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  Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
O'Brien reaches for stars with Galileo
Aiden O'Brien is mobbed by fans at Cheltenham
Aiden O'Brien is mobbed by fans at Cheltenham
Richard Griffiths talks to Ireland's top Flat trainer Aidan O'Brien ahead of the Vodafone Derby on 9 June.

In a career that has been as short as it is dazzling, there are few challenges that Aidan O'Brien has yet to meet.

Like a beacon, the Derby stands out as one of them.

O'Brien, who is only 31, is a precociously successful trainer.

He advertised his talents in style recently when saddling the first three horses home in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the first, third and fourth finishers in the Irish 1,000 Guineas a day layer.

It was quite simply an astonishing achievement.

But we should be used by now to astonishing achievements from O'Brien.

  Aidan O'Brien factfile
Born: 16/10/69
Based: Ballydole, Co. Tipperary
First English Classic win: 1998 King of Kings, 2000 Guineas
Won Oaks in 1998 with Shahtoush - first runner at Epsom
Trains triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq

Despite his age - he is exceptionally young for his profession - he has already been champion trainer in Ireland, in both the National Hunt and Flat codes.

O'Brien started out over jumps, but these days his stable concentrates almost exclusively on blue-blooded, extremely valuable Flat horses - like his Derby candidate Galileo.

One exception is Istabraq, the triple Champion Hurdler who under O'Brien's care has already gained legendary status among the thousands of Irish racegoers who flock to the Cheltenham Festival each year.

To underline his talent, O'Brien won with his first runner at Epsom when Shahtoush landed the 1998 Oaks.

But that was followed by a disastrous first attempt to win the Derby a day later.

He had three strongly-fancied runners, Second Empire, Saratoga Springs, and King Of Kings.

But none made the placings after their flight from Ireland was delayed and they arrived at Epsom only hours before the race.


He has an awful lot of natural speed and a high cruising pace, qualities you need for Epsom
Aidan O'Brien on Galileo

O'Brien had fancied runners in the two subsequent Derbys, but again neither figured.

Almost like a politician, O'Brien tries not to be drawn into talking about what it would mean to win the Derby.

"We treat every race individually and try to do the best whatever the horse," he says.

But it is almost certainly the one race of the season that he sets out to win, such is the wealth of equine talent available to him.

Equally, O'Brien trains from one of the world's most famous stables, Ballydoyle in County Tipperary.

Only one other man has trained there, the outstanding Vincent O'Brien, no relation, who coated Ballydoyle with Derby history by winning the race six times between 1962 and 1982.

Galileo is one of the favourites for the Derby at Epsom
Galileo is fancied to break O'Brien's Epsom Derby duck

So there is much to live up to. Can Galileo do it?

"We think this is a very good colt," says O'Brien.

"He has an awful lot of natural speed and a high cruising pace, which are qualities you need for Epsom.

"I think we can take his stamina on trust.

"We think the horse is very well, we just have to hope everything goes right before the race and that he is able to give a good account of himself."

Significantly, O'Brien's horses have shown improvement on their early season form.

"We've had the foot-and-mouth situation and that didn't help us, and neither did the bad weather," acknowledges O'Brien.

"So the horses have come on a bit and we would be hopeful there will be more improvement from Galileo."

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