Plaudits keep coming for O’Brien

Given that the date of the 26th Cartier Horse Racing Awards coincided with the date the voting booths closed in America, it is tempting to draw some comparisons between the two.

Aidan O'Brien, a man that Jim Bolger would have nearly married to keep him on the team.

Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have been on a gruelling campaign trail for well over a year; a schedule that may even have been beyond our own Iron Lady, Found.

With America the talk on everyone's lips, it was almost a shame that an award couldn't have been shoehorned in for George Strawbridge given his contribution to the sport in our country, but the American historian and professor would undoubtedly have been too diplomatic to provide a newsworthy quote.

2016 was by no means a bad year for Strawbridge's horses, but it was a truly remarkable one for Coolmore even by their lofty standards, and that was reflected as the lads and their team dominated the night with five awards.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien saddled a remarkable 22 Group /Grade One winners around the globe and, as we know, sent out the 1-2-3 in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as well as a 1-3 in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at the weekend and was honoured with the Cartier /Daily Telegraph Award of Merit.

The Breeders' Cup Turf was yet another example, if any were needed, of the remarkable acuity of O'Brien and his team as they revealed they had always thought that race at Santa Anita would help to show the Galileo colt in the best light and they got their tactics down to a T.

Rich tribute was paid to O'Brien by his peers with former mentor Jim Bolger remarking "I'd have done anything short of marrying him to keep him working for me", while panel member John Oxx suggested that the best could still be to come.

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"I always think whereas jockeys improve in their 30s, that trainers improve in their 40s," he said.

"Well are we to conclude that he's only just getting the hang of it now? He's getting better? By the time he's 65, he's going to be making the most dreadful nuisance of himself," he joked.

There are the regular quibbles from media and fans who would like to have seen, for example, Cartier Horse of the Year Minding (who was crowned after winning a three-runner race described as the closest in the awards' history) lining up in the Investec Derby rather than the Oaks, or in the Qatar Sussex Stakes rather than the Nassau, but they have the luxury of living in a reality world when it comes to who runs where.

The European Pattern, in the main, provides a tried-and-tested path for the Classic generation and it was hardly her fault that the Nassau threw up a seemingly-uncompetitive race, for all that a future Breeders' Cup winner finished second.

Minding did, then, step up and take on the boys both on Irish Champions Weekend and on Qipco British Champions Day. She did not let her supporters down with a brilliant display in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and makes a fitting winner of a category that, it was said, "is as much as anything else about what a horse does to your heart as well as your mind".

While avoiding further political comparisons, supporters of French star Almanzor and Cartier Three-Year-Old colt winner are entitled to feel aggrieved though as he, too, was brilliant at Ascot and confirmed the majesty of his performance at Leopardstown when winning the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, a race that was widely lauded as the best of the season and in which Minding was only third.

Unbeaten in five runs following his reappearance, he was brilliantly handled by Jean-Claude Rouget and announced his sire, the somewhat-unheralded Wootton Bassett as a stallion on the world stage. Rouget, lest we forget, was also responsible for unbeaten Prix de Diane winner La Cressonniere, who was only denied her chance to bid for glory in the Arc by a late injury but hopefully she will return in the same form in 2017 where she may even bump into Minding along the way.

As if it is not enough to have one O'Brien in the training ranks, we now have two and it's rather a shame for the symmetry that John Ferguson has bowed out before from the game we were allowed the thrill of a blue-blooded head-to-head over obstacles between the 'cast-offs' from the two operations.

The quality in Joseph's string is formidable and he has already shown, unofficially, that he has what it takes to make a mark at the big spring festivals. It would be a brave man to bet against considerable, further success.

Tuesday night, though, was not about the jumps nor the future, but instead about celebrating the present. Awards ceremonies are not everyone's cup of tea and racing moves at such a pace that we are always thinking about the next race, the next target (see talk already of the Cheltenham Festival) but we should take time to appreciate the achievements of our stars, both equine and human, while the memory is still fresh.

As the last two weeks have reminded us all too vividly, there is no guarantee that success or brilliance will be enduring and we should take the time to cherish those moments and the horses that make your heart beat a little faster.

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