By Michael Compton
"Success is no accident," trainer Niall Brennan likes to say. To Brennan, success is a result of teamwork and talent. Along with wife, Stephanie, Niall operates Niall Brennan Stables in Ocala, where Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) winner Orb received his initial training as a young colt.
Long before Orb splashed down the Churchill Downs stretch and crossed the wire ahead of 18 rivals beneath the Twin Spires May 4, Stuart Janney III and Ogden "Dinny" Phipps of Phipps Stable sent Brennan the homebred son of Malibu Moon to learn the racing game from the ground up.
"With a lot of yearlings doing the same thing each day in the initial breaking process, it's difficult to single out one horse," said Brennan. "I remember Orb was a little nervous at first. He had a tough side to him. He gained his confidence quickly, though, once he got the racetrack. When he started breezing he did everything in hand. We knew he was a nice colt and had the potential to develop. He also possessed the attitude that a lot of the good ones have.
"He always moved forward," Brennan added. "He was one of those, taking into account his pedigree, that you figured would get better with time. When I look back at the training charts and records it's clear he was a little quicker than average. He seemed to do things easily with that efficient stride."
Brennan has broken and trained runners for Janney and Phipps the last few years. Graduates produced from the relationship are graded stakes winners Point of Entry , Data Link , Air Support, and Hungry Island.
"It's an absolute pleasure and privilege to work with them," said Brennan. "You truly feel like you are part of something special with their horses. There is so much history and tradition in the pedigrees. It makes our job a lot of fun getting to know the different families and to see the physical mix at work in the individuals.
"There is never any pressure in developing their horses," he added." We get them in the summer and they are with us for an entire year before they ship out. We don't have to hurry them to make a 2-year-olds in training sale and they never change hands. We train their horses to be handy in their own time."
Brennan, who also broke and trained Derby third-place finisher Revolutionary, watched the Kentucky Derby at home in Ocala after returning from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships in Harrisburg, Pa., in which his daughter had competed in earlier that week.
Brennan will be in Maryland for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale at Timonium May 20-21 and is not likely to miss the opportunity to watch his former pupil attempt to add the middle jewel of the Triple Crown to an already impressive resume that also includes victories in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) and Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr.II) at Gulfstream Park.
"It's a special feeling when our horses win big races," Brennan said. "It's a feeling of accomplishment for the program and everyone on our staff. We take a lot of pride in what we do, and it's very gratifying to help a horse reach its potential.
"It requires a lot of work to be successful in this game," he added. "Winning is what drives you to succeed. We couldn't do it without a great staff and great riders. With the best horses, it's all about confidence. It's what sets them apart. We're fortunate to have some of the best riders in the business with us and they instill that confidence in the horses."
As they say around Niall Brennan Stables, "Success is no accident."