The question of talent regarding one of the finest jockey around has never been in question, but a success in India’s P. M. Rungta Gold Trophy onboard Vijay Mallya took the Irishman to a new level. This success in 2012 will still be held in high regard for the now retired jockey, but it certainly played its part on the future of his career.
Sure, the Indian track is not as famous as Retama Park or Hawthorne Racecourse, but it is still highly regarded among horse racing enthusiasts. On that December afternoon, he had to go through all the motions to get his filly going, she looked to be fading as the end was coming, but O’Brien got her back on track and steered her clear of the oncoming momentum that Barringo and Brave Vision had.
His actions on that day were the sign of an unbelievable jockey, but ultimately, he decided to step down in 2016 to focus on a career in training instead. However, following this win in the Indian sunshine he enjoyed a glorious final few years in the saddle, but what was the crowing horse racing result?
Just a few months after riding his win in India he was back in the saddle this time in the 2,000 Guineas with Camelot. He was the heavy favourite to win the race when the markets opened due to its unbelievable form as a two-year-old. O’Brien’s big race experience that he gained would have played a part as he rode the horse careful but emphatically. He triumphed home after taking the lead in the final stages and won by a neck from French Fifteen.
This win only increased the pressure on Camelot as his price shortened even further for the 2012 Derby; in fact, he was set off at a price of 8/13 in front of 130,000 spectators. Bonfire and Highclere were likely to be the two main challengers for the crown, but instead, the main challenge came from the unfancied Astrology. O’Brien against rode beyond his years at the back of the pack and waited for his moment to pounce. Once it did, the result was never in doubt, and he crossed the line five lengths clear. The win ensured that then-19-year-old and his trainer father became the first winning father-son/trainer-jockey pairing to win the event.
Air Force Blue
The final significant win that came as a jockey for O’Brien came in 2015 when he rode Air Force blue to victories in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes and the Phoenix Stakes. The colt quickly established itself as the best horse aged two-years-old in Europe by winning three consecutive Group One races. The first of the major wins came in the Phoenix Stakes where O’Brien rode the colt calmly at the back, before bursting into action and winning by two lengths from Washington DC.
The toughest of the significant wins came in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, where he was faced with stiff competition in the form of Painted Cliffs, Herald the Dawn and Birchwood. O’Brien followed the leaders superbly ensuring that they couldn’t get out of striking distance, before attacking the course to take the lead inside the final furlong and winning by three lengths. O’Brien didn’t ride Air Force Blue as a three-year-old, as the colt’s career fizzled out with disappointment in the 2,000 Guineas and the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
His career move, to turn his hand to training, has been a revelation for himself, but his rides have struck fear into the opponents. Despite being only 26 years old, he can already claim to have won six major triumphs in just under three years. The first of which came in the Moyglare Stud Stakes and Intricately. This was followed up by success in the Irish Gold Cup and Irish Derby with Edwulf and Latrobe respectively. Before, Iridessa was uncovered as his next gem by winning the Fillies’ Mile in 2018.
Undoubtedly his finest achievement to date came in the 2017 Melbourne Cup, where trained Rekindling to a famous win in Australia; this race also saw a famous 1-2-3 for Irish trained horses.