Back to articles

Donnacha O’Brien announces his retirement from the saddle

24 Nov 2019

The 21-year-old rode the winners of five QIPCO British Champions Series races during his short but highly successful career

O’Brien, left, with Magna Grecia after this year’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas. Pic Steven Cargill /

Multiple Group 1-winning jockey Donnacha O’Brien has announced his retirement from the saddle to embark on a training career.

The 21-year-old was crowned champion jockey in Ireland this year, defending the title he first secured 12 months ago, and he bows out with 10 top-level wins to his name.

O’Brien’s final Group 1 success came aboard Magical in the QIPCO Champion Stakes QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot last month.

In total, he rode the winners of five QIPCO British Champions Series races in the past two years – all for his father, Aidan.

In 2018, he won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior plus Investec Oaks on Forever Together.

This year, he won a second 2000 Guineas courtesy of Magna Grecia and enjoyed a glittering double on Champions Day aboard Kew Gardens, in the Long Distance Cup, and Magical.

In a statement on Twitter, he said: “After thinking about things for a while, I have decided to concentrate on training next year.

“Riding has been very good to me and I owe everything to the people around me.

“I want to give special thanks to the Magnier, Smith and Tabor families, along with my own family, for all their support.

“I look forward to training a small group of horses next year and will hopefully build from there.”

O’Brien rode his first Group 1 winner aboard Intricately, trained by his brother Joseph, in the 2016 Moyglare Stud Stakes and he secured three Classic wins last year.

O’Brien rode his first winner aboard Quartz for his father at Dundalk in September 2014 when he was just 16, graduating to be champion apprentice in 2016 and riding out his claim in April 2017.

He chalked up his first century of winners last year in claiming the riders’ title, and he finished this season on 111 to match Joseph in winning back-to-back championships.

Among those to congratulate O’Brien on his career was nine-time Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen.

He wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations @donnacha-obrien on a great riding career – you achieved so much in such a short space of time.

“It was nice to share the weigh room with you for a while, and I wish you the best of luck in the next chapter!”