11/02/2016 10:30AM

Joseph O'Brien following father into family business

Email
Susie Raisher
The 23-year-old Joseph O'Brien, the son of top trainer Aidan O'Brien, is the youngest trainer with a starter in the Breeders' Cup.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The youngest trainer with a starter in the Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita this week is 23, in the midst of a wildly successful rookie year, and has a familiar mentor who is at the pinnacle of the sport.

Joseph O’Brien of Ireland can become the youngest trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race when he sends out Intricately in Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Intricately must beat 13 talented rivals from throughout the United States and Europe, including two runners trained by O’Brien’s father, Aidan O’Brien, arguably the world’s most successful trainer.

Joseph O’Brien, a former champion jockey in Ireland, officially began training in June and has quickly made a name for himself. Intricately gave O’Brien his first Group 1 win as a trainer in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh in Ireland on Sept. 11, a race that earned the filly a fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Intricately won by a nose at 25-1 and was ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, Joseph’s 18-year-old brother. Aidan O’Brien trained the second- and third-place finishers – Hydrangea and Rhododendron.

:: BREEDERS’ CUP 2016: Odds, comments, video previews, and more

Joseph said recently that he speaks with his father constantly and does not have to look far for feedback or advice.

“I still live at home,” Joseph O’Brien said. “I see him every day. He’s great if I ever have any questions or worries. I can ask him.”

A year ago, Joseph O’Brien was approaching the end of his successful riding career, with weight becoming an ever-increasing factor for a young man who stands 6 feet tall. Boosted by his father and the Coolmore stable of John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor, Joseph O’Brien was the champion jockey in Ireland in 2012 and 2013.

In the United States, O’Brien rode St Nicholas Abbey to a win in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. The following year, O’Brien rode Camelot to wins in the English 2000 Guineas, English Derby, and Irish Derby, and they just missed a sweep of the English Triple Crown with a second in the St. Leger. In 2014, he won the English Derby and Irish Derby with Australia. Last year, he rode Order of St George to win the Irish St. Leger.

In early 2015, O’Brien began taking fewer mounts, with the move to training increasingly becoming an objective.

“The weight was tough,” he said. “In the last year, it was getting to me.”

Initially, the horses raced under his father’s name, including Ivanovich Gorbatov, who won the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse in England in March. In the winner’s circle that day, Aidan O’Brien quickly deferred to his son, who held court with the media. Within a few months, Joseph O’Brien had completed Horse Racing Ireland’s training course and received his license. He was in business.

O’Brien is based at his family’s stable in Piltown, Ireland, and has more than 70 horses, with capacity for 100. The stable is a mix of flat and steeplechase horses, with an increasing number of jumpers in action in recent weeks as the flat turf season has wound down.

The next few months will be devoted largely to jumpers and building the foundation for the 2017 flat season. There are encouraging signs, O’Brien said.

“We’ll have a good team for next year,” he said. “We bought some nice yearlings in the last couple of months.”

Much of O’Brien’s surroundings are what he’s known throughout his life. By the time he was 10, his father was well established at the top of European racing, with forays throughout the world for major stakes.

“I love it,” he said. “I’ve been in the environment all my life.”

:: Breeders’ Cup Challenge: Results, replays, charts, and more

His father may be his biggest fan. Aidan O’Brien said his son’s experience this year, including the journey to his first Breeders’ Cup as a trainer, is invaluable.

“You have to go there and do it,” Aidan O’Brien said. “You can’t prepare for these things.”

Intricately has won 2 of 4 starts and earned $252,539. By Fastnet Rock, Intricately was bred by Joseph’s parents – mother Anne Marie is at the Breeders’ Cup this week. Intricately raced for Anne Marie O’Brien for her first two starts and then was acquired by Chantal Consuelo Regalado-Gonzalez, also a client of Aidan O’Brien.

Intricately has proven to be handy, racing near the front early. In the Moyglare Stud Stakes, she led for the last sixteenth and was fully extended to beat Hydrangea, who also is in the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Joseph O’Brien said Intricately is a quick learner.

“She’s easy to train and easy to be around,” he said. “She’s a genuine filly with a good attitude.

“I didn’t expect we’d have a filly as good as this in our first year.”