Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive

    at Devere Hall, Student Centre / Aras na Mac Leinn, UCC

  • 07 Sep 2012





MS TRACY PIGGOTT, Sports Commentator, RTE, on 7 September 2012, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa, on AIDAN O’BRIEN


Chancellor, Registrar, President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is not going to be an easy task to convey in a short length of time, the incredible success and level of excellence that Aidan O’Brien has been able to produce with the throughbreds under his care since he first held his training licence in 1993.


I don’t think that he even knew at that time the heights that he would reach and the accolades that would be laid at his feet. But it was evident from day one that Aidan O’Brien was going to succeed in whatever he put his mind to.


A Wexford man through and through, racehorses were always going to be a huge factor in Aidan’s life, and having spent time with trainers on the Curragh, he then went to Jim Bolger, who has seen many a great talent pass through his Castlecomer yard.


After setting up in his own right and marrying Anne Marie, things just got better and better, and many people started to take notice of this young man who exuded such a natural talent.


It was John Magnier, a man with incomparable vision and shrewdness who asked Aidan to move to Ballydoyle in Rosegreen, County Tipperary and take over the mantle from the retired, legendary Vincent.....ironically the two share the same surname, and this I have always thought to be almost serendipidist. Vincent was a man way ahead of his time. He came across the beautiful piece of land that was to become Ballydoyle, and modelled it in such a way that he was able to train his horses to a standard that would match, and some would say surpass, anywhere in the world, and the results were there to prove it.


It must have seemed a daunting task for Aidan as he moved to this hallowed turf in the mid 90s; it was already seen as an iconic racing facility due to the genius that was Vincent, now it was to become even more so.


Since that year, Aidan has sent out 207 group 1 winners and is third in the all-time leading group/grade 1 winning trainers in history. He holds the record for the most Irish Derby wins, the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish Champion stakes. He has trained winners of pretty much every major flat racing event in England, Ireland, France and the USA.


Such names as Yeats, Galileo, Giants Causeway, Rock of Gibraltar, Dylan Thomas, High Chapparal, Istabraq, Duke of Marmalade and the more recent So You Think and Camelot are just some of the superstars who have galloped into racing folklore having been nurtured, cajoled and produced to perfection on the day that mattered by Aidan.


I think for many who are not au fait with horse racing, it is difficult to understand the talent, patience and sheer dedication that is required to get that equine athlete to peak at exactly the right time. It is hard enough to do this with human athletes, and they can talk......imagine the difficulty with a racehorse.


I believe this is where Aidan’s true gift lies. He has an ability to almost read what each horse is thinking, he treats every one of them as a complete individual, and the process is one that is totally holisitic. He basically eats, sleeps and breathes racing. There is a passion there that cannot be taught, and an attention to detail that has to be seen to be believed, but it is this attention and patience and 110% commitment that makes champions.


Aidan is blessed with a wonderful family, all of whom are hugely involved in the home operation. Anna, Sarah and Donncha are all natural horse people, and of course Joseph continues to rewrite the history books since his first win, just after his 16th birthday at Leopardstown in 2009. Many have likened his style to my father Lester, and indeed my father believes he could be the best we have ever seen.......and this is from a man who says very little, but watches everything.


It is such a privilege for me, not only to be in the same generation and to witness such success, but also to be standing here before you all in praise of Aidan’s achievements. My very first visit to Ireland as a small girl was to Ballydoyle with my father to watch him ride work one frosty morning for Vincent O’Brien. We had breakfast in the same room that Aidan and his family still have theirs. I never forgot that day. Little did I know at such a tender age what lay ahead.


It’s very special to visit these days and still see the plaques up on the wall outside the stables where the likes of Nijinsky and Be My Guest resided. Past heroes standing aside for the new ones that follow, and knowing Aidan there will be many, many more of those.....


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