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Just rewards for Joseph's talents

SO he's done it. A two-time champion apprentice becomes the champion of the fully-fledged division this year as Joseph O'Brien will be crowned Ireland's leading jockey on Saturday when the season ends at Leopardstown.

Nearest rival Pat Smullen still trails by just three, but he was forced to throw in the towel at Leopardstown last Saturday as he won't be able to fulfil any engagements at Dundalk or back at Leopardstown this week due to his involvement in America and Australia.

O'Brien has risen through the ranks and unfortunately rose in height at the same time, but that does make his championship winning achievement all the more commendable.

Yes, yes, yes, of course, he is riding the best horses in the land as first jockey to his father Aidan at Ballydoyle, but there have been men before him who have held that position and not been champion and they were well able to do weights far below 9st.

O'Brien's battle with the scales is one that is not going to go away and the best he can hope for is that it remains at its current level, but even that may be too much to take for another year.


The incentives are certainly there. Mars, Battle Of Marengo and, of course, Kingsbarns are just three of the top juveniles to look forward to from those quarters, while we will also have the return of Camelot in 2013 as well.

It is just a matter of how long the 19-year-old can keep defying science and his natural growth to do the weights required and be at his best to continue riding on the flat.

Describing Joseph O'Brien's title winning season as an admirable feat is not doing it justice - it's a bit like an away side in football going to a daunting ground and keeping the home crowd quiet.

For his first few seasons O'Brien was tarred with the "sure, who's his father" brush, with some 'experts' maintaining he held the position solely because of Aidan's influence.

There is little doubt that Aidan's influence got him the opportunity in the first place, but there was only one man who kept that job and that was Joseph himself. Tireless dedication, continuous polishing and a devotion to perfection have ensured he is where he is today.

Aidan trains at Ballydoyle and does it with a wizardry fitting of fairytales, but Aidan doesn't pay the bills. If Joseph O'Brien wasn't up to that task of riding the best horses on the biggest of days with Group Ones and stud reputations up for grabs, he wouldn't still be doing it.

It's too big a business for sentiment and the youngster proved to the most powerful figures in the game that he was up to the task and very rarely was he found wanting.

Nobody in the outside world seems to know whether next March will see Joseph on the World Cup stage in Dubai or the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. A guess would say he'll be around to defend his title but either way past history would show wherever he is, he won't be found wanting.