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Subject: Ex-horse racing trainer Vincent O'Brien dies

Written By: Philip Eno on 06/01/09 at 11:59 am

Legendary Irish racehorse trainer Vincent O'Brien has died aged 92.

He trained three Grand National winners, and his steeplechaser Cottage Rake won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times between 1948 and 1950.

He then concentrated on Flat racing, and won the Epsom Derby on six occasions between 1962 and 1982.

During the 1970s, he and owner Robert Sangster, along with O'Brien's son-in-law John Magnier, established the Coolmore syndicate in County Tipperary.

O'Brien's unsurpassed ability to pick world-class horses and Magnier's business mind quickly pushed the operation to the top of the racing tree.

The Canadian-bred horse Northern Dancer proved to be a particularly profitable sire. One son of Northern Dancer was Nijinsky, who some commentators have described as the best horse O'Brien ever trained.

He was ridden to victory at Epsom by Lester Piggott, who was associated with the Ballydoyle stable during the most successful years of the late 1960s and 1970s.

O'Brien was voted both greatest National Hunt trainer and greatest Flat trainer of the 20th century.

His son David also became a trainer, and won the Epsom Derby in 1984 with Secreto, beating his father's horse, El Gran Senor, by a short head.

However David suddenly retired from horse racing following the birth of his first son, Andrew. Vincent O'Brien retired from training in 1994.

Aidan O'Brien, no relation to Vincent, was then employed by Coolmore to take over training responsibilities, and the operation has continued to flourish.

This year's Derby takes place on Saturday, in which Aidan O'Brien trains six of the 13 entries. It is sure to be given extra poignancy following the death of the original Master of Ballydoyle.

O'Brien was born, in Churchtown, County Cork, the fifth son of a sporting farmer who loved to trade in horses, in a part of Ireland renowned for rearing them.

He married Jacqueline Wittenoom, from Perth, Australia, in 1951 and had five children in all. He spent much of his later years in the warmer climes Down Under. O'Brien died at home in County Kildare.

A statement from O'Brien's daughter, Sue Magnier, and her husband John and their family read: "Dad's racing career speaks for itself and needs no elaboration.

"There was nobody like him. Coolmore Stud and Ballydoyle are the results of his vision and testament to his success.

"More importantly, he was a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather and an extraordinary mentor. His passing is a great loss to me and my family and we will all miss him greatly."

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