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Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 18:52 UK

Cornelius Lysaght on Vincent O'Brien

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

How poignant that the death of racing's greatest ever trainer Vincent O'Brien should be announced in the week of the Epsom Derby.

During more than half a century, O'Brien, who's widely acknowledged as the sport's most influential figure, brought the trophies for Flat racing's premier Classic back home to Ireland on six occasions.

Vincent O'Brien
Vincent O'Brien leaves a wonderful legacy in racing

Subsequent Triple Crown winner Nijinsky, ridden by Lester Piggott (1970), was perhaps the best known, but other names such as Sir Ivor, Roberto and The Minstrel are some of the race's most unforgettable.

And that legendary influence will be on show once again in this year's race, being staged just two days after the funeral.

Because the legacy that O'Brien has left behind, the globally successful Coolmore racing and thoroughbred breeding operation will have up to six horses in the race.

And the stranglehold being enjoyed by the Irish on this year's Derby is largely down to the establishment of Coolmore in the 1970s by O'Brien, with multi-millionaire businessman Robert Sangster and his own son-in-law, John Magnier.

O'Brien, who had already enjoyed phenomenal success over jumps, had what seemed like a water diviner's knack of finding champions among unproven horses.

With the financial backing of Sangster and the business acumen of Magnier, he built a racing empire based on the eponymous stud in County Tipperary, Ireland. Further bloodstock interests were added in Kentucky and Australia.

They employed what turned out to be the highly fruitful bloodlines emanating from the Canadian-bred Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer.


Nijinsky, the last horse to complete Flat racing's Triple Crown- the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger- was the best racing offspring, but there were literally dozens of others as well including the champion stallion Sadler's Wells.

Their progeny and the next generations too have proved highly successful, so that Coolmore stands supreme, with Aidan O'Brien- no relation- now the trainer at the operations Ballydoyle stables which Vincent O'Brien built up.

The young O'Brien said: "As for so many people in racing, he was my hero growing up.

"He was tireless in improving the yards and gallops and we enjoy the benefits of his half-century of hard work and dedication today.

"We would never have been able to achieve our successes without the facility and gallops he built. There is nothing that compares to it anywhere in the world.

"His dedication to the sport of racing and to the highest standards knew no bounds. It is humbling to follow in his footsteps."

How appropriate it would be then if Aidan O'Brien's Fame And Glory, the Derby favourite, or Rip Van Winkle or one of his other runners were to bring the prize back to Ballydoyle once again.

Racing is a sentimental old thing, and would not be able to contain itself.

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see also
Racing great O'Brien remembered
01 Jun 09 |  Horse Racing
Ex-trainer Vincent O'Brien dies
01 Jun 09 |  Horse Racing
Racing's all-time favourite
14 Feb 03 |  Horse Racing
Frozen Fire takes Irish Derby win
29 Jun 08 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
01 Apr 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
01 Apr 09 |  Horse Racing
Cornelius Lysaght column
25 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing

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