Aidan O’Brien – Top 5 Derby Champions

Aidan O’Brien has begun the season in blistering form, mopping up the Group Ones on these shores, winning the 2,000 Guineas & Lockinge Stakes with little fuss and only just missing out on the 1,000 Guineas by a matter of lengths.

This Friday and Saturday however, see’s the return of the Investec Derby festival and in particular the Epsom Derby. A race that the Coolmore/ Ballydoyle connection seems to thrive in.

Their history stemming back to when they saddled both the winner of the Oaks and the Derby in 2001. However, it is only in the last eight or so years that they have made their dominance pay.

Aidan O’Brien has yet again declared five for this weekend’s Derby with Guineas winner Saxon Warrior leading the market. If successful, Aidan O’Brien will become the joint most successful Derby trainer of all-time and with that in mind here’s our top five greatest Aidan O’Brien champions.

Galileo – 2001

This horse needs no introduction, not only is he the reason that such success stems from Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard but also the first of Aidan O’Brien’s charges to win the famous classic. A now champion sire of nine separate years, Galileo has sired an alarming number of O’Brien’s classic winners.

A champion three-year-old himself, Mick Kinane and Galileo elegantly outpaced all rivals in winning the 2001 Derby by three and a half lengths, the ease of which is emphasised below.

Since then he has gone onto sire three Derby champions; Australia (2014), Ruler of the World (2013) and New Approach (2008). This year’s race is no different and has Galileo’s legacy all over it. Of the five Ballydoyle entries, he is the direct sire of three and the Grandsire of one.

Camelot – 2012

This champion three-year-old so nearly completed an outstanding triple crown in 2012. His Derby victory forming the second leg of an oh so nearly magnificent treble. He went on to be pipped at the post in the St Ledger by Godolphin’s Encke later on that year.

In what was one of the smaller Derby fields, Camelot and Joseph O’Brien provided a blueprint of what could be expected for years to come.

The younger O’Brien sat back, hands on heels before rounding Tattenham corner, quickening to move through the field, going eye to eye with stable mate Astrology a furlong out and battling home to win by a couple of lengths.

This would also mark the first father-son/trainer-jockey combination to win the race.

Ruler of the World – 2013

A year later, it was Ryan Moore and Ruler of the World’s turn. A son of Galileo, Ruler of the World beat out the then very short favourite Dawn Approach, in what was a patient ride by Ryan Moore.

Ryan Moore led him into a commanding position before a surge of speed down the outside, and two furlongs out Moore brought him home under fairly little pressure.

Australia – 2014

Another son of super-sire Galileo, Australia had a glittering two-year career. Impressing in the 2000 Guineas before going on to win the Derby, the Irish Derby and the Juddmonte International at York.

The O’Brien father and son duo again proving a perfect partnership, resulting in a memorable Aidan O’Brien hat-trick.

It was only Australia’s third ever start and he overwhelmed his rivals with a commanding victory. The then 21-year-old Joseph O’Brien held him up towards the back of the field before urging him through and taking the race within the final two furlongs.

Joseph O’Brien commented after, “Horses don’t come any easier to ride than this one. He’s the best.”

The quirky seven-year-old now resides at the Coolmore stud with all connections hoping that he too can follow in his sire’s footsteps and contribute towards the next generation of champions for the breeding operation.

Wings of Eagles -2017

Our final pick may well be the best pick of the lot given the circumstance.

Wings of Eagles, the 40/1 outside shot who was the least fancied of all O’Brien’s runners coming into the 2017 race produced a masterful run, not only beating his highly talented stablemates but also holding off the now second best rated horse in the world, Cracksman.

Having finished second in the Chester Vase, little was expected of the then three-year-old. However, on the day an unlikely partnership with lesser known jockey Padraig Beggy produced a seamless run.

Two furlongs out they looked all but beaten, but a late burst of speed saw them eat up the ground and nudge out stablemate Cliffs of Moher in the final strides.

Sadly Wings of Eagles picked up an injury following the Irish Derby later that year and has since been retired to stud.

Saxon Warrior to provide a seventh win for AOB?

If history and recent form are anything to go by, Saxon Warrior looks an almost certainty to lock up leg two of this year’s Triple Crown and edge closer to joining Njinsky as the only horse since the 1940’s to have completed the unlikely treble. However, just as Wings of Eagles showed us last year, anything can happen in the Derby!

As always you can follow all the action with Ed Chamberlin and the ITV Racing team live from ITV1 at 1:30pm on Saturday; with a splendid mix of top quality racing and a competitive Derby set to go off at 4:30PM.

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