AMIDST all the happenings of the coming weekend, and not wishing to jinx it in any way, there is a strong possibility that Aidan O’Brien will saddle the 4,000th winner of his training career, one that stretches back three decades and a couple of month. When it happens, he will join a select group that is presently made up of Dermot Weld and Willie Mullins among the Irish training ranks.
If you have followed my editorials for what is approaching two decades, you will be in no doubt of the admiration I have for the master of Ballydoyle. The only thing that could make reaching this milestone any more special would be if it was achieved in a Group 1.
Dermot Weld recorded his 4,000th winner with Sea Swift at Naas in 2016. Willie Mullins also reached his landmark 4,000th winner when Bronn won at Fairyhouse on January 28th this year. Both have since added significantly to those numbers, with Weld well on his way to 4,500.
These compare favourably, given opportunities in both racing nations, with the 4,874 winners Mark Johnston had in his own name, and he added more when holding the licence with his son Charlie.
This imminent achievement will mark yet another significant milestone for the record-breaking Wexford man, Aidan has enjoyed success all over the world, mainly on the flat but also notably over jumps, and this has all happened since he took out his first licence in1993. On June 7th he gave Pat Gilson the leg-up on Wandering Thoughts at the now defunct Tralee, and the four-year-old won for the first time, one of 10 successes he had while trained by O’Brien. Three years later, Aidan was appointed to the role at Ballydoyle.
Aidan O’Brien’s tally currently stands at 3,994 winners. He will supply many favourites over the two days of the Irish Champions Festival, and could have the market choices in four of the six Group 1 contests - Auguste Rodin (Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes) at Leopardstown, and Ylang Ylang (Moyglare Stud Stakes), City Of Troy (Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes) and Kyprios (Comer Group International Irish St Leger) at the Curragh.
Currently O’Brien is three short of training his 120th Group 1 winner on the flat in Ireland.
For the 53-year-old Aidan O’Brien, these landmarks are probably all in a day’s work, and if questioned he will always defer to the team and everyone who works at Ballydoyle. However, the fact is that, like a top football team or a world-class orchestra, there has to be a leader, and few can compare with Aidan O’Brien.