Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Morgan Treacy/INPHO Kingmaker: Aidan O'Brien at his yard with Kew Gardens.
# Family Business
In Camelot: Expect the O'Brien dynasty to continue domination
Aidan O’Brien’s son Donnacha is eyeing a career change, writes Johnny Ward.

A YOUNG JOCKEY posted on Instagram this morning, an unwitting five-second video manifesto of dynastic domination – man and beast.

He recorded aboard a seemingly happy horse whose mane, bar a little quiff, is entirely to one side. Delivering the punchline, he aims the camera near his stirrups and we see the steed’s name on his saddle cloth.

The horse is Sir Dragonet, son of Camelot. The jockey is Donnacha O’Brien, son of Aidan.

When Magna Grecia won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier this month, he was delivering Aidan’s tenth victory in the colts’ Classic. When Hermosa won the 1000 Guineas a day afterwards, she brought up his fifth in the fillies’.

Aidan O’Brien has now 34 British Classic wins. It looks a near formality that this figure will be 35 – possibly 36 – come 1 June, the day of the Derby and the day after the Oaks.

It has long been a curiosity that four of our greatest trainers, now all in the veteran chapters, lack an obvious familial successor: Dermot Weld, Kevin Prendergast, Jim Bolger, John Oxx.

Then you have O’Brien, not yet 50, with a son who has done something he hasn’t – train a Melbourne Cup winner – and another who could be training Group winners at 21. We’ll get to the daughters another day.

“We’re surrounded,” said John Gosden at Lingfield recently in response to the emergence of another Ballydoyle star with legitimate Classic aspirations in Anthony Van Dyk. In Britain, they resent an Irishman’s dominance and how good it is for the game.

Aidan has been hugely reliant on Galileo, champion sire all but one of the last 11 years, but the Derby favourite, the horse Donnacha showed off on social media this morning, is a preposterous suggestion as to what is to come.

Coolmore does not have Frankel and no other son of Galileo has Frankel’s prospects at stud. In general, sons of Montjeu (who, like Galileo, was by Sadler’s Wells) have been disappointing at stud.

That was until Camelot, the first son of Montjeu to win a Guineas, came along.

Camelot is quickly making into an exceptional stallion, while Sir Dragonet – who increasingly looks a good thing in the Derby – is developing into a mouthwatering potential sire too. Indeed, he is the first foal out of a dam, Sparrow, who is related to Sea The Stars but never raced. What else may Sparrow produce, let alone the stallions?

Camelot won the Irish Derby under Joseph, who trained the horse’s first Classic winner as a stallion, Latrobe. And now the worst-kept secret in racing: Donnacha (rider of Latrobe) is going to go down the training route too.

It must render an involuntary quiver from other trainers.

This week, Donnacha told the Racing Post: “I decided to do the trainers’ course with the future in mind. I’ll complete the course, which began on 15 May, and when I’ve done it I’ll think about things.”

My suspicion is that he will be training next season as he is performing near-miracles to ride at the level he is at on a diet that is a close relative of starvation. Perhaps he could start off in the Goolds Cross, County Tipperary establishment vacated when David Wachman retired from training.

Think about this: Kevin Prendergast, one of the few trainers with any chance of denying Aidan O’Brien in the Derby, is the guts of four decades his senior. Prendergast used to be a chain-smoker and still likes a few pints. Aidan, who has lived an exceptionally healthy life, must be nearly odds-on to make it to 100.

Donnacha O'Brien on Latrobe celebrates winning The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with his father Aidan O'Brien Morgan Treacy / INPHO Donnacha O'Brien on Latrobe celebrates winning The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with his father Aidan O'Brien last year. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Joseph has developed an amazing dual-purpose arsenal, with room for 180 in the yard out of which both his father and grandfather used to train.

And Donnacha is next.

We have our share of begrudgers in this country, generally those unable to come to terms with their own failures. Aidan O’Brien was weaned from modest farming stock in County Wexford, while his father-in-law Joe Crowley was a self-made innovator. Joe and his son have created a dynasty, regally bred horsemen training regally bred horses.

The Flat does not really do it for a lot of Irish racegoers, for whatever reason. There will be very few people at Navan tomorrow, a card almost devoid of race sponsors. In the Troytown Bar Handicap (4.40), Joseph’s Linger looks impossible to oppose after bolting up at Gowran.

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There’ll be a better buzz Sunday at Naas, when the daughter of Camelot, Nan Yehi, looks lively each-way for Kevin Prendergast in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden (1.35).

In researching this piece, I happened upon an article written by John Cobb in 1993 in the London Independent, with the headline: ‘Triumph calls young achievers: Anne Marie and Aidan O’Brien are leading the way to the Festival for a new generation of Ireland’s trainers’.

It was Cobb who, after Guineas weekend, wrote a piece for the Racing Post fretting about O’Brien’s dominance of the Classics in terms of what it meant for British racing.

Little did he know what the future held. We probably know a lot more.

Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne look at Ireland’s past in Super Rugby, the creative shift needed in Irish rugby and Peter O’Mahony tells us about his love of gardening..:

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