballydoyle where he has created an environment that produces the goods at Group 1 level. In Ryan Moore he has one of the best jockeys in the world riding his best animals in the major races. He calls his bosses at Coolmore “The Boys” but they do business like men. That means if O’Brien loses his touch or enthusiasm they will remove their horses in an instant. There are no signs of standards dropping and Churchill and Winter can keep the ball rolling this weekend.