Joseph O’Brien

Joseph first came to worldwide prominence as a Flat jockey. While his career in the saddle only lasted six-and-a-half years due to the unwinnable battle he fought to keep the weight of his near six-foot frame below nine stone, no rider in the history of the sport has achieved more in such a short career.

Joseph rode his first winner less than a week after turning 16 on Johann Zoffany, trained by his father Aidan, at Leopardstown on May 28th 2009, despite essentially only riding part-time as he was still attending school, O’Brien was involved in a three-way dead-heat for the title of Champion Apprentice in Ireland in 2010. He claimed that title for himself by a wide margin in 2011 and that was also the year he rode his first Classic winner with Roderic O'Connor winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh. Later that year he became the youngest-ever jockey to ride a Breeders’ Cup winner when partnering St Nicholas Abbey to success in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

As his career progressed, the records continued to fall. In 2012, Aidan and Joseph became the first father-son trainer-jockey combination to win the Derby courtesy of the victory of Camelot and later that year Joseph was crowned Irish Champion Jockey with 87 winners. In October 2013, Joseph broke a 20-year-old record with a treble at Navan securing his 117th winner of the season, beating the previous record set by Mick Kinane. He finished the 2013 season with 126 winners and retained his Irish Champion Jockey title.

For all those records, Joseph’s lasting legacy in the saddle will be his Group 1 wins, with him riding 31 such winners all over the world during his short career. The highlights were the Derby (twice), the St Leger, the 2000 Guineas, the Irish Derby (twice), the Breeders' Cup Turf, the Grand Prix de Paris, the Dubai Sheema Classic and three consecutive renewals of the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

It was at the end of the 2015 season that it became apparent that Joseph was not going to be able to maintain the extreme lifestyle he had to lead in order to make the weight required to ride on the Flat. His retirement was confirmed in the spring of 2016, but the next chapter of his racing life had already commenced, as he had been combining his riding with training a string of horses from Carriganóg Racing on Owning Hill for a number of years. Indeed, Joseph was responsible for the training of Ivanovich Gorbatov when that horse won the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival under Aidan’s name in 2016.

Joseph was officially granted his license to train in June 2016 and made a quite remarkable start, saddling four winners on his first day with runners, including horses ridden by his siblings Donnacha and Sarah. His dream start continued when just a few months later he saddled his first Group 1 winner courtesy of Intricately who was ridden to success in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh ridden by Donnacha and bred by his mother Annemarie.

Joseph has continued to make relentless progress since that memorable day, with his tally of winners both on the Flat and over jumps increasing markedly in 2017. A wonderful year was capped in the best possible style by the remarkable win of Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in November, a feat that generated headlines all over the world and announced Joseph’s arrival as an international force in Flat racing, he was also the youngest trainer ever to win the Melbourne Cup at 24 years old.

The 2017/18 National Hunt season saw him reach more milestones, with him training his first Grade 1 winners since taking out his license during the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown courtesy of Tower Bridge in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle and Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup.

Joseph officially got off the mark at the Cheltenham Festival when the JJ Slevin-ridden Band Of Outlaws won the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the meeting in 2019 and a second winner came in the final race of the Festival with Early Doors in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.

Joseph enjoyed one of his biggest home success' as a trainer when a Camelot colt called Latrobe, who when carrying the same colours of Melbourne Cup hero Rekindling, won the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.

Eight years after he became the youngest jockey to win a Breeders' Cup race, Joseph became the youngest trainer to enjoy success when Iridessa won the the Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita. She was the only European-based winner at the meeting and, recording her fourth Group 1 win. Joseph became only the second person, after Freddy Head, to ride and train a Breeders’ Cup winner. On the same day as his Breeders Cup succes Joseph also enjoyed a winner in Australia and a little closer to home at Down Royal, winning 3 races in 3 continents in 24hrs.

During a year that was rocked by a global pandemic the team at Owning Hill had arguably one of their best seasons yet and 2020 gave Joseph his first British Classic winner when Galileo Chrome got his head in front in the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster. The son of Australia made it a memorable day for the jockey also giving Tom Marquand first Classic. Later in the day the Owning Hill trainer saddled another Group winner in Thunder Moon who showed a lightening turn of foot in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh during Longines Irish Champions Weekend. The colt bred by Annemarie didn't have the smoothest of passages through in the final furlong as he got stopped twice in his run however when a gap opended up he quickened away from the field impressively.

October saw the yearly commute to Werribie in Australia for the Melbourne Cup contenders, the team headed by assistant Mark Power brought 4 horses for Australian based owners Lloyd and Nick Williams. Having been successful in the race previously with Rekindling Mark is well versed in all things Melbourne Cup and Twilight Payment crossing the line in front in the 2020 renewal was a credit to Mark and the team of 4 lads who made the 6 weeks trip. Twilight Payment made all in front of the eerily empty grandstand giving the Williams family their record breaking 7th winner of 'the race thats stops a nation'.

The Owning based trainer finished the 2020 season off with over 100 winners, including 4 Group 1's, 5 Group 2's and 6 Group 3.

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