VINCENT O’BRIEN DEAD

Famous trainer Vincent O’Brien, widely acknowledged by many as the greatest European trainer ever, died today at the age of 92 at his home in Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland.

O’Brien started training in 1943 and first made his reputation with jump horses, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in England four times, the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National at Aintree three times each.

When he switched to flat racing, his success continued and one chapter of his Epsom Derby story included a prominent Virginian.

The first of his six Epsom Derby (Eng-I) triumphs from his Irish base of Ballydoyle came in 1962 with Larkspur who was the first of two Derby winners trained by O’Brien for Raymond Guest, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Guest, a who raced domestically under the name Powhatan Stable also owned Sir Ivor, the Epsom Derby winner of 1968.

(Guest was also the President of Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the father of Delegate Andy Guest who introduced the enabling legislation for pari-mutuel wagering here in Virginia. In addition, he raced Preakness winner and champion Tom Rolfe as well as steeplechase champion L’Escargot.)

O’Brien saddled the great Nijinsky II to win the British Classic two years later before becoming the first English Triple Crown winner since Bahram in 1935.

Famous jockey Lester Piggott, who piloted both Sir Ivor and Nijinsky II, was at his best when driving home Roberto for a thrilling short-head triumph over Rheingold to give O’Brien his fourth Derby success in 1972. Both of O’Brien’s charges – Sir Ivor and Roberto would go on to be influential American sires.

During the 1970s, O’Brien, owner Robert Sangster, and O’Brien’s son-in-law, John Magnier, would have a major impact on Thoroughbred racing. The triumvirate would be the brains behind Coolmore Stud in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

O’Brien’s final two Derby winners carried the colors of Robert Sangster. The Minstrel prevailed in 1977, again with Piggott, and the fragile, but exceptional, Golden Fleece won the race easily under Pat Eddery in 1982.

O’Brien retired in 1994 with a phenomenal record of 16 English classic victories, 27 Irish classic wins, three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) successes and 25 Royal Ascot triumphs. Shortly before retiring, O’Brien saddled Royal Academy to win the $1 million Breeders Cup Mile Gr. 1.

O’Brien is survived by his wife Jacqueline and five children.