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THE MASTER HORSEMAN OF HIS AGE; John Randall looks back at the life, times, achievements and records of Vincent O'Brien, arguably the greatest trainer of racehorses in the history of the sport and a genius blessed with an unrivalled eye for a future Derby winner: VINCENT O'BRIEN 1917-2009: Rollcall of legends - and one final brilliant flourish at Belmont Park.

Byline: John Randall

VINCENT O'BRIEN, who died yesterday at the age of 92, was perhaps the greatest trainer of racehorses in the history of the sport.

Starting from humble beginnings, he was for nearly half a century at the pinnacle of his profession, producing a long line of champions first over jumps, then on the Flat, and in the process becoming a national hero in Ireland.

He was largely instrumental in putting Ireland in the first division of world racing, and the variety and duration of his achievements, including three Grand Nationals, four Cheltenham Gold Cups, three Champion Hurdles, six Derbys and three Arc de Triomphes, were unprecedented.

A list of the champion Flat horses O'Brien sent out from his Ballydoyle stable to conquer Europe must include Ballymoss and Gladness in the 1950s; Sir Ivor in the 1960s; Triple Crown hero Nijinsky, Roberto, Thatch, Apalachee, Saritamer, Cloonlara, The Minstrel, dual Arc winner Alleged, Try My Best, Solinus, Thatching and Monteverdi in the 1970s; and Storm Bird, Golden Fleece and El Gran Senor in the 1980s.

Although the number of big-race successes diminished towards the end of his career, Royal Academy put the seal on his dazzlingly successful partnership with Lester Piggott by triumphing in the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1990.

Even if O'Brien had never trained a Flat winner he would still rank among the greatest of his profession, for in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, for sheer quality in depth his stable dominated the jumping scene like no other before or since.

Cottage Rake scored a hat-trick of victories for him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Hatton's Grace did the same in the Champion Hurdle; Knock Hard added a fourth Gold Cup; and Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times gave him a unique Grand National treble.

Michael Vincent O'Brien was born on the family farm near Churchtown, Co Cork, on April 9, 1917. He was the fifth of eight children of Dan O'Brien, a small-scale but successful owner, breeder and trainer.

School held few attractions for him and, after leaving at the age of 14, he spent a year with trainer Fred Clarke before starting to assist his father. He gradually (and unofficially) took over responsibility for training the horses and also rode in point-to-points and under Rules.

Dan O'Brien died in 1943 and his property passed to his eldest son, but young Vincent rented the stables and started as a trainer in his own right.

His first winner was Oversway at Limerick Junction (now Tipperary) in May that year.

In 1944 he and his principal patron, English wool merchant Frank Vickerman, landed a coup in the Irish Autumn Double with Drybob (Cambridgeshire dead-heat) and Good Days (Cesarewitch), who both started at 20-1. It was a staggering strike for a small stable and served notice that the trainer had no master at laying a horse out for a specific target.

This ability, and his judgement of form, served him well in his rise to the top, for it is no exaggeration to say that the O'Brien racing empire was based on shrewd betting. He was a heavy gambler in his early days, most of his coups being placed by Nat McNabb.

His first champion was Cottage Rake, who was sent into training with him by breeder Dr Otto Vaughan and was then bought by Mr Vickerman with his Drybob/Good Days winnings..

Cottage Rake did not run in England until his first Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 1948. His trainer was littleknown and he was allowed to start at 10-1, but he decisively beat the best chasers in England. Next time out he finished second under 12st 7lb in the Irish Grand National.

The following season Cottage Rake was unbeaten in four races, picking up the King George VI Chase and, in his second Gold Cup, beating the English star Cool Customer.

He completed his Gold Cup hat-trick in 1950 and thus became one of only four horses to win jump racing's most prestigious prize more than twice, the others being Golden Miller, Arkle and Best Mate.

The next O'Brien champion, Hatton's Grace, arrived in his yard as a fully exposed, small and unimposing eight-year-old, and proceeded to win the next three Champion Hurdles (1949-51).

When landing his first title he dethroned the reigning champion National Spirit, and he became the first horse to win three Champion Hurdles and the first to win the race at the age of 11.

Hatton's Grace was owned by Harry and Moya Keogh, who also had Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Knock Hard in the stable.

Knock Hard fell at the second-last in the 1952 Gold Cup when going like a winner but made amends under Tim Molony the following year, even though by that time the gelding no longer enjoyed jumping and had a bad heart.

