Aidan O’Brien rewrites racing history

By David Williams on |

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Aidan O'Brien
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Michael Dickinson’s Famous Five is widely regarded — irrespective of the generations — to be the greatest single training feat in National Hunt history.

Frankie Dettori’s Magnificent Seven, which we discussed last week, is popularly held to be the most astonishing statistical achievement in the saddle. So where now must we put last weekend’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe when trainer Aidan O’Brien saddled the first three home?

It sounds almost trite to read that last sentence aloud, without fully contemplating its magnitude and significance. Words fail to do it justice and it almost defies belief.

To train the winner is special and to train the runner-up is none too shabby. To train them both is unheard of and to train the first three home is beyond the imagining.

Despite the master of Ballydoyle saddling three in the race, not even the most publicity-hungry bookie priced such an eventuality up.

O’Brien has often re-written the history books and he may yet re-write them this season as he chases down Bobby Frankel’s 25 G1 winners in a single season.

O’Brien has 19 and counting. For now, however, he has recalibrated the scale of what is possible. We’ll soon enough slip into our old bad habits of saying “never again”. When O’Brien is on the premises, we can rule absolutely nothing out.

Fury at fans’ feeble barbs

A sensational weekend at Chantilly was complemented by a largely superb Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.

For sports junkies like me, it was a day for multiple-screening as the Shoreditch brigade might say. The best quality Flat racing in the world in France coupled with – to my junior eye at least – the highest quality golf ever played by so many players.

It was professional golf at its worst. So why, therefore, was I glad to see the back if it, irrespective of the result? Put simply, it was down to the fans. There are no sour grapes here on account of European support, simply an abhorrence at the behaviour of some of the home fans who heckled the likes of Rory McIlroy for no reason beyond him being brilliant at his sport.

How lucky we are in Racing to be spared the partisan nonsense of angry fans. Sure, the occasional punter might bad-mouth a jockey when he or she has done their dough, but those voices are seldom heard and rightfully often ignored.

Sadly, at Hazeltine, the idiocy of a few was broadcast to the many viewing millions. It ruined the spectacle and gave me a timely reminder that those of us who follow racing are amongst the most respectful sports fans of the lot.

Long may it continue and let us take a zero-tolerance approach to criticism of our true heroes, the sportsmen and thoroughbreds themselves.

Mr McGrath’s masterpiece

We return to Newmarket this weekend and I am just about getting to grips with the new calendar of events which had left me disorientated of late.

It’s the Cesarewitch which, as every classical pub bore will tell you, is the only race to start in one county and end in another.

For years, I thought this was remarkable, until I got into the beating heart of Chris McGrath’s relatively new racing publication, Mr Darley’s Arabian.

It is a brilliant, entertaining and highly amusing romp through the history of Racing and includes wonderfully colourful tales of the sport in centuries bygone.

Horses would often be raced over many miles several times a day in crooked heats for crooked connections and rascals alike.

Given we are in October and the Christmas lights will soon — depressingly — be arriving on our High Streets, make this your number one literary buy for any racing fans. It is as smart a piece of writing as I have ever enjoyed in our sport and Mr McGrath has every reason to be well rewarded for his extensive and quite brilliant research.

Haggas streak to continue

I ended up backing NEW BAY in the Arc and, of course, he ran no better than OK in finishing mid-division.

But it’s the start of a new month and having just enjoyed payday, we’re going to have a crack with Rivet in this Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes Sure, we are running into the mighty Churchill who is odds-on for you-know-who, but William Haggas has been in the form of his life in September and I see no reason not to go in again and again until his luck turns.

At 8/1 and without much rain forecast, I am hoping we can go closer again.

Top image: Aidan O’Brien with his son Joseph, by Monkeywing via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

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