He gets to ride impeccably-bred and perfectly-prepared horses, has a pedigree himself that’s beyond scrutiny and as he prepared to make the transition from apprentice to fully-fledged jockey was given a chance others of his age could only envy.
A few short years on from when he rode in his first race, Joseph O’Brien has more than justified the confidence placed in him. He holds the loftiest of positions, No 1 jockey to one of the most powerful stables in the world.
O’Brien’s recent ride on Leading Light in the English St Leger may have been top-class, but, then, was it any better than the others he’s executed in races of equal or greater importance?
Better, of course, to be riding finely-tuned blue-bloods than quirky handicappers, but that’s not to say there’s no pressure.
The Ballydoyle/Coolmore operation is about far more than just racing horses. There’s the breeding wing, and while prize-money won at the end of a year could be five or six million, this wouldn’t compare with what comes in – or, must come in - from stud fees.
Today’s runners are potentially tomorrow’s stallions, and it’s Joseph O’Brien’s job to get those runners over the line in front. He hasn’t been doing such a bad of a job of it, a good judge of pace and as strong in a finish as any of his seniors.
Bred in the purple, each of his parents having won this country’s leading amateur title in their time as jockeys, the 21-year-old is in a constant battle with the scales. If there’s a Ballymore runner set to carry less than 9st he can’t take the mount. That’s a restriction, but it still didn’t prevent him from becoming Ireland’s champion jockey last year, and being in line to retain the title.
Backing all of O’Brien’s rides to a level stake wouldn’t make you a profit, and that’s no good to punters, the be-all and end-all as far as they’re concerned is getting a return. But away from the financial aspect, his talent as a horseman can be enjoyed. It was, at Doncaster the Saturday before last.
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