The most remarkable aspect of O'Brien's three best jumpers was that each had the speed to win top handicaps on the Flat in Ireland: Cottage Rake the Cesarewitch, Hatton's Grace the Cesarewitch twice and the Lincolnshire, and Knock Hard the Lincolnshire.

Few trainers would even have considered running champion jumpers in such races, let alone been capable of winning with them. No wonder they sprinted away from their rivals up the Cheltenham hill. THE week after Hatton's Grace's third Champion Hurdle in 1951, O'Brien moved from Churchtown to a yard of his own at Ballydoyle, Co Tipperary, where he gradually built up one of the finest training establishments in the world, a stable which became synonymous with excellence in the Thoroughbred.

An equally decisive change in his life occurred later that year when he met Jacqueline Wittenoom, the daughter of an Australian politician. They were married that December.

O'Brien's exploits at Cheltenham had already put him at the top of his profession when he became the only trainer ever to win three consecutive Grand Nationals.

His first Aintree hero, Early Mist, had been in the stable for only a few months when scoring by 20 lengths in 1953, and he was the first of two consecutive National winners for owner 'Mincemeat' Joe Griffin and jockey Bryan Marshall.

Their, and O'Brien's, second, Royal Tan, was a Grand National regular who was perhaps unlucky not to win the race more than once. In 1951 he and the mare Nickel Coin were the only ones left standing as they approached the final fence, but he blundered there so badly that he all but fell. At the same fence 12 months later he did fall, when holding third position.

Royal Tan's hour of glory finally came in 1954, when he just got the better of Tudor Line by a neck after a tremendous duel up the run-in.

He was also third in 1956.

O'Brien's Grand National hat-trick was completed by Quare Times, who won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in 1954 and on the big day at Aintree overcame the barely raceable conditions to score easily.

The trainer won the Irish Grand National with Alberoni in 1952 and another stable stalwart was Lucky Dome, winner of the Spa (now World) Hurdle in 1954.

Besides Bryan Marshall, the jump jockeys he used most often were Aubrey Brabazon (Cottage Rake, Hatton's

Grace), his brother Phonsie O'Brien, Martin and Tim Molony, Pat Taaffe and, over hurdles, Tommy 'TP' Burns, who was equally effective on the Flat and later became assistant trainer at Ballydoyle.

A measure of O'Brien's domination of the National Hunt scene was provided by the Gloucestershire (now Supreme Novices') Hurdle at Cheltenham, which was run in two divisions. He trained the winners of ten divisions in eight years including Stroller (1954), who was beaten narrowly in the following year's Champion Hurdle, and Saffron Tartan (1957), who won the Gold Cup after passing out of his hands.

Overall O'Brien won 22 races at the Cheltenham Festival in 12 years, but after the 1959 meeting, having won everything worth winning over jumps, he concentrated exclusively on the Flat. He had realised he could not fulfil his ambitions in that direction unless he pursued them singlemindedly.

He had won his first Classic with Chamier in the 1953 Irish Derby on the controversial disqualification of English challenger Premonition, and he deliberately set out to attract new owners. A T DONCASTER sales in 1955 he met John McShain, a rich Irish- American, and bought him some yearlings, one of whom was Ballymoss, the trainer's first Flat champion.

Ballymoss was slow to mature but suddenly improved in the summer of his threeyear-old career, coming second to Crepello in the Derby and winning first the Irish Derby, then the St Leger to give the trainer his first English Classic.

As a four-year-old in 1958 Ballymoss was the best horse in Europe, and Scobie Breasley partnered him to victory in the Coronation Cup, Eclipse, King George and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

In that same season another of McShain's horses, Gladness, proved herself the champion stayer by winning the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and, under top weight, the Ebor Handicap by six lengths..

She was the first horse from the stable to be ridden by Lester Piggott.

The most traumatic episode in O'Brien's career was the loss of his licence over the Chamour affair in 1960.

Chamour returned a positive drugs test after winning a maiden event at the Curragh, and the trainer was warned off for 18 months. He had to leave Ballydoyle while his brother Phonsie took over the stable.

O'Brien had the support of almost the whole racing world, which recognised that, quite apart from the question of his integrity, no-one needed to use dope to win a moderate event with a colt who, soon after, won the Irish Derby on merit.

