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O'Brien hails 'special' Fancy Blue as star filly is retired due to injury

Fancy Blue: won two Group 1 races this year, including the French Oaks
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Every trainer needs a flagship horse to kickstart their career and Donnacha O'Brien says he will never forget the importance of dual Group 1 winner Fancy Blue on his racing life, hailing the Classic heroine as a 'special' filly after her retirement due to injury.

The star three-year-old, who provided the former two-time Irish champion jockey with a first Group 1 success as a trainer in the Prix de Diane earlier this season, suffered a tendon injury during routine work on Monday morning.

Effective at the highest level from a mile to 1m2½f this season, the daughter of Deep Impact chased home Peaceful in the Irish 1,000 Guineas before recording a memorable Classic success at Chantilly under Pierre-Charles Boudot.

Fancy Blue (front): held off One Voice to win the Nassau Stakes

Fancy Blue doubled her Group 1 tally when getting the better of One Voice in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood under Ryan Moore, before finishing third to Champers Elysees on what would be her final start in the Matron Stakes.

The Coolmore-bred filly, owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs John Magnier, had been declared for Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp but missed the engagement due to a contaminated batch of feed that saw Aidan, Joseph and Donnacha O'Brien withdraw their runners.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, Donnacha O'Brien said of his stable star's retirement: "It's disappointing but she's safe and happy on her way to her next career at stud. It's not ideal but she's given us some great days and we're delighted she's going to have a happy retirement."

Fancy Blue: made a winning debut under Donnacha O'Brien as a two-year-old before going on to win two Group 1s for him as her official trainer the following season

He added: "She's been such an important filly for us. However long I live, I'll always remember her as the horse who gave us our first big days. She's been very special to us and always will be."

O'Brien was aboard the 114-rated performer for her debut maiden win in September 2019 at Naas before officially being recognised as the filly's trainer when taking out his training licence ahead of this season.

Fancy Blue retires having won four of her six career starts.

A filly and a trainer with the same great temperament

Fancy Blue's breakthrough success at Chantilly showed what confidence Donnacha O'Brien had in his filly, as well as his ability to communicate that belief with his former weighing room rival and colleague, Pierre-Charles Boudot. 

Donnacha O'Brien struck Classic success with Fancy Blue having saddled just three career winners previously

Faced with a rematch against her narrow Irish 1,000 Guineas conqueror Peaceful, as well as another Group 1 winner over a mile in Coronation Stakes heroine Alpine Star, the temptation must surely have been to try to beat them for stamina.

Yet Fancy Blue was given a fine waiting ride on the shoulder of Alpine Star before essentially outsprinting her rivals. 

Travel restrictions obliged O'Brien to watch events unfold on a mobile phone screen in between saddling runners at Fairyhouse, a scenario which was repeated when Fancy Blue landed the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood. 

It is fair to point to the beautifully bred horses that the Coolmore partners have placed in O'Brien's care right from the start of his conversion from top-class jockey to Classic-winning trainer. 

But while every trainer at every level of the sport knows you need the ammunition, to show such calm and precision in his first season with a licence marks Donnacha O'Brien out as a prodigious talent. 

Very little about his maiden training season has been predictable, as was demonstrated when his stable star was prevented from running in last Sunday's Prix de l'Opera over fears of feed contamination. 

In her finest hour Fancy Blue stood in a near-deserted winners' enclosure at Chantilly, looking half asleep. 

Her trainer seems blessed with the same imperturbable nature.  
Scott Burton

Read more

Diane brings Donnacha O'Brien a first Classic as a trainer at 21

Fancy that! Donnacha's not Blue after first British runner takes Group 1 glory

O'Brien team tested in Australia following contaminated feed cases

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She's been such an important filly for us. However long I live, I'll always remember her as the horse who gave us our first big days
E.W. Terms