Aiden O’Brien: Star Trainer Goes Against Trend to ‘Freshness’

So You Think, Australian superstar moved to Coolmore’s barn this season and began the year with 2 resounding victories before falling a half length short at Royal Ascot yesterday.

What jumps out at me is trainer Aiden O’Brien’s comments afterwards:

He was notably candid about So You Think, admitting: “I will take responsibility for this personally. After he won his first two races so easily I had gone easy on him. I think it was trainer error, I didn’t have him fit enough for this kind of race.” (Contrast with American trainer: “He looked great after his last 4F work, didn’t blow out a match – he just didn’t fire today/failed to handle the surface…etc.)

Bravo Mr. O’Brien! Today’s American trainer would think just the opposite after consulting the Ragozin/Thorograph figures and would undoubtedly prescribe a period of rest and/or light training – instead Ballydoyle chief realizes this elite equine athlete will likely thrive on additional work.

Remember So You Think (NZ) came from the Australian barn of Bart Cummings, while I don’t profess to know specifically the conditioning protocol employed by Mr. Cummings, I would wager it is fairly aggressive compared to the American standard – as evidenced by the fact that at age 3 this colt was fit enough to capture both Cox Plate and Emirates Stakes victories in a 2 week window. Then at age 4, he again won the Cox Plate and followed ONE WEEK later with another Group One victory.

When was the last time an American trained colt was able to win 2 graded stakes races within one week at age 4? I could spend hours looking it up – do any readers know off the top of their heads? (I imagine you must go back at least 25 years….)


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on June 16, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Yet another mark against freshness this morning as Animal Kingdom pulls up lame after the Belmont. According to vet, this was NOT simply a result of the clipping heels during last weekends race: “Normally, no matter how hard a horse hits his leg on the ground in an accident, there is not enough force to show this type of uptake on the scan for a period of at least 10 days. This tells me that, like a lot of racehorses, he probably had a little something going on in there that he was dealing with.”

    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: racing/training them sparingly will get you big wins, but will also get you hurt – more often, I believe. Specifically in this case, racing over synthetic only, and training mostly over Tapeta at Fair Hill – then running big time races on dirt (3x in 5 weeks) is just ASKING for an injury of this type.

    So we have the ‘myth’ of no synthetic horse winning the Derby broken, and 6 weeks later we have his hock also broken – yet come next April all we will hear is that any synthetic specialist can make the move to dirt with no problem because A.K proved it so – and many owner/trainers will attempt to replicate the effort.

  2. If you get the chance to read Bart Cummings book (My Life) it gives a bit of insight into his training methods. He regularly gallops his horses hard the morning of raceday, he is not scared to race back to back Saturdays (even Saturday followed by Tuesaday in the case of the Melbourne Cup). Most horses work in the morning with a swim in the afternoon, he goes in to detail about the spefic number of race miles a horse needs in order to be ready for the Melbourne Cup. This is an old time trainer with old time methods at his best. A great read and can’t recommend it enough. Having just recently finished reading Gai Waterhouse’s (Australia’s second best trainer) book as well the one thing you find in common is that both work their horses HARD. Gai’s father believed that if a horse wasn’t laying down to sleep the horse didn’t see enough work.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation Aaron, I read a large section in Ross Staaden’s book entitled Winning Trainers on TJ Smith and his methods, which were similarly aggressive to what you detail above. TJ would actually train them hard enough for the to go off their feed, and keep pushing – those that adapted and grew stronger got back to cleaning up the tub and went on to success, others fell by the wayside. He probably learned more in 5 weeks of training than most trainers learn in 5 months.

    In my opinion, a few have tried those types of methods here in the US, Tom Ivers being one, but have done so with less than stellar stock and did not have great results. I think that someday a trainer will get aggressive with an Uncle Mo type horse and blow the doors off everyone.

  4. Matt Chappell

    In the current training enviorment its not gonna take a Secretariat to do it just just somebody willing to put the work in.

  1. Pingback: Can So You Think Run the Fastest Arc ever on Sunday? | ThoroEdge Equine Performance

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