Eventually the Turf Club, faced with legal action, reduced his suspension to 12 months.

Another of O'Brien's rich American owners, Raymond Guest, provided him with his first Derby winner at Epsom in the form of Larkspur, though the colt was a very lucky winner under Australian Neville Sellwood in 1962. No fewer than seven runners fell or were brought down at halfway, and Larkspur never won again.

O'Brien won the Oaks with Long Look in 1965, and the following year he became champion trainer in Britain thanks to Glad Rags (1,000 Guineas), Valoris (Oaks) and Pieces Of Eight (Eclipse, Champion Stakes).

Valoris was the horse who forged closer links between O'Brien and Piggott, for at Epsom the latter elected to ride her in preference to a filly trained by Noel Murless, to whom he was stable jockey..

His choice caused a split between him and Murless, and freed him to link with Ballydoyle for 15 years of almost unbroken success.

The first outstanding O'Brien/ Piggott champion was another of Raymond Guest's colts, Sir Ivor, who won the Grand Critrium as a juvenile. S IR IVOR continued to carry nearly all before him as a three-year-old in 1968. In the 2,000 Guineas he trounced Petingo, and in the Derby he unleashed an awesome finishing burst to reel in the seemingly uncatchable Connaught in a matter of strides.

He was beaten in the Irish Derby and the Eclipse, but returned to something like his best when second to Vaguely Noble in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and ended his career in a blaze of glory by carrying off the Champion Stakes and Washington DC International.

In that same year O'Brien bought a yearling who became the best and most famous, horse he ever trained: Nijinsky..

Charles Engelhard, the American platinum magnate, asked him to go to Windfields Farm in Canada to inspect a colt by Ribot. The trainer advised against the purchase and recommended that the owner buy instead a son of the untried stallion Northern Dancer. This inspired choice of the yearling Nijinsky had a dramatic effect on the fortunes of both trainer and stallion.

Nijinsky proved himself the champion two-year-old of 1969 with victory in the Dewhurst Stakes, and confirmed his supremacy over his contemporaries in the 1970 2,000 Guineas.

Two top-class French colts, Gyr and Stintino, opposed him in the Derby, but the extra half-mile made no difference and he produced a devastating turn of finishing speed the moment Piggott asked him.

Nijinsky was scarcely out of a canter to add the Irish Derby and King George to his laurels, and his victory in the St Leger meant that he was the first colt to win the Triple Crown since Bahram in 1935.

At this point Nijinsky was unbeaten in 11 races and was hailed in some quarters as the horse of the century, but an attack of ringworm, suffered before Doncaster, left its mark and he was below par in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He produced his familiar speed to lead inside the final furlong in Europe's premier race, only to falter and swerve under pressure and go down by a head to Sassafras. He was a shadow of his former self when second to Lorenzaccio in the Champion Stakes 13 days later.

Those defeats, although two of the lowest points in O'Brien's career, did not detract from the colt's achievements. Nijinsky was unquestionably a great horse and the trainer's success with the son of Northern Dancer persuaded him that he had tapped into a source of equine excellence. On his later regular visits to the top US sales, he concentrated on the blood of the Canadian champion, and he was largely responsible for the Northern Dancer dynasty becoming by far the most influential of modern times. Other offspring of Northern Dancer who helped to make Ballydoyle the world's most successful training establishment included The Minstrel, Try My Best, Storm Bird, Lomond, El Gran Senor and Sadler's Wells. Nijinsky himself became a great sire, and sons of his who achieved top-level success for O'Brien included Kings Lake, Golden Fleece, Caerleon, Solford and Royal Academy. Roberto, who became O'Brien's fourth Derby winner in 1972, attracted controversy throughout his career and was never a public favourite. Having finished second in the 2,000 Guineas, the colt was due to be ridden at Epsom by Bill Williamson, but the jockey suffered a fall a few days before the race and owner

John Galbreath replaced him with Lester Piggott. The latter rode the most powerful whip finish of his career to get Roberto home by a short head from Rheingold, but public disapproval of the jockey switch meant that the victory was greeted in silence. After flopping in the Irish Derby, Roberto then had the temerity to inflict on Brigadier Gerard the only defeat of that great champion's career. In the inaugural Benson & Hedges Gold Cup (now Juddmonte International) at York, Panamanian jockey Braulio Baeza set a scorching pace from the start on Roberto, who never faltered and came home three lengths clear of the public's hero. The following year Roberto won the Coronation Cup in scintillating style, but he failed too many times to be a great horse.

