Strength in depth can give Aidan O'Brien edge in battle for trainers' title

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Sun 8 Sep 2019
 O'Brien presents Gosden with the champion trainer crown last year. Will the roles be reversed this year? (Focusonracing)
O'Brien presents Gosden with the champion trainer crown last year. Will the roles be reversed this year? (Focusonracing)

John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien have taken it in turns to win the Flat trainers’ championship for the past four years and their battle this year has the potential to develop into an epic.

Gosden was crowned king in 2015 and also took the spoils last year. This campaign he is seeking to retain his title for the first time but six-time champion O’Brien has him in his sights.

Royal Line’s victory for Gosden in the September Stakes at Kempton on Saturday added almost £40,000 to his bank and he has accumulated £6,112,405 – usually enough to take the spoils.

However, O’Brien is not far behind with £5,748,214 moving into the big clashes of the autumn, which will determine the victor.

Third-placed Mark Johnston has himself had a memorable year, having already accumulated 205 winners, but he trails by £1.6 million. Britain’s winningmost trainer cannot peg back the big two from that far behind but, in common with such as Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Hannon, will be a factor in who triumphs.


 Enable edges out Crystal Ocean in the King George - a £450,000 swing in prize-money (Focusonracing)
Enable edges out Crystal Ocean in the King George - a £450,000 swing in prize-money (Focusonracing)

Gosden has chalked up 128 winners from 463 runners and his horses have picked up prize-money on 380 occasions this year. Enable (£1,375,217) has been his number one money-earner with Stradivarius and Too Darn Hot also being key contributors.

By contrast, O’Brien has had only 15 winners from 143 runners, picking up some kind of cheque 98 times. He scooped more than £1.2 million in the Derby when he saddled five of the first six home, while Japan’s Juddmonte International success pocketed him another £600,000.

Magical has yet to win for him in Britain this year but she’s contributed more than £400,000 for her efforts in defeat.


Gosden’s ace this year has been Enable but she seems set to bow out after the Arc with her entries on QIPCO British Champions Day merely something of a precaution.

He is also going to be without such as leading miler Too Darn Hot and top sprinter Calyx, both retired after suffering injuries.

Logician, King Of Comedy and Stradivarius will be pivotal for him and he has plenty of girl power to call on in the shape of Coronet, Star Catcher, Anapurna, Mehdaayih, Enbihaar and Lah Ti Dar.

Japan has emerged as O’Brien’s best horse this summer and will be a huge player in the richly endowed QIPCO Champion Stakes.

He is set to run in the Arc beforehand but that need not preclude him from running on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot 13 days later.

Magical, Circus Maximus, Magna Grecia, Hermosa, Anthony Van Dyck, Sir Dragonet, Il Paradiso and Sovereign are likely to have parts to play, while Ballydoyle’s squad of two-year-olds seem certain to make an impact.

Watch Lydia Hislop's interview with Aidan O'Brien after Japan's win at York


Betfair make Gosden 4-11, with O’Brien 7-4. Johnston is quoted at 25-1.


There are 11 more Group One races in Britain this year, plus plenty of other pattern races and some significant handicaps such as the Cambridgeshire, Cesarewitch and Balmoral.

Here’s how the Group One contests are shaping up for the big two.

Saturday: The William St Leger at Doncaster. First prize: £396,000.

Gosden has the favourite in the unbeaten Logician. O’Brien has the next two in the market via Sir Dragonet and Il Paradiso. Game on!

September 28: Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket (£156,000)

O’Brien has saddled the winner for the past three years and has nine entries to juggle. Gosden has none.

September 28: Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket (£155,000)

Another free hit for O’Brien. He has had the winner six times since 2000 (including the past two years) and has nine entries, but Gosden is not represented.

I Can Fly finished runner-up in last year's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and has several entries this autumn

October 5: Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket (£142,000)

O’Brien has eight possibles at this stage, including Magical, Hermosa and I Can Fly – all single-figure prices in the ante-post market. Gosden’s sole entry is Twist ‘N’ Shake.

October 11: bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket (£283,500)

Leafhopper and Miss Yoda, both winners on their debut, are among Gosden’s four entries. At this stage, O’Brien still has 16 engaged. He had the winner each year between 2014-16 and has had the runner-up for the past two years.

October 12: Darley Dewhurst Stakes (£283,500)

Frankie Dettori told Rishi Persad about Palace Pier's debut win at Sandown

O’Brien’s present squad of 24 includes such as Mogul and Lope Y Fernandez, while Gosden’s team of five include taking debut winners Palace Pier and Cape Palace.

October 19: QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup (£255,000)

Many will already view Stradivarius as a Gosden banker but O’Brien seems certain to at least try and test him. He has 16 entries to ponder, including last year’s St leger winner Kew Gardens.

October 19: QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (£312,000)

July Cup winner Ten Sovereigns is among O’Brien’s entries but is heading to Australia for an alternative assignment. Gosden is not represented.

October 19: QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes (£312,000)

O’Brien ran six in last year’s renewal when Magical took the spoils for him. She is again among his entries. Gosden has a stack of quality in this division with Coronet, Star Catcher, Anapurna, Mehdaayih, Enbihaar and Lah Ti Dar to call upon.

October 19: Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (£623,000)

 Circus Maximus fended off Gosden runners Royal Ascot (Focusonracing)
Circus Maximus fended off Gosden runners Royal Ascot (Focusonracing)

King Of Comedy (Gosden) and Circus Maximus (O'Brien) head the ante-post betting. The latter won the Prix du Moulin on Sunday and beat King Of Comedy in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. O’Brien has greater strength in depth among his eight entries with Magna Grecia, Hermosa and I Can Fly being among others he has in the mix. The last-named was runner-up to Gosden’s Roaring Lion last year.

October 19: QIPCO Champion Stakes (£737,000)

Gosden has won the past two renewals with Cracksman but does not look to have an obvious contender this time, with Enable set to have her final run in the Arc and King Of Comedy being aimed at the QEII. Perhaps he will look to split up his fillies and mares. O’Brien’s squadron includes Japan, Magical, Magna Grecia and Anthony Van Dyck.

Vertem Futurity Trophy (£131,000)

O’Brien will be seeking a tenth win in the race since 1999 and saddled three of the first four home last year. Gosden has yet to win it.


Gosden has built up a handy £360,000 lead and many will fancy him to extend that via Logician in the St Leger on Saturday. However, O’Brien also has leading players for Town Moor.

The dice will be loaded in favour of O’Brien in the top two-year-old races, but Gosden will win his share of bread-and-butter races and is likely to have better chances of landing the valuable handicaps.

Aidan O'Brien - Breeders' Cup - Racingfotos

QIPCO British Champions Day, with £4.3 million in prize-money up for grabs, will be pivotal. Gosden is odds-on to land the Long Distance Cup with Stradivarius and will have a strong hand in the Fillies & Mares contest.

However, O’Brien will also have representatives in those races and he has more depth in the two biggies – the QE II and QIPCO Champion Stakes. If he can stay in the fight until then will have prospects of landing a late knockout blow.

The championship officially ends on the final day of the year but we should know have a much clearer picture of who is going to prevail by the close of play on October 19.

I would make Gosden the marginal favourite, but 4-11 looks too short. That makes O’Brien the bet at 7-4, although you may have to wait until New Year’s Eve before being paid out.

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