Thursday 24th of May 2018

Racing: In Aidan we trust

The flat season has now really moved up a gear with the first Classics of the season and two Derby Trials already ticked off the list, writes Vanessa Ryle.

Newmarket’s Guineas weekend provided us with new three-year-old stars but in truth there was a feeling that somehow we have all been here before.

Aidan O’Brien watches Churchill go to post for the 2000 Guineas
Newmarket © Edward Whitaker

To say Aidan O’Brien has dominated this Spring would be an understatement as he trained both the 2000 Guineas winner in Churchill and the 1000 Guineas winner in Winter, both by Galileo and both owned by ‘the Lads’ at Coolmore. On top of that he has had a 1-2-3 in the recent prolific Derby Trials and now has the top two in the Epsom Classic betting as well as plenty more options to fire too.

Churchill (Ryan Moore) after winning the 2000 Guineas © Edward Whitaker

It was the third time O’Brien has trained the English Guineas double and it takes his total Guineas wins in England to 12. Pretty impressive, but have we now got to a stage where we take the genius for granted?

Most flat trainers would retire happy if they had one Guineas win to their name but Aidan manages to produce the goods time and time again and we’re only scratching the surface by reeling off his Guineas record. He also has 5 Derbys, 6 Oaks, 4 St Legers and 11 Irish Derbys to his name plus many more Classic and Group successes. Just think about those numbers for a minute. Yet when he produces yet another Guineas double we all clap our hands politely and say “that was good” before turning the race card page and attempting to find the winner of the next. Is everyone bored of the dominance already?

Winter (Wayne Lordan) wins the 1000 Guineas
Newmarket © Edward Whitaker

I am under no illusion that he has the full set of ammunition to fuel his success. From the support of the breeding empire that is Coolmore, to the first class training facilities and the expertise of one of the best jockeys we have ever seen in Ryan Moore, but don’t let that take away from Aidan’s genius.

We run out of superlatives for the man and I know when achievements become “normal” it is then hard to herald them as something special but year on year I think to myself “This is the season others will catch up, this is the season it won’t be deja vu ”. Then BANG, in flies Aidan and his team, WOOOSH over the Group race winning line they go and WALLOP out Aidan walks with his trophies. Obviously it isn’t as simple as that but a lot of the time it must surely seem that way to any part time racing fans and followers. So when, if at all, will everyone else catch up?

Remember when Federer dominated every single Grand Slam tennis tournament from around 2003 to 2009? Some competitors may have had a bit of luck when Roger had a bad day but in truth they never really got a handle on him in that era. Then eventually everyone else started to up their game and all of a sudden Rogers superiority margin started to dwindle. In the racing world the current domination has similar ingredients to the years of the Martin Pipe/AP McCoy era. Where together with the training methods and facilities the combination were unstoppable and took all before them. Other jumps trainers finally cottoned on to what Pipe was doing and then eventually his rule at head of the trainer’s table came to an end.

I wonder if a similar situation may happen with Aidan? Will other trainers eventually catch up and perhaps only then will we really appreciate what Aidan achieved in these current times? It is very rare that any sport can be dominated by one individual for very long periods and nothing stays the same forever so surely in time factors will change and then Aidan’s grip on the Flat Trainers Championship may falter at some point but to be honest I can’t see that happening any time soon.

Aidan O’Brien leads Winter (Wayne Lordan) out for the 1000 Guineas Newmarket © Edward Whitaker


I am aware many feel that the Aidan O’Brien bandwagon rolling on is uncompetitive and “boring” but I would suggest looking at it from a different angle. Instead of claiming it as boring why can’t we appreciate it for what it is – a genuinely very talented man and team guiding beautifully bred thoroughbreds to their best potential on the track, something everyone in racing is aiming for. It is no mean feat and not everyone can do it so I don’t find the Aidan era boring, quite the opposite, I find it fascinating.

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