O’Brien – Oh Boy!!

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Aiden O’Brien – Master of Ballydoyle

As I write, Aiden O’Brien has seven entries in the Epsom Derby this coming weekend.  SIX of those entries are sired by the currently unassailable Galileo, a stallion seemingly on track to beat even his sire Saddlers Wells’ stud record.  The only Ballydoyle runner not by him is Wings of Eagles – by Pour Moi who’s grandfather was Saddlers Wells.  You see the connection?

Add this to the fact that the four classics to be run in the UK and Ireland thus far in 2017 have ALL been won by O’Brien trained horses, all sired by Galileo!  And all owned by the various partners who also have interests in the seat of this great breeding empire; Coolmore, in Ireland.  It makes sense that when you have access to the best sire in the world, of course you are going to exploit that advantage.  But do not forget that you also need the trainer to get

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Churchill ( Galileo)  – a double classic winner for Team Ballydoyle

the horses into the frame.  And boy have they found him in Aiden O’Brien.

No relation to the great Vincent O’Brien who previously oversaw the many successes of the team in the 70’s and 80’s, Aiden has delivered more success than any other trainer currently in business anywhere in the world.  From his training base at Ballydoyle he has consistently won the best races in both the UK and Ireland, but also around the world.

In so doing he has been able to show Galileo, and his sire sons, can produce horses capable of winning over sprint distances as well as marathons.  That makes him not only

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Galileo – undisputed champion sire

key to the racing interests of his employers, but also to the continued success of their Coolmore operation throughout the world.

Some say that the grip on the Group races which O’Brien enjoys is unhealthy for racing; that the almost certainty that an O’Brien horse will win every Irish group race (to the extent that a number of races attract an exclusive Ballydoyle field!), and that he looks set, even at this early stage of the UK flat season, to be champion trainer for 2017.

However, it is hardly the fault of O’Brien that there is no Irish trainer other than perhaps Dermot Weld, who can compete at the highest levels on the flat.  Even David Wachman, related to O’Brien through marriage and supplied with a string of horses from Coolmore, gave up his licence last year.  It is more likely a reflection on the issues facing racing in Ireland as a whole not the fault of Team Ballydoyle.  Particularly given the number of trainers from over the water who have given up in the last year alone.  Indeed it is this team which is in all likelihood keeping much of Irish racing in business and of importance to the racing world.  Without this awareness it would not take long for Irish flat racing to suffer the same death throes we are seeing in the increasingly troubled, and less high profile Italian racing scene.  Happily Irish jumps are in a better state but this is seeing a crystallisation with major studs and owners polarising with only a small band of trainers.

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Frankel in full flight

In Britain, there are of course trainers and owners who can compete with – and indeed beat- the Ballydoyle / Coolmore steam-roller.  But even these compete with horses who have pedigrees dripping with Galileo and his sons – Frankel, Galileo’s most successful son, being the next most “popular” sire of the 2017 Derby entries!

For me there are a number of trainers who epitomise the characteristics of what a trainer should be.  Yes winners are a good measure, but there is also the ability to talk to

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Joseph – a chip off the old block – and with the same quality of humility

the public, to develop a story to follow, to combine passion whilst speaking with humility and professionalism.  And when Aiden O’Brien speaks he does so with all this and more.  He is a real ambassador for Irish, and increasingly International racing.  Never slow to deflect the glory onto his owners, or jockeys or staff he is quietly spoken and avoids any suggestion that his input has had anything to do with it.  Ballydoyle are THE team to beat, from the breeding sheds of Coolmore to the raceday successes – many ridden by the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore.  Indeed as with the Coolmore stud line, O’Brien himself has bred another successful trainer in his son Joseph – at 24 a Group winning jockey and trainer with the same brand of humility and determination seen in his father.

BUT – as readers may recall from my article back in February, breeders increasingly face a narrowing choice of stallion pedigrees to choose from.  Danehill (Coolmore again) and coolmorehis sire line are cornering the market in sprinters, whilst as mentioned above Galileo and his sire line are competing at the classic distances.  This is where the concern should be focused, not at a trainer who has a gift – albeit with the best bred horses – to deliver winner after winner at the highest level.  As already stated, it makes sense for Coolmore to exploit the successes of Galileo’s offspring but we must not end up with even less choice for breeders, and a gene pool which will inevitably become so shallow that it will jeopardise the future of the thoroughbred racehorse.  Non-Galileo sires are out there and should be used too.   Their success as sires will come with numbers, as they have with Galileo for he too has had his failures on the racecourse, but he has the numbers, and the trainer, to outweigh these.

 

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Finalising the Future – Breeding Plans Confirmed

With all the foals now born, attention now turns to where the mares go next for the next generation.  It’s an exciting time as we study form books, stud books and sales statistics to decide the best mix for our mares.

So 2017 for foals to be born in 2018 it is about reading the future; how will the current

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Albaasil (Dansili) – a return visit for Littlemoor Lass

crop of the chosen stallion affect the future crops? Who is going to be the “hot” sales prospect in 2 or 3 years time? How does the stallions “book” look (how many mares and of what quality are visiting him)?  And finally, and most importantly what is best for the mares and the foals?  Decision to foaling is 11 months – decision to sales can be 36 months or more.  Get those crystal balls out!

For Abacus Bloodstock our decisions are based firstly on best pedigree mix in the hope that if you breed the best mix, the rest will fall into place.  So our plans for this year are as follows:

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Fangfoss Girls to visit Garswood

Multiple winner Fangfoss Girls, daughter of Monsieur Bond and dam to two multiple winners from her first two crops will visit Garswood.  Seven year old Garswood stands at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and won Gr1. Maurice de Gheest and the Gr2. Lennox Stakes. His trainer Richard Fahey states “He is definitely the fastest horse I’ve ever trained”.  He is a son of multiple group winner Dutch Art and a perfect outcross for the Danehill/ Northern Dancer line.  Without doubt we will get a sprinter with speed stamped in all four branches of the prospective foal’s pedigree.

The beautiful Littlemoor Lass, an unraced daughter of Motivator and steeped in classy racing blood, will visit Dansili’s son Albaasil.  This will be her second visit to the stallion, having produced a colt foal by him in 2016.  Albaasil stands in Yorkshire with our good friend Ritchie Fiddes and has consistently produced good stock – the first of which will race in 2018.  The previous foal was genetically tested as a “C:C long” meaning a sprinter miler type, so we hope that we will see the same again this time.

Makindi, daughter of Makbul and dam of three foals so far will visit Cityscape again this

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Multi-Group winning Cityscape

year; the son of Selkirk, formerly trained by Roger Charlton holds the track record at Meydan and is a multiple group winner.  Indi  gave birth to a colt by him earlier in April and we are so impressed by him it was a no-brainer to go back to him.  Makindi will be 18 next year and so this may be her last foal for us as we like to give the horses a retirement before they hit their 20’s.  As ever that plan is open to change but we feel certain that the foal for next year will provide us with a fantastic future racehorse with a quality pedigree.

We will update you all with the pregnancy results in the next few weeks.