Champion jockey-elect Donnacha O'Brien reaches maiden century at Dundalk
Donnacha O'Brien has emerged as one of the leading Flat riders this year and victory aboard Lost Treasure in the 6f conditions race at Dundalk on Friday evening meant the 20-year-old champion in waiting secured his 100th winner of the Irish Flat season.
Crowned champion apprentice in 2016 with 48 winners, O'Brien rode 62 winners last year but has been out on his own since the start of the season in the championship, with brother Joseph and father Aidan supplying the lion’s share of his victories.
It’s not all about punching in the numbers to secure a maiden championship for O’Brien, who's ridden three Classic winners this season comparing to Ryan Moore's two, which illustrates the improved calibre of horse he's been riding.
O'Brien's season is far from over, and on Saturday he has the opportunity to notch another Group 1 victory when partnering the hugely exciting Ten Sovereigns, a general 4-6 favourite, in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket.
Ahead of what could be a big weekend for the champion-elect rider, here’s five of his best moments so far this season.
Saxon Warrior Qipco 2,000 Guineas
The big question heading into the 2,000 Guineas this year revolved around who would be riding the Ballydoyle horses at Newmarket, and who would be going to the Kentucky Derby to ride Mendelssohn.
With Moore heading to Kentucky, O’Brien took over aboard Saxon Warrior, who had been described by the master of Ballydoyle as a “monster” heading into the spring.
Saxon Warrior duly bolted up under the deputising O’Brien, who was providing his father with a ninth success in the race.
“It's very special. Obviously, I'm winning this race and riding in big races because of the position I'm in. I'm just very grateful,” is how the then 19-year-old summarised the events which had just unfolded, which goes some way to illustrating how humble he is.
Forever Together - The Oaks
This was a little less obvious than Saxon Warrior. With Moore on Magic Wand, who’d already beaten Forever Together in an Oaks trial at Chester, O’Brien came in for the juiciest of spares.
Not that it seemed that way beforehand as Forever Together, who was still a maiden prior to breaking her duck in the Oaks, was sent to post a 7-1 shot on the day but she won in the fashion of a short-priced favourite, keeping on well to go clear on the stands’ side rail.
Latrobe - Irish Derby
The O’Brien brothers strike again! In a race that favoured those who raced prominently, Donnacha ditched plan A, B and even C when sending Latrobe to the head of the field early in the race, but with a modest pace on, it proved an inspired decision as he held off the challenge of his father’s Saxon Warrior and Rostropovich in a thrilling finish.
Furthermore, the victory sealed a breakthrough Irish Classic victory for him and his brother, with the likelihood being there’ll be many more to come.
Ten Sovereigns - Round Tower Stakes
The best may well be yet to come from Ten Sovereigns, but you get a sense that O'Brien got a terrific thrill out of guiding the high-class son of No Nay Never to an easy victory in a six furlong maiden at the Curragh before following up over the C&D when winning the Group 3 Round Tower Stakes.
Ten Sovereigns is likely to cement his status as a top-notch prospect on Saturday and is one O’Brien would surely love the chance to ride in next year’s 2,000 Guineas.
Rostropovich - Irish Champions Weekend
Purely because of the occasion, it was fitting that the champion elect rider got on the scoresheet during Irish Champions Weekend, and he gave Rostropovich a peach, narrowly lasting it out from the fast-finishing Giuseppe Garibaldi to land the Group 3 contest.
Read exclusive previews of the Cambridgeshire meeting from 6pm on racingpost.com