AIDAN O’Brien was unable to be at the 2016 Cartier Racing Awards in London this week due to a prior commitment but recently the champion trainer received a visit from Laurent Feniou of Cartier and was presented with the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award Of Merit.
In a specially-commissioned film [which can be viewed on The Irish Field website] Feniou told the trainer: “We are extremely pleased to be here today and this is a celebration of not only this amazing year with 22 Group 1 races won but also for this amazing career of yours and all your team. With this award, congratulations to you and to everyone at Ballydoyle.”
Aidan O’Brien replied: “On behalf of Annemarie, myself, the lads and all our team here, I can’t tell you how appreciative and privileged we are to have won this award. I am really privileged that you have come over to visit us and thank you very much again.”
Earlier in the film, the trainer said: “We have to keep focused. Everyone has to keep focused and not take anything for granted at any stage.
“Myself, Annemarie and the lads are a very small part of a very big team but we feel very privileged to be the small part that we are.
“The lads are the best owners in the world - the confidence that they have had for the last 20 years, day in and day out. They have the faith and confidence to go with everybody and they never hold back.
“John (Magnier) is a very special man, a very wise and intelligent man. He is one of the people that, when he speaks, you listen. He is very clever and I can’t be thankful enough to him.
“There are a lot more people more deserving than us all of the time but we feel really privileged and delighted.”
Leo Powell, Editor of The Irish Field, led the tributes. “Jim (Bolger) isn’t a man who dispenses praise very easily but you also know that, any time he speaks about Aidan, that he holds him in the highest regard.
“The one thing that struck me was Aidan’s connection with the horse. There was almost a horse whisperer about Aidan at the time - John Magnier either knew or sensed that and was willing to put what was a huge organisation’s reputation on the line and place it in the hands of a 26-year-old.
“For a young man who had a handful of big-race successes in National Hunt racing under his belt, to go in to Ballydoyle had to have been a daunting task. Aidan has repapid that faith at least 270 times in Group 1 races. This man is not 100% committed to what he does, he is 200% committed.
“They are an incredibly close family. We have seen that grow in the public domain a little bit more with Joseph’s emergence as a trainer.
“In Ballydoyle, he knows every lad by name, he knows their pedigree as well. People are relaxed, they enjoy their work and that all stems from Aidan.
“Look what he has done with a filly like Minding and the fact that she may stay in training next year - who knows what she could achieve? He keeps pushing the bar higher and higher.
“The lexicon of words isn’t enough to be able to describe what he has done. What we measure Aidan’s success against is himself all of the time now.
“From a national pride point of view, it’s fantastic but I think it is fantastic for racing that we can all celebrate the genius that is Aidan O’Brien.”
Trainer Jim Bolger, who employed O’Brien as a young man, commented: “He contacted me to tell me that his then employer was giving up and could he come to work with me.
“He was very quiet. He was definitely an older head on young shoulders. He had a mind like a sponge - there was an ambition there that I hadn’t recognised at the time. I probably could have gone into retirement if he had stayed.
“I remember when he had Rock Of Gibraltar and that was when he fully convinced me that he was the real deal. He has blossomed into the man he is now.”
Fellow trainer John Oxx said: “Taking Aidan on looked a bold move but John Magnier has made a lot of big decisions in his life and they have proven to be very successful.
“I suppose he saw that maybe there was a Vincent O’Brien working in this young man’s head. I am sure that he has exceeded even John Magnier’s expectations.
“Aidan is a driven man. He is ambitious, he knows the responsibility on his shoulders and he is driven to achieve the best results he can.
“He has also had an effect on the breeding industry - Galileo and Aidan go hand in hand, they complement each other.
“His horses run to a high level, they maintain their form over several races and it’s just a phenomenal achievement of results year in, year out.
“I always think that, where jockeys improve in their 30s, trainers improve in their 40s. Are we to conclude that he is only just getting the hang of it now and he is getting better?
“By the time he is 65, he will be making the most dreadful nuisance of himself - it doesn’t bear thinking about, really!
“We all stand back in admiration for him. Irish racing has lifted to a different level and that is due to Coolmore, Ballydoyle and, of course, Aidan O’Brien.”
Derrick Smith, one of the owners in the Coolmore partnerships, explained: “2005 was when I started with Michael (Tabor) and John (Magnier).
“180-odd Group 1 winners in 11 years is pretty good going, so what can you say about the man? This season has just been remarkable.”
Michael Tabor, another of the owners in the Coolmore partnerships, remarked: “Aidan is just on top of everything 24/7. He leaves nothing to chance.”
Former top jockey Michael Kinane said: “Aidan leaves no stone unturned. He’s meticulous in his approach - nothing goes amiss. I think there’s no doubting he has few equals.”
Aidan’s eldest son, Joseph O’Brien, explained: “The small changes he makes to horses’ programmes - the things that some people wouldn’t even consider changing - those minute details that can make a difference sometimes.
“The first three in the Arc was something else - it has never been done before and might never be done again.
“I possibly took things for granted a little bit when I grew up around it but, over the last year, I have really realised the magnitude of it.”