His stablemates in 1972 included Boucher (St Leger), Abergwaun (Haydock Sprint Cup) and Home Guard (Diadem Stakes), and in 1973 Cavo Doro nearly added to the trainer's Derby tally, finding only Morston too good. Another Ballydoyle threeyear- old, Thatch, was the best miler and best sprinter in Europe that season, for, after being beaten by soft ground in the 2,000 Guineas, he won the St James's Palace Stakes, July Cup and Sussex Stakes. That year the trainer also saddled champion two-yearold Apalachee for a deeply impressive victory in the Observer Gold Cup (now Racing

Post Trophy) and Cellini to win the Dewhurst. Apalachee finished only third when hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas in 1974 and never ran again, but stablemate Saritamer was the season's champion sprinter by virtue of wins in the July Cup and Diadem Stakes. In 1975 O'Brien achieved the remarkable feat of saddling six winners from seven runners at Royal Ascot, notably subsequent Goodwood Mile victor Gay Fandango (Jersey Stakes), Blood Royal (Queen's Vase), Swingtime (Cork and Orrery Stakes) and Boone's Cabin (Wokingham). His juveniles were headed by Irish champion Malinowski (second in the Dewhurst) and Sir Wimborne (Royal Lodge Stakes).

The most precociously fast filly ever to come out of Ballydoyle was Cloonlara, whose spreadeagling victory in the 1976 Phoenix Stakes made her Europe's champion two-year-old filly, though temperament later got the better of her. Thatch, Apalachee, Swingtime, Cloonlara and King Pellinore (second in the 1975 Irish Derby) ran in the colours of Irish-American Jack Mulcahy, who told O'Brien to get "a piece of the action" - i.e. to become a part-owner of the horses he trained and thus profit directly from his expertise at increasing their value.

O'Brien later described this as "the best advice I ever got" and it made him extremely rich, first through the Mulcahy horses, then through the horses owned by the syndicate headed by Robert Sangster. Sangster wanted to expand his breeding and racing interests but had difficulty buying potential stallions which other people had raced. His solution was to buy yearlings with top pedigrees and make his own stallions. To this end he needed the best possible trainer, which meant O'Brien, and he also linked up with John Magnier, who later became O'Brien'son-in-law and ran the breeding side of the operation from Coolmore Stud. Sangster provided the enterprise and Magnier the business brain and expertise in the stud world, while O'Brien was responsible for selecting the yearlings and developing them into the champions that were needed to finance the exercise.

For nearly a decade, with the considerable assistance of Northern Dancer, they dominated European racing. Danny Schwartz was a member of the syndicate from the start, and other members from time to time included Bob Fluor, Simon Fraser, Jean- Pierre Binet and Stavros Niarchos. From this time O'Brien limited himself to training about 40 horses, nearly all of them colts with stallion potential, so that he could give his unique brand of individual attention to each of them. In the first year of the O'Brien-Sangster partnership, 1975, they went to Keeneland sales and bought several yearlings with stallion pedigrees, notably The Minstrel, a son of Northern Dancer. In 1977, when the first of them were three-year-olds, the scheme came to spectacular fruition, as they included not only the two best horses in Europe, Alleged (who had been bought as a two-year-old) and The Minstrel, but also Marinsky and Godswalk, backed up by the champion two-year-old Try My Best. The Minstrel had won the Dewhurst Stakes, but was only placed in the 2,000 Guineas and the Irish equivalent and it seemed his chance of Classic glory had vanished. Piggott, however, advised that the colt should run in the Derby, in which he rode one of his strongest finishes to prevail by a neck from Hot Grove.

