Sport Horse Racing

Friday 17 January 2020

O'Brien dynasty continues as Donnacha saddles his first runners

Donnacha O’Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnacha O’Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

What a whirlwind the past few years have been for Donnacha O'Brien, and the next chapter of his family's extraordinary dynasty commences tonight at Dundalk with his first runners as a trainer.

A little over five years ago, he was riding his first winner for his father at the Louth track as a 16-year-old and now another of the popular Friday Night Lights cards marks his official entry into the training ranks.

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So much has been packed in between then and now with his first Group One winner coming aboard Intricately - trained by his older brother Joseph - in the 2016 Moyglare Stud Stakes.

O'Brien graduated to be crowned champion apprentice at the end of that season before riding out his claim in April of the following year and greater success was soon to come his way in the saddle.

Three Classic victories were secured in 2018, including the English 2,000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior for his father Aidan, while he tasted a sweet Irish Derby triumph later that year aboard his brother's Latrobe.

He finished that season as Irish champion jockey and would do so again last season, chalking up his first century of winners in a season and picking up his fourth Classic when Magna Grecia landed the Newmarket 2,000 Guineas.

There's no denying that the 21-year-old maximised his short stint as a jockey with 10 top-level successes before eventually having to admit that his battle with the scales was a losing one.

With a paltry diet during his riding career as his towering frame began to get the better of him, plans were already in place to complete a training switch for the same reasons as Joseph had in 2016.

David Wachman's old Longfield base in Cashel became available and Donnacha quietly commenced his training education having had the best teacher of them all when studying his dad as he grew up in Ballydoyle. Word had seeped out that a change was planned and O'Brien bit the bullet in November when calling time as a jockey after a brief but glittering career.

"I have decided to concentrate on training next year. Riding has been very good to me and I look forward to training a small group of horses and will hopefully build from there," the youngest O'Brien posted on social media.

It quickly became apparent that he would not be training to the same level as Joseph - who has more than 200 horses in training - and that he would be concentrating solely on Flat runners as it "makes more sense business-wise".

As well as a possible father/son rivalry, there's sure to be a sibling rivalry over the coming years with Listed winner Fancy Blue - a Classic contender this year - the most likely to quickly put Donnacha on the map.

The name Donnacha Aidan O'Brien will first appear in a race card tonight when he saddles eight-race maiden Mythologic in the Crowne Plaza Race & Stay Maiden (6.30) under Gavin Ryan.

Four-race maiden Flower Garland - also owned by his mother Annemarie - tackles a handicap (7.30) later in the card with both O'Brien charges in opposition to two of his brother's runners.

That will be a regular occurrence and one thing is for sure, the O'Brien name looks set to continue dominating Irish Flat racing for some time to come as Donnacha sets off on his maiden voyage.

Irish Independent

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