Australia might have injected the greatest possible substance into his already stratospheric reputation with a resounding Epsom Derby victory but even earning a spot on racing’s most famous roll of honour may yet assure the colt mere footnote status in Aidan O’Brien’s remorseless statistical rewrite of racing history.
Never before in the Derby’s 234-year history has a trainer won this most coveted classic three years in a row but there doesn’t appear to be a horizon to O’Brien’s record-breaking capacity and he produced the horse he reckons the best he’s ever had to change that statistic with aplomb.
Australia is O'Brien's fifth Epsom Derby winner in 14 years. His Ballydoyle predecessor Vincent O'Brien saddled six in just over two decades. The record of seven is held by Fred Darling in the first half of the last century and John Porter and Robert Robson in the 18th century.
Already in possession of a record 30 Irish Classics, O’Brien garnered his 21st British classic on Saturday, five more than MV O’Brien, and just four behind legendary figure
. It’s a CV that beggars belief – and O’Brien is only 44.
Only he can know the stresses of steering the world’s most powerful bloodstock operation on to the world’s racetracks. But this most focused of men doesn’t appear to be wilting under the pressure, even contributing a dynasty of his own in addition to the succession supplied to Coolmore.
Just three hours after Joseph O’Brien plotted a course around Epsom, his 18-year-old sister Ana secured a more modest €7,500 handicap at Limerick, a seventh career win.
Her 21-year-old brother again showcased a priceless ability to get it right when it counts by steering his father’s 11 to 8 favourite to a resounding defeat of Kingston Hill on Saturday and his capacity to maintain a 6ft frame under nine stone, while handling the expectation around him, is near-miraculous.
By definition, though, the jockey’s future in the saddle can hardly be gauged in the long term. Age might bring wisdom but it’s usually a weighty virtue. But there doesn’t appear to be any obvious obstacle to O’Brien snr’s ability to continue to dominate European racing far into the future.
With Coolmore in possession of the world’s most valuable stallion, Galileo, and now one of his most illustrious sons, not to mention a seemingly near-limitless capacity to produce the best bred, most valuable material, it could boil down to Aidan O’Brien’s desire to keep doing what he does.
Since he remains in thrall to the business of extracting the most out of the string of horses put in his care by John Magnier, and insists on how privileged he feels to be in such a position, there is no knowing the eventual scale of success O’Brien can reach. History is on the hoof in front of us.
What Australia’s ultimate history will be may be easier to predict. All four of his trainer’s previous Epsom heroes proceeded to the Irish Derby with only Ruler of the World failing to bring up the double last year. But this product of a dual-Derby and double-Oaks winner looks in another league again, one that possibly brings other options.
Joseph O’Brien described Australia as a “special horse” and said he would have no concerns about dropping him back in trip if needed, even to a mile.
“He’s got a serious amount of pace, definitely seven-furlong pace. I travelled as well as anything in the Guineas and I was cantering throughout the whole race [Epsom] . . . He’s very uncomplicated,” he said.
Kingston Hill was the one to test Australia. His trainer Roger Varian said the Irish Derby is under consideration.
The Curragh Classic just happens to have been won 10 times by a certain AP O’Brien, however, including a mind-boggling seven-in-a-row prior to last year. Judged by that, a hat-trick might not even seem much to get excited about.