Article by Darren O’Conghaile
Donnacha O’Brien is the son of Irish champion trainer Aidan, he enjoyed a short but successful career in the saddle before joining the training ranks in late 2019.
O’Brien registered his first winner as a jockey at Dundalk Stadium, aboard Quartz for his father, in September 2014, when he was just 16 years old – from then onwards he remarkably rode a total of 10 Group One winners, including four Classic successes, aboard Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Forever Together in the Oaks at Epsom and Latrobe in the Irish Derby at the Curragh.
Speaking on his retirement from the saddle, O’Brien said;
“Riding has been very good to me and I owe everything to the people around me. I want to give special thanks to the Magnier, Smith and Tabor families along with my own family for all their support”
O’Brien is now training racehorses from his picturesque Longfield base in County Tipperary that was once used by David Wachman – there is no justifications for not training a lot of winners from that state-of-the-art yard.
The enormous changeover from Irish Champion jockey, to ‘rookie’ trainer takes a lot of getting used to, surely? O’Brien responded, “It was a bit strange at first, although I’m enjoying it now and looking forward to the season ahead. My main intention this season is to keep my horses happy and healthy, with any luck that will lead to plenty of winners along the way.
Being a jockey was incredible from the beginning to the end, I realize I was particularly fortunate have so much big race success in such a short space of time, hopefully I can now prove myself as a trainer to everyone just as quick” emphasized O’Brien.
What was O’Brien’s favourite winner in his magnificent time of being a jockey?
“If I had to single out my favoured success, it would have to be winning the 2000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior, without any hesitation” beamed O’Brien.
Being attached to the all-conquering Ballydoyle juggernaut, O’Brien is the right man to ask the huge ‘question’ to – What sort of horse does it take to win the Epsom Derby, he hesitated, and replied; “The horse needs speed, stamina, balance and a great attitude to handle the undulating environment of Epsom racecourse”
We couldn’t let Donnacha O’Brien go without him giving us to give a few horses to follow for the season from his stable, which he helpfully replied: “ Three from my yard who I like a lot are Fancy blue, Sherpa and Hazel – them three look the pick of my look, so far anyway.