Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 12 December 2019

'It will be pretty misleading' - Aidan O'Brien, Joseph O'Brien and Jessica Harrington have their say on wind op debate

Jessica Harrington, Aidan O'Brien and Joseph O'Brien
Jessica Harrington, Aidan O'Brien and Joseph O'Brien

Cormac Byrne

The debate surrounding the declaration of wind operations has been raging for months but three of Ireland's top trainers have downplayed its significance.

From January 19 in Britain, trainers will be obliged to declare when a horse is running for the first time since a wind operation, with the information recorded on racecards as “WS” (wind surgery).

While the rule exists in other jurisdictions, it doesn't in Ireland. Wind operations can, but not in all circumstances, result in an upturn in form.

Punters have welcomed the move but their joy may have been premature, that's according to Aidan O'Brien, son Joseph and renowned national hunt trainer Jessica Harrington.

"I don't think it will make any difference, that's my opinion anyway. It's going to give people more information and if that's what they want then that's fine," Joseph told

"I think an awful lot more was made of it than needed to be made of it.

"People think a horse has had a wind operation and he's going to improve a stone.

"I don't see a downside to it.

"You only hear about a wind op after a horse wins. You don't hear about the ones that don't win.

"I don't think it does any harm and it's a good thing that people are being a bit more open but really and truly it won't make a huge difference."

Aidan feels that even if a wind operation goes well it may not coincide with improved performance.

"It probably won't make much of a difference on the flat because wind ops don't really help a flat horse that much anyway. When you go to those extreme distances on heavy ground with jumpers then the odd one it might improve.

"There are a lot of things that could improves horses and you're never really sure what works or doesn't work. They are like athletes and their performance can be different from one day to another.

"Even if a wind op is a success, it might not improve the horse.

"It's a very inexact science."

Some trainers believe that the breathing issues of potential sires and broodmares being in the public domain is a positive development.

Top trainer Ger Lyons tweeted last month: "The good thing about this declaration of wind ops issue is that Future sires with issues will be made public. This could effectively solve the breeding of horses with inherited problems.

"Ironically, that’s why it won’t/can’t work."

Joseph said he would not be put off using a broodmare who had went under the knife for a breathing operation.

"If she was good, she was good. It wouldn't make any difference to me," he added.

Aidan echoed his son's sentiments.

"They either have the ability or they don't.

"You could have a stallion or a filly who had wind problems and the foal would be fine.

"Abnormalities can come from a lot of things, in their rearing etc. It might all be genetic (it might not)."

Gold Cup-winning trainer Harrington believes there was a lack of communication before the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) announced the introduction of this rule.

"The trouble is they said 'wind ops'. There are an awful lot of different wind ops. Some of them are successful and some of them make absolutely no difference at all," she said.

"It's a bit of a grey area and I think there should be a lot more dialogue with trainers and veterinarians before we bring in a rule.

"It's not a magic wand that's going to make a horse 10lbs better. It works for some but you don't know the ones it doesn't work for because it's never said.

"I think it will be pretty misleading. I don't think it's the cast-iron certainty that the BHA think it is.

"There are like five or six different wind ops."

Asked if she could see the Irish authorities adopting the rule in the future, she said: "I would like them to do a good bit more research on it and get a lot of facts and figures in front of us before they produce a rule."

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