O’Brien’s 4000th (Breandán Ó hUallacháin)
Becomes Only Third Irish Trainer To Break 4,000 Winner Barrier
By Breandán Ó hUallacháin
THE CURRAGH, KILDARE, Ireland— Aidan O’Brien becomes third Irish trainer to break 4,000 winner barrier
Aidan O’Brien began the 2023 Irish Champions Festival last weekend six winners short of 4,000.
A four-timer a Leopardstown on Saturday with Diego Velazquez, Auguste Rodin, Adelaide River and Broadhurst brought the Ballydoyle conditioner closer to the special mark.
On Sunday, the victory of Warm Heart in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp in France brought the County Wexford-born handler within one winner of the magical figure.
The Curragh, County Kildare, on Sunday, the home of Irish flat racing and where all the Irish classics are staged, was the scene for day two of the Irish Champions Festival.
Aidan O’Brien’s Coolmore partners-owned runners were numerous. Surely he would reach 4,000 on the day. And he did. Fittingly, it was in a Group 1 race for two-year-olds over seven furlongs – the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. Why was it fitting? Well firstly, Vincent O’Brien (no relation of Aidan’s) – after whom the race is named – was the original Ballydoyle trainer. It was he, along with John Magnier and Robert Sangster, that built Ballydoyle/Coolmore into the major training and breeding operation it is today.
Dr Vincent O’Brien is also the most successful handler in the history of the National Stakes, a race inaugurated in 1849 as the National Produce Stakes, with 15 wins. Who is second on the list of most successful trainers in the race? Yes, Aidan O’Brien. The victory of Henry Longfellow (by Dubawi out of Minding) on Sunday moved A.P. O’Brien onto the 12 winner mark in the National Stakes.
The National Stakes was the race in which Aidan O’Brien achieved his maiden Group 1 success with the victory of Desert King in the Michael Tabor colours in 1996. Henry Longfellow also won in the Tabor colours yesterday.
Only two Irish trainers have ever previously reached the 4,000 winner mark, Dermot Weld and Willie Mullins. Weld did so with Sea Swift in 2016 while Mullins achieved the feat with the victory of Bronn at Fairyhouse in January 2023.
Dermot Weld is one of the great international trainers, having travelled horses long before it became the norm. He has enjoyed success in the USA since Go and Go won the 1990 Belmont Stakes. He won the American Derby three times (Pine Dance , Evolving Tactics  and Simple Exchange ); Dimitrova took him to success in the American Oaks and the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes in 2003; he claimed the Matriarch Stakes with Dress to Thrill in 2002; Winchester gave him the Secretariat Stakes in 2008; he conquered the Man o’War Stakes with Zhukova in 2017, and he triumphed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with Tarnawa in 2020
Willie Mullins is arguably the world’s greatest jumps trainer. He has been champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland 27 times and is the most successful handler in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 94 winners. In the USA, he won the Peapack Hurdle Stakes in 2019 with Pravalaguna and the Iroquois Steeplechase thanks to Scaramanga this year.
This is the pedigree of trainer Aidan O’Brien has now joined in this select club of Irishmen to train 4,000 winners. Aidan O’Brien has been successful 2,949 times on the flat and 1,051 over jumps (he was champion jumps trainer in Ireland 5 times before focusing on the flat). The question must be asked though, is O’Brien the greatest of them?
Since 7 June 1993 when Wandering Thoughts gave the young trainer his first winner when scoring at Tralee, Aidan O’Brien has achieved the following:
He has trained more Royal Ascot winners (85) than any other handler in history and has been leading trainer at Royal Ascot on 12 occasions. He holds the world record for training 28 Group or Grade 1 winners in one calendar year. He trained Yeats to win four Gold Cups in a row at Royal Ascot – the only conditoner in history to achieve such a feat. He is currently the most successful international trainer in Breeders’ Cup history. He has won more British classics than anyone despite the fact that he isn’t even based in Britain. O’Brien has trained 389 Group/Grade 1 winners, 172 Group/Grade 2 winners, he’s had 338 successes at Group/Grade 3 level, a total of 899 Group/Grade wins on the flat. He has won 101 classics and had Group 1 victories in 9 countries. He is 26 times Irish champion trainer and has been champion flat trainer in Britain 6 times. Over jumps, he has trained 66 Graded winners: 22 Grade 1, 20 Grade 2 and 24 Grade 3.
Commenting on his 4,000th winner on Sunday, O’Brien, was appreciative of all the help he has received in his career to date, and as always, attempted to deflect the attention, stating:
“I’m so grateful to so many people all the way along the line. It’s all pure teamwork, it’s just incredible … it’s great people that make those things happen. Great horses, great people, and great teamwork really.”
Considering that Aidan O’Brien has achieved all of the above by the age of 53. It will be interesting to see those statistics in another 20 years!