The Minstrel followed up in the Irish Derby and completed a notable treble in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes by gamely holding off Orange Bay by a short head. He was immediately despatched to stud. After the King George it scarcely seemed possible that The Minstrel was not even the best three-year-old colt in his stable, but when the latermaturing Alleged ran away with the Great Voltigeur Stakes the following month, an even greater star emerged. Alleged suffered the only defeat of his career when second to Dunfermline in the St Leger, but then put up a majestic front-running performance to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

DURING this annus mirabilis, when O'Brien was again champion trainer in Britain, he had other three-year-olds who would have been the stars of almost any other stable, notably Artaius, who won the Eclipse and Sussex Stakes. The lesser lights included Lady Capulet, who won the Irish 1,000 Guineas on her racecourse debut; subsequent champion sire Be My Guest, who landed the Goodwood Mile; the wayward Marinsky, the most talented sprinter in Europe but disqualified in the July Cup; and Godswalk (King's Stand Stakes), Valinsky (Geoffrey Freer Stakes), Transworld (Irish St Leger) and Padroug (Ulster Champion Stakes). The stable also housed Meneval (Hardwicke Stakes) and champion juvenile Try My Best (Dewhurst Stakes). Ballydoyle's fortunes were merely excellent in 1978, though that did not seem likely when Try My Best trailed in last of all in the 2,000 Guineas and Alleged had to miss his summer engagements with a virus. Alleged returned in the autumn by beating the Longchamp course record in the Prix du Prince d'Orange, and crowned his career with another decisive victory in the Arc, making him the only dual winner of Europe's premier race since Ribot. Of his stablemates, Jaazeiro won the Irish 2,000 Guineas, St James's Palace Stakes and Sussex Stakes, and champion sprinter Solinus the King's Stand Stakes, July Cup and Nunthorpe, while Junius landed the Middle Park Stakes. In 1979 O'Brien trained two more European champions in Thatching, who scored a brilliant victory in the July Cup, and Monteverdi, who took the Dewhurst Stakes; he also saddled Godetia to win the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Oaks.

The following season he had yet another Dewhurst-winning champion two-year-old in Storm Bird, though that colt, like Monteverdi, failed to fulfil his promise. That autumn the long-standing partnership with Lester Piggott ended and Pat Eddery was appointed stable jockey. In 1981 O'Brien'star threeyear- old was Kings Lake, who was first past the post in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, only to be disqualified in favour of English challenger To-Agori- Mou but then reinstated amid great controversy. The colt also took the Sussex and Joe McGrath Memorial Stakes. He also had high-class juveniles Achieved (Phoenix and Champagne Stakes), Peterhof (Flying Childers Stakes), Woodstream 'When examining a yearling at

Keeneland, O'Brien would go into a trance' (Moyglare Stud and Cheveley Park Stakes) and maiden-race winner Golden Fleece. Golden Fleece won the Ballymoss and Nijinsky Stakes in the spring of 1982 and then faced his only serious test in the Derby, in which he showed a dazzling turn of foot to win decisively in near-record time. He had the potential to become a great champion, but his large, fragile frame could not stand further training and he retired unbeaten in four races. That year the stable also housed the three best Irishtrained juveniles, Danzatore, Caerleon and Glenstal. In 1983 Lomond was a late and successful substitute for Danzatore in the 2,000 Guineas, subsequent champion sire Caerleon gave the trainer his only success in the Prix du Jockey-Club, Solford took the Eclipse, Salmon Leap was the first colt to finish in the Arc de Triomphe (though only fifth overall) and El Gran Senor emulated his brother Try My Best by heading the Free Handicap thanks to his defeat of Rainbow Quest in the Dewhurst Stakes. El Gran Senor's brilliant 2,000 Guineas victory over Chief Singer, Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest suggested he was the best miler since Brigadier Gerard, and he was made a hot favourite to follow up in the Derby. Two furlongs out at Epsom, a record seventh victory for O'Brien in the premier Classic looked inevitable as El Gran Senor was cantering in the lead with all his pursuers being hard ridden, but one of them, Secreto, battled on tenaciously. El Gran Senor found nothing when Eddery asked him a question, and Secreto collared him close home to score by a short head.

Ironically, the winner was a son of Northern Dancer saddled by O'Brien's own son, David, who had started training three years before in a separate yard at Ballydoyle. Never can a race have been more bitter-sweet for any trainer than the 1984 Derby for Vincent O'Brien. In retrospect, that defeat marked the end of the domination of European racing by the O'Brien-Sangster syndicate. Although El Gran Senor won the Irish Derby on his only subsequent start, he was the last English Classic winner trained by O'Brien. OF EQUAL long-term significance for the trainer, though of a positive kind, were the victories the same year of Sadler's Wells in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse and Phoenix Champion Stakes. His class, toughness and consistency served him well at stud, where he became the greatest sire of modern times in Europe. The syndicate's last top-class performer was Law Society, who ran in the colours of Stavros Niarchos. The son of Alleged, having lost the juvenile championship through a narrow defeat in the Dewhurst, found only Slip Anchor too good in the 1985 Derby and gained compensation in the Irish Derby .

