Sunday 18 August 2019

O'Brien delight at 'unbelievable' effort

Rekindling, with Corey Brown up, gets the better of Johannes Vermeer (Ben Melham) to win the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Rekindling, with Corey Brown up, gets the better of Johannes Vermeer (Ben Melham) to win the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. Photo: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Tom Peacock

Evidence that the O'Brien brand retains its omnipotence in racing not just for the present but the long-term could not have been demonstrated more sharply than in yesterday's Melbourne Cup.

This Australian institution is one of the few major prizes to elude Aidan O'Brien, whose sweeping season has included a world-record 27 Group One victories, and he was within touching distance this time only to be beaten by his son Joseph.

The 24-year-old, the youngest trainer to win the Melbourne Cup, is in only his second season with a licence and this took his Group One career total to two - more than 300 less than his father, whose performance in 2017 would not suggest he will be winding down any time soon.


O'Brien Jnr was defying convention with Rekindling as horses without an Australian prep-run rarely win, let alone three-year-olds - the last was in 1941.

Having run in the Dante, Derby and St Leger, he is clearly a tough customer. He was given a ride of sensible simplicity by Corey Brown, who found a ground-saving spot on the inside rail before improving turning for home.

Johannes Vermeer had set sail a furlong and a half out but Rekindling had him in his sights, overhauling his rival to win by just under half a length. In a remarkable result for the six Irish runners, they enjoyed a clean sweep with the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite finishing third.

"This is right up there with the best of them (moments in racing)," said a delighted O'Brien. "There is so much more work that goes into training a winner than riding a winner.

"It was an unbelievable effort by the horse and Corey gave him an unbelievable ride. Not often in a championship race does it go smoothly but he had the perfect position all the way round.

"It's unbelievable. Lloyd Williams sent him to me at the start of the year and he's got better with all his racing. The further in trip, the better he's got.

"Lloyd's son Nick told me he really fancied him on his European form. We were hoping that he'd run very well, but it's the Melbourne Cup - you can't have big expectations; you need so much to fall into place."

Joseph O'Brien arrived from California on Monday while his father - who had an infamous run-in with the Flemington stewards back 2008 when summoned back from the airport and grilled over team tactics - watched from home. Williams, a vastly wealthy businessman, had an involvement in all three O'Brien runners and was winning the Cup for a sixth time.

While O'Brien Snr trains primarily for members of Coolmore, Williams has invested more heavily in Joseph's operation in Kilkenny.

Williams said he had unraced yearlings and juveniles with the rookie trainer, including "one or two sharp horses next year" and was likely to return Rekindling to Ireland to "give a bit of competition to Order Of St George", another he part-owns, in the Gold Cup.

The 77-year-old described O'Brien's achievement as "close to being able to walk on water".

He said: "I think the best part of it is, I won't be here long enough, but you're going to see a career kicked off seriously here.

"His father's done it, he is going to emulate his father and maybe more. I'm very egotistical, but I'm sure he's going to be the leading trainer in the world. I hate being wrong."

Willie Mullins was delighted with the effort of Max Dynamite. Second in the race two years ago, things have not always gone to plan for the seven-year-old, having had just four runs since, but he kept on well for third.

"I thought about halfway up the stretch that, if he could get room, he might get out and do it, but I think his age maybe caught up with him," said Mullins.


"We're delighted with him and with Thomas Hobson, which eventually got into sixth, and Wicklow Brave which was 10th. What more can you ask for?

"We'll just have to get a new group of horses (to come back).

"These guys are probably at the end of their career at this level, but I'll be back."

Ben Melham pointed to the heavier weight of Johannes Vermeer, which was beaten a long neck in second, as the probable reason for defeat.

"He had a great run throughout. I thought we were home, but probably the weight was the difference," said Melham.

Frankie Dettori had to settle for 12th place on last year's winner Almandin, while US Army Ranger came home 18th. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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