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Greats pay tribute to record-breaker Aidan O’Brien

29 Oct 2017

Twelve of trainer's 26 Group One wins this year have been achieved in the QIPCO British Champions Series

Aidan O'Brien

O’Brien has been relentless in this year’s top races. Picture:

Many of racing’s greats have paid tribute to Aidan O’Brien after his achievement of securing a world record 26 Group 1 wins in a calendar year.

O’Brien drew level with previous record holder Bobby Frankel, who chalked up 25 wins in 2003, on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot this month and overhauled him with the tenacious win of Saxon Warrior in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday.

In the process the unbeaten colt advertised his claims for two QIPCO Champions Series next year – the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby.

Saxon Warrior became the 15th individual Group 1 winner that O’Brien has trained this year. His haul of 26 includes no fewer than 12 victories at the highest level in this year’s 35-race Champions Series.

Former Ballydoyle stable jockey Mick Kinane led the tributes to O’Brien, saying: “It’s a fantastic achievement. I think we got close to doing it one year, we had about 21 or 22 and I rode 19 of them and he’s come close a few times, so it just shows you how hard it is.

“I think the key thing is how his horses hold their form through the year and go on improving, US Navy Flag is the perfect case. You never hear him talk of a virus, it shows how meticulous he is.”

Johnny Murtagh rode 19 Group One winners for O’Brien in 2008 during his three seasons at Ballydoyle and is now training in his own right after finally hanging up his whip in 2014.

“It’s an amazing achievement for Aidan and his family and, of course, the team in Ballydoyle,” said Murtagh. “They have a wonderful team, but it starts at the top.”

Murtagh succeeded Kieren Fallon, who remembers his time as the main rider at Ballydoyle with great fondness. “You have to work hard, he works hard seven days a week and he expects that from everybody else, but he rewards you,” he said. “It was a fun place to be, there was a buzz in the yard.”

John Oxx has been a leading trainer in Ireland for many years and said: “For people who think it’s easy because he has great horses, you still have to get them there and it’s a big effort, but he seems to pull it off year after year.”

Ger Lyons is another Irish trainer who has to compete with O’Brien on a day-to-day basis. He said: “Aidan is setting the standard worldwide, there are records he is setting now that should never be broken, he’s only a young man remember – he’s a long time to go.

“You hear people say it’s only because he’s got the best horses but I always use the analogy of football, plenty of managers mess up good football teams. He deserves huge credit for what he’s doing, he’s a credit to the Irish racing industry and I think he’s taken very much for granted.”