By the mid-1980s Arab owners had been making lavish purchases at the sales for several years, and now their investments began to bear fruit. The balance of power in racing was shifting away from Ballydoyle, a trend that became more apparent when Pat Eddery decided in 1986 to leave the stable and accept a retainer from Prince Khalid Abdullah. O'Brien, Sangster and partners could not, in the long run, hope to match the spending power of the Arabs, though at Keeneland in July 1985 they paid $13.1 million for a son of Nijinsky. That remains a world record price for a yearling but the colt, named Seattle Dancer, did not justify his looks and breeding, though he won a couple of Group 2 events in Ireland.

Other disappointments for the stable included Gold Crest, Woodman, Tate Gallery and Caerwent, though they were balanced by Bluebird (1987 King's Stand Stakes) and O'Brien's last two Classic winners, Prince Of Birds (Irish 2,000 Guineas) and Dark Lomond (Irish St Leger) in 1988. Eddery was followed as stable jockey. by Cash Asmussen (1987) and John Reid (1988-90), during which time the fortunes of Ballydoyle became linked with those of Classic Thoroughbreds plc, an ambitious bloodstock investment company. This public company, the brainchild of financier Dermot Desmond, raised pounds 10 million in 1987 in order to invest in yearlings to go into training at Ballydoyle, and for four years most of the horses in the yard ran in its name.

O'Brien, Sangster and Magnier became major shareholders in the company, so that to some extent it was the old syndicate in a new guise, but in the end they found it impossible to succeed without the market dominance which they had enjoyed before the arrival of the Arabs. A succession of promising two-year-olds ran for Classic Thoroughbreds including Classic Fame (National Stakes) and Saratogan (third in the Dewhurst) in 1988, but apart from Royal Academy they failed to justify the hopes placed in them and shares in the company slumped. Royal Academy, a son of Nijinsky who cost $3.5 million as a yearling, disappointed when favourite for the Dewhurst, but as a three-year-old in 1990 he won the July Cup and was second to Dayjur in the Haydock Sprint Cup. HE WAS then sent to Belmont Park for the Breeders' Cup Mile and Lester Piggott got him home by a neck in a driving finish. It was a particularly popular victory for the old trainer-jockey partnership, as Piggott had just made his comeback with O'Brien's encouragement. However, Royal Academy's success could not revive Hopes of a more lasting revival in Ballydoyle's fortunes were raised by Capricciosa, who won the Moyglare Stud and Cheveley Park Stakes in 1990, and National Stakes winners El Prado (1991) and Fatherland (1992), but O'Brien, now in his mid-70s, was cutting back his string and he retired at the end of 1994.

Among his breeding interests he owned Lyonstown Stud, the registered breeder of Dr Devious, so when that colt won the Derby in 1992 O'Brien did finally win the race for the seventh time. O'Brien's elder son David, besides producing Secreto to upset El Gran Senor in the Derby, also trained Assert, Pas de Seul and Triptych, but he Classic Thoroughbreds and the company was wound up in 1992. perhaps inherited too much of his father's reserve and he gave up training in 1988, having found the pressures too much. David's brother, Charles, served as assistant at Ballydoyle for several years before branching out on his own in 1993. Vincent and Jacqueline also had three daughters - Liz, who married film producer Kevin McClory; Sue, the wife of John Magnier; and Jane, whose husband Philip Myerscough owns Ballysheehan Stud. He remained involved in the sport as an owner with his younger son, and by accepting the many honours that were showered upon him. Perhaps the most significant of these was when he was voted the greatest figure in racing history in a poll of Racing Post readers in 2003. Vincent O'Brien was an undemonstrative, softly spoken man whose genius was perhaps best demonstrated by his single-minded attention to detail. When examining a yearling at Keeneland he would go into a trance, visualising the colt two years' hence at Epsom, and his record at spotting future champions was unrivalled. No-one else has been both the greatest jump trainer and the greatest Flat trainer of his time, and the length and variety of his achievements testified to his status as the master horseman of his age.

