LAST night I had the pleasure of joining Ger Gilroy and Johnny Ward on their Off The Ball programme which can be listened to online (www.otbsports.com). I was asked to participate as the presenters celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first classic successes for Aidan O’Brien.
I have reason to remember the weekend well, as at the time I was working as the paddock announcer at the Curragh. I especially recall the time because the Lexus Irish 2000 Guineas winner Desert King, later to add the then Budweiser Irish Derby to his haul, was bred up the road from the racecourse, at the Irish National Stud.
Christy Roche was in the saddle for both of those headquarters wins, but the weekend started with Classic Park’s triumph in the Airlie/Coolmore Irish 1000 Guineas for Aiden, his first classic win. Stephen Craine took the mount and beat Roche on another Ballydoyle runner, the more fancied Strawberry Roan. At stud Classic Park, who raced in the colours of Lodge Park Stud’s Patricia Burns, will be remembered for a long time to come as the dam of Walk In The Park.
This weekend Aidan will have a strong battalion from Ballydoyle in action as he attempts to land his first Group 1 of the year. Should he capture either of the Guineas he would be notching up his 46th victory in an Irish classic, and the tally so far comprises 13 wins in the Irish Derby, 11 and 10 in the 2000 and 1000 Guineas respectively, nine Oaks successes and five in the Irish St Leger.
He is one of just two trainers to ever saddle the winners of all Irish classic races in a single year. For lovers of statistics, he has won Group or Grade 1 races on the flat with 173 different horses, and they have accumulated 360 wins at that level in nine different countries.
Some greats have been in the saddle for these days, but five riders have won the majority of them – Ryan Moore (92), Michael Kinane (62), Johnny Murtagh (48), Seamie Heffernan (35) and Joseph O’Brien with 31.
On the Off The Ball broadcast I tried to convey some sense of the sheer talent of Aidan O’Brien, aimed largely at a non-racing audience. Tellingly, Ger Gilroy asked if the Ballydoyle maestro’s achievements are fully celebrated and appreciated outside the world of racing. The answer is probably not, but his many accolades and successes say one thing – Aidan is simply the best.