Donnacha O'Brien quits the saddle to focus on training career
Two-time champion jockey Donnacha O'Brien has announced his retirement from race-riding at the age of just 21 to concentrate on training.
The youngest of Aidan O'Brien's four children followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Joseph, by winning the Flat jockeys' championship for a second time this month and is now set to embark on a training career with his establishment already set up in Longfield, County Tipperary.
Aidan O'Brien confirmed that the unbeaten Fancy Blue was under Donnacha's wing after she won for a second time at the Curragh last month.
It has been a whirlwind few years for Donnacha, who rode his first winner at Dundalk in September of 2014 as a fresh-faced 16-year-old on Quartz, trained by his father. His last winner was Nobel Prize in a Naas maiden on the final day of the 2019 Flat turf season in Ireland this month. It brought his tally for the season to 111 and handed him a second title.
An absolutely fabulous lad & its been a privilege to call him a friend. We’ve had some brilliant memories on the track. Long may it continue in his 2nd career. Thankyou @donnacha_obrien pic.twitter.com/70kp45HlTp— Paul Smith (@PaulSmith0094) November 24, 2019
O’Brien, who announced his retirement on Twitter, said in a statement: “After thinking about things for a while I have decided to concentrate on training next year.
“Riding has been very good to me and I owe everything to the people around me. I want to give special thanks to the Magnier, Smith and Tabor families along with my own family for all their support.
“I look forward to training a small group of horses next year and will hopefully build from there.”
It was obvious from a very early stage that O'Brien was going to make a real name for himself in the saddle and his 2014 Irish Cesarewitch success on El Salvador was a sign of things to come.
A first Group 1 arrived on Irish Champions Weekend in 2016 when he teamed up with Joseph to land the Moyglare Stakes on 25-1 outsider Intricately.
That was a real family success as it was Joseph's first official Group 1 win as a trainer and Intricately was bred by their mother, Anne Marie.
A second top-level success for O'Brien arrived in the same race the following year when Happily led home a 1-2-3 for his father.
Saxon Warrior provided Donnacha O'Brien with a first Group 1 outside of Ireland when storming clear to take the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on the first Saturday of May in 2018. He also won the Investec Oaks on Forever Together that year, but perhaps the highlight of 2018 arrived on the final Saturday of June at the Curragh when he again teamed up with Joseph, this time to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby on Latrobe.
He finished last year in style, winning the Cheveley Park on Fairyland, the Middle Park on Ten Sovereigns and the Vertem Futurity Trophy on Magna Grecia.
O'Brien's brilliance in the saddle was seen to best effect in the 2,000 Guineas in May when, from stall 17, he decided to stick to the nearside rail in a group of three on Magna Grecia rather than track the main pack of 16. It proved a masterstroke as the 11-2 shot won by two and a half lengths from King Of Change.
What proved to be O'Brien's tenth and final Group 1 win was the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot and, fittingly, it arrived on the superb Magical, who he rode out every morning at home in Ballydoyle.
O'Brien completed the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's Pre-Racehorse Trainers Development Course in May and it was clear that training was always going to follow riding. He makes the leap having achieved a remarkable amount during his five years in the saddle.
Paddy Power wasted no time in pricing up O'Brien's training ambitions, offering 11-8 about training a Group winner in 2020, 12-1 for a Group 1 winner and 33-1 to saddle a Classic winner in Britain or Ireland next year.
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