The late Bobby Frankel set the world record for Grade I wins in 2003 with 25.  By late October of 2017, 48-year-old Aidan O’Brien passed this milestone by training his 26th Grade I winner and added the 27th a week later in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf with Mendelssohn.  On December 10th, Mr. O’Brien had his 28th Grade I winner when Highland Reel won the Hong Kong Vase for the third consecutive year.

Mr. O’Brien rose to acclaim as a National Hunt trainer by saddling a record-breaking number of winners.  In 1996, he switched to flat racing and became the trainer at Coolmore Stud’s Ballydoyle, made famous by his predecessor Vincent O’Brien (no kinship).  Beginning in 1999 and continuing every year since, he has been the leading European trainer in terms of purses won by his horses.  He is the only trainer to have won the Epsom Derby three years in a row, with Australia in 2012, Ruler of the World in 2013, and Camelot in 2014.  His trainee Wings of Eagles perhaps started a new streak by winning the Epsom Derby in 2017.

According to the Racing Post, horses trained by Mr. O’Brien from 2013 through December 2017 have earned €24,826,406 in purses, which is the equivalent of about $29,2973,935.  A U. S.-based trainer with this kind of extraordinary success would have much more in purses, owing to the much larger purses than in Europe.  For example, one horse alone, the Bob-Baffert trained Arrogate, earned close to $17.5 million in his eleven-race career.

No trainer can record superior performances without talent to work with.  Mr. O’Brien certainly has the benefit of the Coolmore Stud blue-blooded racing stock and in particular the offspring of Galileo.  Yet even with that advantage, it is a remarkable feat to train twenty-eight Grade I winners in a single calendar year.  Combine that with his consistently superb record year after year and one can say, without inserting the qualifying word arguably, that Aidan O’Brien is in the upper echelon of greatest racehorse trainers of all time.

What does a person do when he or she has reached the pinnacle of success by age 48?  The only answer can be to compete against oneself.

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