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10 of Aidan O’Brien’s prolific top-grade champions

10 of Aidan O’Brien’s prolific top-grade champions
10 of Aidan O’Brien’s prolific top-grade champions

With Aidan O’Brien reaching a remarkable 400 Group/Grade One winners on the Flat, we take a look at some of the Ballydoyle greats who have contributed to that tally.

Desert King provided the 54-year-old with his first top-tier success on the level when landing the 1996 National Stakes at the Curragh and added a maiden Classic triumph in the following season’s Irish 2,000 Guineas.

However, these battle-hardened performers feature among O’Brien’s most prolific elite-level winners, with their individual totals in brackets.

Yeats (7)

Horse Racing – The Royal Ascot Meeting 2009 – Day Three – Ascot Racecourse
Johnny Murtagh on Yeats after winning the Gold Cup at Ascot (Sean Dempsey/PA)

The son of Sadler’s Wells famously rattled off four straight victories in the Ascot Gold Cup between 2006 and 2009. He also prevailed in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, the Irish St Leger at the Curragh and the Prix Royal-Oak at ParisLongchamp. O’Brien said: “He is an amazing horse. History is very hard to change, we knew we had a wonderful horse but usually fairytales don’t come true. He’s an unbelievable horse and we knew there would never be another one of him.”

Highland Reel (7)

King George VI Weekend – Day Two – Ascot Races
Highland Reel ridden by Ryan Moore to win the King George (Julian Herbert/PA)

The globetrotting Galileo horse is O’Brien’s biggest money-spinner, earning over £7.5million thanks to a stellar series of results in some of the richest middle-distance races on the planet. His first major triumph came in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in America and he signed off with a second Hong Kong Vase success. There were also wins in the King George and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot, Epsom’s Coronation Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

Magical (7)

Longines Irish Champions Weekend – Day One – Leopardstown Racecourse
Magical ridden by Seamus Heffernan beats Ghaiyyath (PA).

Another O’Brien star who got better with age. She broke her duck at the highest level in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot and also claimed a Champion Stakes victory at the Berkshire track. On home turf, the daughter of Galileo secured doubles in both the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes, memorably getting the better of Ghaiyyath in a great battle for that latter contest in 2020, plus there was an emphatic Pretty Polly Stakes triumph.

Minding (7)

2016 Investec Epsom Derby Festival – Investec Ladies Day – Epsom Racecourse
Minding winning the Oaks at Epsom (David Davies/PA).

Bred to be a star, being by Galileo out of dual Group One winner Lillie Langtry, she certainly upheld family honour. The Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh and Newmarket’s Fillies’ Mile were snapped up as a juvenile, followed by a 1000 Guineas and Oaks double at three. Her Classic campaign also featured victories in the Pretty Polly, the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. At stud, Minding has produced another Group One star in Henry Longfellow.

Rock Of Gibraltar (7)

Rock of Gibraltar – Royal Ascot
Rock Of Gibraltar winning at Royal Ascot (Tom Hevezi/PA).

Racing in the red and white colours of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the son of Danehill delivered the goods time and time again, winning 10 of his 13 races, seven at elite level. At two, he prevailed in the Grand Criterium at ParisLongchamp and the Dewhurst at Newmarket, but there was even better to come during his Classic season. A narrow defeat of better-fancied stablemate Hawk Wing in the 2000 Guineas at HQ was followed by victory in the Irish equivalent, plus wins in Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the Prix du Moulin in France.

Dylan Thomas (6)

Horse Racing – Day Two – Ascot
Dylan Thomas wins the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot (David Davies/PA).

After just missing out in a blanket finish in the Derby at Epsom, the son of Danehill gained compensation with a convincing victory in the Irish equivalent and also edged out Ouija Board in the Irish Champion Stakes that season. However, he really flourished at four, winning the Prix Ganay, the King George, a second Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which led to him being named European Horse of the Year in 2007.

Giant’s Causeway (6)

Royal Ascot Giant’s Causeway
Giants Causeway (left) battling to victory at Royal Ascot (Sean Dempsey/PA).

Picked up the Prix de la Salamandre as a juvenile at ParisLongchamp and then went on to secure five straight Group One victories at three, earning the nickname ‘Iron Horse’ thanks to coming out on top in a series of tight tussles and his busy schedule. The St James’s Palace Stakes, the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown, the Sussex Stakes, the Juddmonte International at York and the Irish Champion Stakes were all landed by less than a length, with three of those winning margins being a head!

High Chaparral (6)

High Chaparral wins The Derby
High Chaparral winning the Derby at Epsom (Martyn Hayhow/PA).

A top-tier victor at two, three and four, starting out with the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as a juvenile. After outstaying Hawk Wing in the Derby at Epsom, the Sadler’s Wells colt justified short odds with an easy score in the Irish equivalent. On top of that, there was an Irish Champion Stakes win and two Breeders’ Cup Turf triumphs – a smooth success at Arlington Park and a dead-heat with Johar at Santa Anita.

St Nicholas Abbey (6)

Horse Racing – Investec Derby Day – Epsom Downs Racecourse
St Nicholas Abbey ridden by Joseph O’Brien to win the Coronation Cup (Andrew Matthews/PA).

Having landed the Racing Post Trophy in impressive fashion, Classic success was expected to follow, but the Montjeu colt failed to fire at three, running only once, when sixth in the 2000 Guineas. However, O’Brien kept the faith and showed his magic by bringing him back at four to land the Coronation Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. He ultimately claimed a hat-trick of wins in that Epsom contest and notched up a Dubai Sheema Classic victory, helping him to amass almost £5million in prize-money.

Auguste Rodin (6)

Derby Festival 2023 – Derby Day – Epsom Downs Racecourse
Auguste Rodin on route to winning the Derby (Mike Egerton/PA).

The son of Deep Impact and multiple Group One-winning Coolmore mare Rhododendron has had a bit of a rollercoaster career, but no one can question his star quality when everything goes right. He followed up a superb Futurity success at two by flopping in the 2000 Guineas, but bounced back to become a dual Derby winner. Another blip in the King George was soon forgotten after an Irish Champion Stakes victory and then a brilliant Ryan Moore ride helped him to achieve Breeders’ Cup glory. He then set the seal on O’Brien’s landmark with a gutsy Prince of Wales’s Stakes success.

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