Despite being decimated by a coughing epidemic this summer, affecting all but three horses, Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle stable still closed out the year with an amazing 19 group I victories. The latest was Alberto Giacometti's victory in Saturday's Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
The son of Sadler's Wells (who else?) became Ballydoyle's 11th group I winner in 2002 when he out-fought the English-trained Summerland after coming from far back in the 1 1/4-mile race to win by a head.
Last year, O'Brien set a record by winning 23 group I stakes, giving him a remarkable 42 group I victories in the past two years. In 2002, he also became the first trainer ever to win the English, Irish, and French 2,000 Guineas in the same year. He then went on to finish one-two in the English Derby and one-two-three in the Irish Derby.
Alberto Giacometti, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, is now two-for-two and joins Rock of Gibraltar, High Chaparral, Hawk Wing, Landseer, Hold That Tiger, Ballingarry, Spartacus, Brian Boru, Sophisticat, and Black Sam Bellamy on Ballydoyle's list of 2002 group I winners.
In all, Ballydoyle won group I stakes in six different countries – Ireland, England, France, U.S.A., Italy, and Canada. Among their most notable victories were the English Derby, Irish Derby, English, Irish, and French 2,000 Guineas, Breeders' Cup Turf, Canadian International Championship, Eclipse Stakes, Sussex Stakes, St. James's Palace Stakes, Prix du Moulin, Coronation Stakes, Grand Criterium, Gran Criterium, and Shadwell Turf Mile.
They also managed to finish second or third in the English Derby, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, 2,000 Guineas, Breeders' Cup Mile, Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Irish Derby, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes, Eclipse Stakes, and Dewhurst Stakes, just to name several.
O'Brien has an arsenal of 2-year-olds and has the luxury of dividing his forces in an attempt to conquer the classics in both Europe and America. Hold That Tiger, winner of Longchamp's Grand Criterium in spectacular fashion, turned in another remarkable effort to finish third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after being left several lengths behind the field and having to go extremely wide turning for home. Other Ballydoyle 2-year-old stars who finished first or second in stakes were Van Nistelrooy, Statue of Liberty, Ontario, Tomahawk, Brian Boru, Marino Marini, as well as Alberto Giacometti. Brian Boru, winner of the group I Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, has already been installed as one of the favorites for the English Derby.
In his only start before the Criterium de Saint-Cloud, Alberto Giacometti broke his maiden going seven furlongs at the Curragh on Oct. 31. He was ridden by Mick Kinane at Longchamp. O'Brien also finished fourth in the race with The Great Gatsby.