Donnacha O'Brien with Innisfree after winning the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh

Donnacha O'Brien with Innisfree after winning the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh

Patrick McCann/Racing Post

Donnacha O'Brien Retires as Jockey to Focus on Training

Two-time champion is son of trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Two-time champion jockey Donnacha O'Brien has announced his retirement from riding at the age of 21 to concentrate on training. 

The youngest of Aidan O'Brien's four children followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Joseph, by winning the flat jockeys' championship for a second time this month and is now set to embark on a training career with his establishment already set up in Longfield, County Tipperary. 

Aidan O'Brien confirmed the unbeaten Fancy Blue was under Donnacha's wing after she won for a second time at the Curragh last month.

It has been a whirlwind couple of years for Donnacha O'Brien, who rode his first winner at Dundalk in September 2014 as a fresh-faced 16-year-old on Quartz, trained by his father. His last winner was Nobel Prize in a Naas maiden race on the final day of the 2019 flat turn season in Ireland this month. It brought his win tally for the season to 111 and handed him a second title. 

"After thinking about things for a while, I have decided to concentrate on training next year," said O'Brien, who announced his retirement on Twitter. "Riding has been very good to me, and I owe everything to the people around me. I want to give special thanks to the Magnier, Smith, and Tabor families along with my own family for all their support.

"I look forward to training a small group of horses next year and will hopefully build from there."

It was obvious from a very early stage that O'Brien was going to make a real name for himself in the saddle, and his 2014 Irish Cesarewitch success on El Salvador was a sign of things to come. 

A first group 1 arrived on Irish Champions Weekend in 2016 when he teamed with Joseph to land the Moyglare Stud Stakes on 25-1 outsider Intricately. That was a real family success as it was Joseph's first official group 1 win as a trainer, and Intricately was bred by their mother, Anne Marie.

A second top-level success for O'Brien arrived in the same race the following year when Happily led home a 1-2-3 for his father.

Saxon Warrior (Donnacha O’Brien) wins the 2000 Guineas<br>
Newmarket 5.5.18 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Photo: Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
Donnacha O’Brien guides Saxon Warrior to victory in the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket

Saxon Warrior provided Donnacha O'Brien with a first group 1 outside of Ireland when storming clear to take the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) at Newmarket in 2018. He also won the Investec Oaks (G1) on Forever Together that year, but perhaps the highlight of 2018 arrived in June at the Curragh when he again teamed with Joseph, this time to win the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (G1) on Latrobe

He finished last year in style, winning the Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes (G1) on Fairyland, the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (G1) on Ten Sovereigns, and the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (G1) on Magna Grecia

O'Brien's brilliance in the saddle was seen to best effect in the Two Thousand Guineas this year when, from stall 17, he decided to stick to the nearside rail in a group of three on Magna Grecia rather than track the main pack of 16. It proved a masterstroke as the 11-2 shot won by 2 1/2 lengths from King of Change

What proved to be O'Brien's 10th and final group 1 win was the QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) at Ascot. Fittingly, it arrived on the superb Magical, who he rode out every morning at home in Ballydoyle. 

O'Brien completed the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board's Pre-Racehorse Trainers Development Course in May, and it was clear that training was always going to follow riding. He makes the leap having achieved a remarkable amount during his five years in the saddle.

Paddy Power wasted no time in pricing up O'Brien's training ambitions, offering 11-8 about training a group winner in 2020, 12-1 for a group 1 winner, and 33-1 to saddle a classic winner in Britain or Ireland next year.