Four Hundred and Counting for Aidan O’Brien as Rodin Strikes

The hot and cold career of Auguste Rodin continued on Day 2 at Royal Ascot. Following defeats on his first two outings this season – including a woeful last-placed effort in the Dubai Sheema Classic – the son of Deep Impact bounced back to his blistering best to see off a field of high-quality international challengers in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Prominent throughout, the mount of Ryan Moore was pushed into the lead around a furlong from home before finding more when challenged by the charging French duo of Zarakem and Horizon Dore. Now a Group 1 winner at the age of two, three, and four, this marked a significant success for Auguste Rodin, who became the first Epsom Derby winner to record a Group 1 success in his four-year-old campaign since High Chaparral, well over 20 years ago in 2002.

Auguste Rodin and High Chapparal have another thing in common – namely, that they both had a certain Aidan O’Brien in their corner. For the Ballydoyle maestro, this marked yet another landmark success in what is rapidly becoming the greatest training career of all time.

Group 1 Win Number 400

Amazingly, O’Brien was first successful at the highest level when sending out Desert King to land the 1996 edition of the National Stakes at the Curragh. Almost three decades on, thanks to the backing of the powerful Ballydoyle breeding operation, he has achieved more than anyone could have imagined. O’Brien was well placed to make his mark on the sport, but few could have predicted the level of domination that has followed over the subsequent decades.

Propelled by super sires Sadler’s Wells and his son Galileo, the Ballydoyle production line clicked into gear around the turn of the century and hasn’t stopped churning out superstar performers ever since. The sad demise of Galileo in 2021 signalled the dawn of a potentially challenging era for the O’Brien operation. However, any thoughts that this may signal a downturn in the yard’s fortunes appear to be wide of the mark – for now at least.

Possessing an overwhelming squadron of Galileo-sired mares, Ballydoyle has looked to North America and the Far East for their next stallion par excellence. So far, those ventures appear to be paying off. The US Triple Crown-winner, Justify, has given us City of Troy, and Japanese sensation, Deep Impact, has produced the Classic-winners Auguste Rodin, Saxon Warrior, and Snowfall. With sons of Galileo, such as Churchill and Australia, also making promising starts, the Coolmore/Ballydoyle dominance may continue for some time yet.

So consistent is the O’Brien machine, that the chances are high that he may have marched past the 400 milestone by the time you read this, but here we look back at the incredible global top-level record of the greatest trainer of the modern era.

Group 1 Global Tour

O’Brien’s success is well known to fans of British and Irish racing, with the Ballydoyle maestro mopping up Group 1s on both sides of the Irish Sea at a scarcely credible rate. However, O’Brien’s success has not been confined to these shores, with a total of nine nations contributing to that incredible Group 1 haul.

British Group 1 Wins – 177

UK flagThe headline acts amongst O’Brien’s incredible British total are the 44 Classic victories. His totals of 10 Derby wins and 10 2000 Guineas victories make him the most successful trainer in the history of both of those events. Elsewhere, 33 of O’Brien’s 88 Royal Ascot victories have come in the Group 1 contests, including record-setting tallies in the St. James’s Palace Stakes and Gold Cup.

Irish Group 1 Wins – 119

Irish flagSurprising nobody, O’Brien’s dominance of the British Classic scene has been mirrored in his homeland. Breaking his Irish Classic duck with an Irish 1000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas, and Irish Derby treble in 1997, O’Brien now has a round 50 Irish Classic victories and is the all-time leading trainer in all bar the Irish St. Leger.

French Group 1 Wins – 58

French flagThe fact that O’Brien has won it only twice is a testament to just how tough a race the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is to win. He did, however, rubber-stamp his dominance with the success of Found in 2016, with the first three home all hailing from his yard. Elsewhere on the other side of the Channel, O’Brien is the most successful trainer in the history of the Criterium International and Prix Marcel Boussac (joint).

US Grade 1 Wins – 35

American flagWith 18 victories, over half of O’Brien’s US successes have come at the prestigious Breeders’ Cup meeting. With totals of six, seven, and four, he tops the all-time trainer’s table in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Breeders’ Cup Turf, and Secretariat Stakes.

Hong Kong Group 1 Wins – 3

Hong Kong flagO’Brien’s Hong Kong victories have all come in the Hong Kong Vase, courtesy of Highland Reel (2015, 2017) and Mogul (2020).

Italian Group 1 Wins – 3

Italian flagThe great Sadler’s Wells provided O’Brien with two of his three Italian victories – Sholokhov (2001 Gran Criterium) and Black Sam Bellamy (2002 Gran Premio del Jockey Club). The third came courtesy of Spartacus in the 2002 Gran Criterium.

Australian Group 1 Wins – 2

Australian flagAustralia’s most prestigious race is the Melbourne Cup but that eludes O’Brien for now. However, he has picked up wins in the Cox Plate and the LKS Mackinnon Stakes.

Canadian Group 1 Wins – 2

Canadian flagRecording wins in Ireland, France, Canada and the US, Ballingarry was a globe-trotting star for O’Brien in the early 2000s. That Canadian victory came in the 2002 Canadian International, which O’Brien also won with Joshua Tree in 2010.

UAE Group 1 Wins – 1

UAE flagRounding out the 400 is O’Brien’s solitary success in the UAE. That was provided by the six-time Group 1 winner St. Nicholas Abbey in the 2013 Dubai Sheema Classic.