O'BRIEN'S 12 BEST FLAT HORSES Rating Races won in best season 1 140 Nijinsky (3yo, 1970) Gladness Stakes, 2,000 Guineas, Derby, Irish Derby, King George VI and QE Stakes, St Leger 2 138 Alleged (4yo, 1978) Royal Whip, Prix du Prince d'Orange, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 3 136 Ballymoss (4yo, 1958) Coronation Cup, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and QE Stakes, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 4 136 El Gran Senor (3yo, 1984) Gladness Stakes, 2,000 Guineas, Irish Derby 5 135 Sir Ivor (3yo, 1968) Ascot 2,000 Guineas Trial, 2,000 Guineas, Derby, Champion Stakes, Washington DC Int 6 135 Roberto (3yo, 1972) Vauxhall Trial, Derby, Benson & Hedges Gold Cup 7 134 The Minstrel (3yo, 1977) Ascot 2,000 Guineas Trial, Derby, Irish Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes 8 134 Thatch (3yo, 1973) Vauxhall Trial, St James's Palace Stakes, July Cup, Sussex Stakes 9 132 Golden Fleece (3yo, 1982) Ballymoss Stakes, Nijinsky Stakes, Derby 10 132 Gladness (5yo mare, 1958) Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup, Ebor Handicap 11 131 Kings Lake (3yo, 1981) Irish 2,000 Guineas, Sussex Stakes, Joe McGrath Memorial Stakes 12 131 Sadler's Wells (3yo, 1984) Irish Derby Trial, Irish 2,000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes, Phoenix Champion Stakes from A Century Of Champions (1999) by John Randall and Tony Morris

O'BRIEN'S 23 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL WINS 1948 Cottage Rake Cheltenham Gold Cup Aubrey Brabazon 1949 Hatton's Grace Champion Hurdle Aubrey Brabazon Castledermot National Hunt Chase Lord Mildmay *Cottage Rake Cheltenham Gold Cup Aubrey Brabazon 1950 Hatton's Grace Champion Hurdle Aubrey Brabazon Cottage Rake Cheltenham Gold Cup Aubrey Brabazon 1951 Hatton's Grace Champion Hurdle Tim Molony 1952 Cockatoo Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) Mr Phonsie O'Brien Royal Tan National Hunt Handicap Chase Mr Phonsie O'Brien 1953 Knock Hard Cheltenham Gold Cup Tim Molony 1954 Stroller Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) Pat Taaffe Quare Times National Hunt Chase Mr Bunny Cox Lucky Dome Spa Hurdle T P Burns 1955 Ahaburn Birdlip Selling Hurdle T P Burns Vindore Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) Mr Phonsie O'Brien Illyric Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 2) T P Burns 1956 Boys Hurrah Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) T P Burns Pelargos Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 2) T P Burns Stroller Spa Hurdle Harry Sprague 1957 Saffron Tartan Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 2) T P Burns 1958 Admiral Stuart Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) T P Burns Prudent King Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 2) T P Burns 1959 York Fair Gloucestershire Hurdle (Div 1) T P Burns * run at the April meeting

O'BRIEN'S 44 CLASSIC WINS 1953 Chamier Irish Derby Bill Rickaby 1957 Ballymoss Irish Derby T P Burns Ballymoss St Leger T P Burns 1959 El Toro Irish 2,000 Guineas T P Burns Barclay Irish St Leger Garnie Bougoure 1962 Larkspur Derby Neville Sellwood 1964 Ancasta Irish Oaks Jack Purtell 1965 Long Look Oaks Jack Purtell Aurabella Irish Oaks Liam Ward 1966 Glad Rags 1,000 Guineas Paul Cook Valoris Irish 1,000 Guineas Jackie Power Valoris Oaks Lester Piggott White Gloves Irish St Leger Liam Ward 1968 Sir Ivor 2,000 Guineas Lester Piggott Sir Ivor Derby Lester Piggott 1969 Gaia Irish Oaks Liam Ward Reindeer Irish St Leger Liam Ward 1970 Nijinsky 2,000 Guineas Lester Piggott Nijinsky Derby Lester Piggott Nijinsky Irish Derby Liam Ward Nijinsky St Leger Lester Piggott 1972 Roberto Derby Lester Piggott Boucher St Leger Lester Piggott 1975 Caucasus Irish St Leger Lester Piggott 1976 Meneval Irish St Leger Lester Piggott 1977 Lady Capulet Irish 1,000 Guineas

