Masterful Aidan O'Brien

Masterful Aidan O'Brien

Monday, October 10, 2016


There was a huge amount of confidence within the Found camp that she would win last weekend's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. That confidence was justified with her impressive victory underlining the winner's excellence and also, of course, her trainer's sheer brilliance.

To have sent out Found, Highland Reel and Order Of St George to finish first, second and third in the most important Flat race of the year was an astonishing achievement by Aidan O'Brien.

Frankie Dettori, who partnered Order Of St George, said it was an honour to be involved in something that will never be repeated.

I think Frankie is wrong. The Arc one-two-three could well be repeated. Aidan could do it again.

Aidan is sent the world's most magnificently bred horses every year. However, he is absolutely crucial in the success of the Ballydoyle-Coolmore animals, in no small part because he is the one who makes them so hardy. That is of massive importance.

It is very easy to ruin a good horse by turning that colt or filly into a soft horse.

To explain what I mean by that I'll paint a comparison with the raising of children. A parent knows you can't let a child slop around the house. You have to make sure children get up in the morning when the alarm clock rings. You need to get them to brush their hair and clean their teeth before going to school. They have to do their chores and not spend all their free time watching the telly or playing computer game. If homework is brought home the priority has to be for it to be done.

Parents nag their children because they want us to be the very best people we can be. It's no different with trainers and their horses.

Aidan makes sure his horses are the horses he wants them to be. He is blessed with the very best raw material but he also gets the very best out of that raw material.

You can see numerous similarities between Aidan and Sir Alex Ferguson. Through his no nonsense approach Sir Alex could get more out of his Manchester United players than anyone else would have been able to do. What has happened since he retired from football management has underlined that.

Aidan's no nonsense approach is just as successful when it comes to his horses. You can see that from not only the way they run but also from the way they behave. Whether it's in the paddock, on the way to the start or going into the stalls they hardly ever give any trouble. Seeing that must make Aidan almost as proud as seeing them win so many top races.

Aidan is obviously helped by having not just the finest horses but also the finest jockey, as Ryan Moore once again showed on Sunday.

I know I keep saying this but the key to Ryan's success is he isn't afraid to be beaten. That was the case in last year's Arc at Longchamp when he took the shortest route on the rail aboard Found. On that day things didn't work out. Found met significant trouble early in the straight, flew home and finished on the bridle. The memory of that did not frighten Ryan. He rode her exactly the same way on Sunday and reaped the benefit of his bravery.

In this first Chantilly Arc Ryan went down the inner on Found, just as he went down the inner when winning the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on The Grey Gatsby two years ago. Ryan has balls of steel and believes in himself. His enormous success comes from not being not fearful of taking the shortest route through a race. On a few rare occasions, such as at Royal Ascot this year, things won't work out, but that doesn't mean Ryan will have given a horse a bad ride. I laughed at the stupidity of the criticism Ryan received then and I still laugh at it now.

In a big race like the Arc you simply cannot afford to be three or four wide running keenly. Ryan ensured that Found was asleep for almost all the race on Sunday. In fact, she wouldn't have realised she was in a race until he pressed the button coming up the home straight. She took off so dramatically because her jockey had managed to save so much of her energy.

With her consistency and durability, not to mention her immense ability, Found is clearly a special filly. She is also one who is at her best in the autumn, as she showed when winning the Prix Marcel Boussac at two and the Breeders' Cup Turf at three.

Truth be told, I've no idea why a horse like Found will suddenly blossom in the autumn. However, some horses are like that. You find there are those who come good when they have some sun on their back and others, like Found, who are naturally at their very best in the autumn.

It's certainly the case that fillies are more seasonal than colts for obvious hormonal reasons. Some fall away at the end of the season as they lose their summer coat but others who are later in coming to hand reach their peak in the season's final weeks. Found is very much one of those.

As a trainer you get to know your horses very well and it becomes clear to you which ones flourish at a particular time of year. We can see it in their wellbeing, their freshness and homework, which can move from being lethargic to super. Found has never been more super than she is now and, off the back of her Arc win, the sky's the limit for her over the coming weeks. There's no reason why she couldn't go on to Ascot and the Breeders' Cup, as she did last year, because she is so tough and resilient, plus, of course, brilliant.

Her victory meant it was a memorable Arc day for Ireland, but it was also a memorable Arc day for Britain, which won four of the afternoon's six Group 1 races having also won Saturday's Chantilly Group 1 with Quest For More.

In my opinion British racing is thriving at the moment. Marsha was fantastic for Sir Mark Prescott, Luke Morris and the Elite Racing Club in the Prix de l'Abbaye, while Limato was devastating in the Prix de la Foret. In one way it's a pity he cannot eventually have a stallion career but, equally, the fact he is a gelding means we can enjoy him for years to come.

It was also great to see James Fanshawe take the Opera with Speedy Boarding under Freddy Tylicki. Freddy is a jockey who has the handy knack of riding a lot of winners. He struggled for a few years but has never been miserable, even when he was entitled to be. Instead he always shows off a sunny disposition. I'm delighted for him, just as I was for George Baker after his win on Quest For More.

What you can guarantee is Aidan's quest for more wins in the sport's top races will continue for years to come.

Don't be disappointed if Churchill is not devastating

Churchill is not only favourite for today's Dubai Dewhurst Stakes (3.30). He also heads the market for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and Investec Derby.

That tells you he has been extremely good at two and is expected to be even better at three. I would not, however, be disappointed if he fails to win in explosive fashion this afternoon.

That's because I'm sure Churchill is going to be even better when he races over further than the seven furlongs he encounters once again in the Dewhurst. This is a horse who has so far looked to be an out and out galloper. Moreover, any horse who wins the Chesham Stakes so early in the season has shown himself to have plenty of stamina.

iT Could turn into a really tactical contest. If there is a horse who might have a chance of challenging Churchill for speed coming out of the dip it's Godolphin's Blue Point, who has won the Gimcrack over six furlongs and last time finished second at Newmarket in the Middle Park. That said, Ryan Moore will have all bases covered and is likely to have his lad rolling away from some way out.

My overall point is I don't think we should be surprised if Churchill is not massively impressive today. Whether he is or he is not, he has a very bright future.