One suspects that a Ballydoyle return to the National Hunt ranks has been in the offing for some time. It’s a good while ago now since the Goldhawk feature in Phoenix magazine first commented on the sizable breeding enterprise established by Aidan and Ann Marie O’Brien.
Why it’s significant is that all the breeding operations for the flat operation seemingly come under the Coolmore banner. This other venture seems to be very much a case of husband and wife going off their own bat.
Undoubtedly, Joseph’s weight situation must have been a consideration too. How long the 20-year-old can continue to do the weights required on the level. And, given that his parents are still relatively young, going into training wasn’t going to be an option. The other O’Brien siblings are also now beginning to ride on the track and there may be a sense of accommodating them as well.
There may, however, have been an altogether more obvious pointer that things were going in a new direction. Mrs O’Brien’s father, Joe Crowley was a very successful trainer in his own right but his licence had been retired in recent years. For some time now, speculation had been mounting that Ann Marie was going to renew same and begin training NH horses.
When you factor in that sources in Kilkenny have indicated that the O’Brien’s yard near Pilltown – where Aidan used to operate before being recruited by Coolmore – has recently undergone a major makeover, and everything seems to be taking shape.
As stated earlier, while an O’Brien to the jumps ranks would , in one sense, be an intriguing prospect, in another it will fill many with trepidation. In racing, money talks, and things become more exclusive. In short, the ‘ordinary’ man is in danger of being squeezed out of the sport.
Willie Mullins now has nearly as big a stranglehold in his sphere now as Coolmore have on the flat. Thanks mainly to the buying power of owners like Rich Ricci, Gigginstown and the UK based Supreme Horse Racing Club. Ricci recently reportedly paid €250,000 for a horse called Moyle Park.
The gelding is out of the good race mare Lovely Present and was bred by Drumree man Kevin Geraghty. Lovely Present – trained by Kevin’s brother Tom (‘Tucker’) – father of jockeys Barry, Ross, Jill and Holly – won several races herself and – if Moyle Park is anything to go by – should make into a very good broodmare.
That she was snapped up by Ricci is indicative of how racing has gone. O’Brien’s return to the jumping ranks would certainly provide more competition for Mullins. Where it’d leave the rest could be a different thing altogether.