Aidan O’Brien, 49, saddled a winner on his very first day as a trainer, when Wandering Thoughts won a handicap at Tralee in June, 1993. Thereafter, he won the Irish National Hunt Trainers’ Championship in five consecutive seasons between 1993/94 and 1997/98 and famously trained Istabraq to win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years running in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
In 1996, Aidan O’Brien succeeded his namesake, Vincent O’Brien, as private trainer to John Magnier at Ballydoyle, near Cashel, Co. Tipperary and embarked on a career that would take him to the top of his profession, not just in Ireland, but worldwide. He registered his first Group One victory with Desert King, in the National Stakes at the Curragh, in September that year and his first Classic victory with the same horse in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, back at the Curragh, the following May.
O’Brien became Irish Champion Flat trainer for the first time in 1999 and has retained the title ever since. In 2001, he also became British Champion Flat trainer for the first time at the age of 32, making him the youngest ever, and the first Irishman since Vincent O’Brien, in 1971, to do so. All told, Aidan O’Brien has been British Champion Flat trainer six times, in 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2016 and 2017. Having won both the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in 2019, O’Brien has saddled a total of 34 British Classic winners; ten in the 2,000 Guineas, seven in the Oaks, six in the Derby and the St. Leger and five in the 1,000 Guineas.
Under the auspices of Magnier and his Coolmore Stud associates, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith – almost invariably referred to as ‘the lads’ – O’Brien has over 300 Group One victories to his name and has broken records year after year. In 2017, he saddled 28 Group One, or Grade One, winners in a single season, beating the previous record held by the late Robert J. Frankel and, in 2018 – the year in which he became Irish Champion Flat trainer for the twentieth consecutive time – saddled 152 winners in Ireland, smashing the previous record, of 139, set by Jim Bolger way back in 1992.