O’Briens exert unique Irish Derby domination at the Curragh

Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien combine with Latrobe to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby


Racing history has long since bowed the knee to Aidan O’Brien and his sons, Joseph and Donnacha, combined to produce some of their own with Latrobe’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby success on Saturday.

No other siblings had combined to win Ireland’s premier classic as trainer and jockey in the Derby’s previous 152 years.

And considering Latrobe led home four runners trained by O’Brien Snr, neither the Curragh, or any other significant racecourse anywhere in the world, can hardly have seen before such family domination of a major classic.

In his previous dozen Irish Derby wins, Aidan O’Brien saddled a 1-2-3 of the places on five occasions: the nature of this domination looked at another level again.

National Hunt racing in Ireland has produced its share of big-race family success stories over the years. The sight of David O’Brien edging out his legendary father, Vincent, in the 1984 Epsom Derby is guaranteed a place forever in flat racing folklore too. This ranked with any of them.

On Sunday, Joseph O’Brien, guaranteed another niche in Irish Derby history by having now trained a winner in addition to riding Camelot (2012) and Australia (2014,) was still coming to terms with his latest big race success.

Considering it’s just over two years since he was officially granted a training licence it’s a safe bet it won’t take long.


In just over 20 months he has advertised his prowess across the codes with Edwulf’s Irish Gold Cup win over fences and across the globe thanks to Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup.

Considering O’Brien is just 25, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Latrobe becomes referenced as the first of a long list of classic winners. And considering O’Brien’s father is not yet 49 it’s just as easy to suspect such familial Group One finishes will become more and more familiar.

As for Latrobe’s own future, his trainer said on Sunday: “Obviously there’s all the good races for him. He’ll probably have to step up again to take on the older horses. We’ll have a chat with Lloyd and Nick (Williams, owners) and regroup this week.”

The son of Camelot has been given quotes of 16-1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

Aidan O’Brien famously saddled a 1-2-3 in France’s greatest race two years ago. But even from a perspective of three months away it’s intriguing to ponder a potential family benefit to compare with Three Troikas in 1979 who was trained by Criquette Head and ridden by her brother, Freddie.

Despite everything though, and even considering racing’s long history, it’s safe to assume the old game has seen little if anything to compare to the O’Brien story.

Two decades at Ballydoyle have helped Aidan O’Brien rewrite the sport’s statistical history. Now his dynastic influence is stretching beyond the equine.

The Derby’s €855,000 first place prizemoney sees father and son comfortably on top of the Irish trainer’s table, each with more than twice in the bag as their nearest rival. And Donnacha O’Brien is odds on to emulate his brother by winning the jockey’s title this year.

The 19-year-old has only ridden for his father and brother this year , no bad boast considering they are now the top two yards in the country.


The confidence gained from that was all over his Derby ride when ditching plans to wait and instead grasping the chance to keep tabs on Rostropovich’s slow early tempo. The evens favourite Saxon Warrior sat just off them and the trio ultimately had the race to themselves from some way out.

Latrobe ultimately ground it out best of all on the sun-baked fast ground and benefitted from being positioned perfectly to do so.

“Donnacha let him move forward and slot in second. That was probably the winning of the race,” his brother repeated on Sunday. “I can’t actually remember the last day Donnacha rode out in my yard. He’s in Ballydoyle every day of the week and he rides work for me when we take the horses away. He obviously rides a lot of them on the track and we speak to each other pretty much every day. We’ve very close in that regard,” Joseph O’Brien added.

He himself gave up the unequal fight with the scales at just 22 and appreciates more than anyone what his brother faces in overcoming weight. “Donnacha appreciates he’s not going to be able to ride forever and he makes the most of what he can, when he can,” he said.

The strength in depth at Ballydoyle makes what the youngest O’Brien gets to work with the envy of most other riders. Saturday was his third classic of 2018. The Ballydoyle number one Ryan Moore, has yet to claim one.

Moore missed Saxon Warrior’s Guineas to ride Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby and that colt could return to action back on dirt in this Saturday night’s Grade Three Dwyer Stakes at Belmont.

That race, followed by September’s Pennsylvania Derby, have been mooted as a route to the Breeders’ Cup Classic for Mendelssohn.

Saturday night’s card also includes the $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational which is an option for both Threeandfourpence and O’Brien’s Royal Ascot winner Hunting Horn. O’Brien won the race in 2016 with Deauville.

Hunting Horn also figures in some ante-post lists for Saturday afternoon’s Eclipse at Sandown although he would need to be supplemented into the race for a likely clash with the Epsom Derby winner, Masar.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.