Tommy Murphy The Minstrel Derby Lester Piggott The Minstrel Irish Derby Lester Piggott Transworld Irish St Leger Tommy Murphy 1978 Jaazeiro Irish 2,000 Guineas Lester Piggott 1979 Godetia Irish 1,000 Guineas Lester Piggott Godetia Irish Oaks Lester Piggott 1980 Gonzales Irish St Leger Ray Carroll 1981 Kings Lake Irish 2,000 Guineas Pat Eddery 1982 Golden Fleece Derby Pat Eddery 1983 Lomond 2,000 Guineas Pat Eddery Caerleon Prix du Jockey-Club Pat Eddery 1984 El Gran Senor 2,000 Guineas Pat Eddery Sadler's Wells Irish 2,000 Guineas George McGrath El Gran Senor Irish Derby Pat Eddery 1985 Law Society Irish Derby Pat Eddery Leading Counsel Irish St Leger Pat Eddery 1988 Prince Of Birds Irish 2,000 Guineas Declan Gillespie Dark Lomond Irish St Leger Declan Gillespie'It is no exaggeration to say that the O'Brien racing empire was based on shrewd betting''He realised he could not fulfil his Flat ambitions unless he pursued them singlemindedly' Full name Michael Vincent O'Brien Born Churchtown, Co Cork, April 9, 1917 Father Dan O'Brien ( trainer and breeder) Assistant to Fred Clarke, Dan O'Brien Stables Clashgannife House, Churchtown 1943- 51; Ballydoyle House, Cashel 1951- 94 First winner Oversway, Limerick Junction, May 20, 1943 First big winners Drybob ( 1944 Irish Cambridgeshire dead- heat), Good Days ( 1944 Irish Cesarewitch) Champion Hurdle winner Hatton's Grace ( 1949, ' 50, ' 51) Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Cottage Rake ( 1948, ' 49, ' 50), Knock Hard ( 1953) Grand National winners Early Mist ( 1953), Royal Tan ( 1954), Quare Times ( 1955) First Classic winner Chamier ( 1953 Irish Derby) First English Classic winner Ballymoss ( 1957 St Leger) Triple Crown winner Nijinsky ( 1970) Derby winners Larkspur ( 1962), Sir Ivor ( 1968), Nijinsky ( 1970), Roberto ( 1972), The Minstrel ( 1977), Golden Fleece ( 1982) King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners Ballymoss ( 1958), Nijinsky ( 1970), The Minstrel ( 1977) Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners Ballymoss ( 1958), Alleged ( 1977, ' 78) Breeders' Cup winner Royal Academy ( 1990 Mile) Ascot Gold Cup winner Gladness ( 1958) Champion sprinters Thatch ( 1973), Saritamer ( 1974), Solinus ( 1978), Thatching ( 1979) Champion two- year- olds Nijinsky ( 1969), Apalachee ( 1973), Try My Best ( 1977), Monteverdi ( 1979), Storm Bird ( 1980), El Gran Senor ( 1983) Last Group 1 winner Fatherland ( 1992 National Stakes) Last winner in Britain College Chapel ( 1993 Cork and Orrery Stakes) Last Group winner College Chapel ( 1994 Greenlands Stakes) Last winner and runner Mysterious Ways, MacDonagh Boland Stakes ( Listed) The Curragh, September 17, 1994 Main jockeys Pat Glennon 1962- 63, Jack Purtell 1964- 65, Lester Piggott 1966- 80, Pat Eddery 1981- 86, Cash Asmussen 1987, John Reid 1988- 90 Champion trainer in Britain 1952- 53, 1953- 54 ( jumps); 1966, 1977 ( Flat) Champion trainer in Ireland 1959, ' 69, ' 70, ' 72, ' 77, ' 78, ' 79, ' 80, ' 81, ' 82, ' 84, ' 87, ' 88 Most wins in an Irish season 511/2 in 1950 and 1959 (Flat & jumps combined) Most wins in a British season 18 in 1977 Compiled by JOHN RANDALL CV VINCENT O'BRIEN'When examining a yearling at Keeneland, O'Brien would go into a trance'

CAPTION(S):

Stunning scenes at the 1990 Breeders' Cup as Royal Academy (near) lands the Mile under Lester Piggott, who O'Brien had persuaded to come out of retirement just days earlier Vincent O'Brien and his wife Jacqueline pictured at home in 1994
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2009
Words:5949
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