Aidan O’Brien: is he the most successful top-tier trainer ever? Probably
PICTURE: Getty Images
By Tom Kerr 4:18PM 30 JUL 2016
AIDAN O’BRIEN’s training career has seen him rack up countless records and according to some he achieved one of the biggest this past week – becoming the winning-most Group 1 trainer of all time.
Except, this being horse racing, it’s obviously more complicated than that.
Legendary Australian trainer Tommy Smith is commonly cited as the man who held the record for the most Group or Grade 1 wins, with 279 to his name.
However the Pattern, which introduced the concept of grading races, was not established in Europe until 1971 and slightly later in Australasia and North America.
Smith, the father of famous Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse, rose to prominence in the 1950s and, although he continued training long after the introduction of the Pattern, many of his wins counted as Group 1s were, obviously, not actually Group 1s at the time.
Whether you think it is fair or folly to count them probably depends on how much of a purist you are.
But is O’Brien in front?
So how many Group or Grade 1 wins has O’Brien won? Well, after claiming both Group 1s at Glorious Goodwood the Racing Post database has him at 282 top-tier wins.
Which means, depending on whether or not you accept Tommy Smith’s wins that weren’t Group 1s as Group 1s, he either became the winning-most Group 1 trainer last Saturday, when Highland Reel won the King George, or several years ago.
Although, it should be noted, the 282 figure for O’Brien includes wins achieved over jumps. Which some people might think is unfair.
All in all, it’s a bit of a messy business.
But one thing is for sure: Aidan O’Brien is an astonishing trainer whose records will surely stand unmatched for many decades to come.