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Vincent O'Brien among new inductees to Racing Hall Of Fame

Thu 9 Sep 2021

Legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien, together with three titans of the turf from the 1970s, Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef and Nijinsky, have been named as the next four stars to be inducted into the QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame.

Launched to mark the 10th anniversary of QIPCO’s sponsorship of the British Champions Series, the first official Hall of Fame for British Flat racing sets out to immortalise the Modern Greats of the sport, both human and equine, from 1970 onwards.

The quartet will join inaugural inductees Frankel and Lester Piggott in the Hall of Fame, with O’Brien becoming the first trainer to gain membership.

Broadcaster Brough Scott, who undertook his first broadcast for ITV Racing in 1971, the year in which Brigadier Gerard completed his incredible unbeaten three-year-old season, was part of the independent panel of horseracing experts who agreed on the inductees.

He said: “No racing decade ever had a start like the 1970s. Nijinsky, Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard – three horses of the century only a year apart. No Derby winner more majestic than Nijinsky, no Arc winner more of a mould-breaker than Mill Reef, no miler more complete than Brigadier Gerard.

“Irish genius Vincent O’Brien added to the magic of that era, setting a standard most could only dream of matching. He changed the racing and training landscape, and his legacy lives on at Ballydoyle and Coolmore – which remain two of the world’s greatest racing operations to this day.

“They individually and collectively deserve these places within the Hall of Fame and the panel and I offer our heartfelt congratulations to their connections.”

Trainer O’Brien, who registered a total of 141 Group One wins, with 67 in the UK, died 12 years ago but his influence on the sport will go on forevermore. As well as training six Derby winners and a host of other British Classics, he also landed three consecutive Grand Nationals in the 1950s, making him one of few trainers to succeed in both disciplines at the highest level.

He also created the superb training facilities at Ballydoyle and played a pivotal role in the development of Coolmore Stud – two of Ireland’s, if not the world’s, most illustrious racing operations. Tellingly, the winning machine that Vincent O'Brien helped create and develop continues to flourish to this day.

His son Charles, also a trainer, commented: “The QIPCO British Champion Series Hall of Fame is a wonderful initiative and, on behalf of the O’Brien family, we are absolutely delighted that Vincent O’Brien is the first trainer to be inducted. His achievements, both in the National Hunt and Flat spheres, are unparalleled and highly unlikely to ever be matched.

"Additionally, his creation of Ballydoyle as a training centre and his involvement in the early days of Coolmore Stud will ensure that his legacy will live on. We would like to thank QIPCO and the judging panel for helping to ensure that this is the case.”

Brigadier Gerard, Mill Reef and Nijinsky – the last-named trained by O’Brien - all lit up the sport during the early 1970s. Between the three, they won an incredible 40 of their 45 races.

The mighty Brigadier Gerard, ridden by the late Joe Mercer, won 17 of his 18 races and is remembered as one of the greatest milers there has been, although he also shone over further. His record in 1971 was phenomenal, winning all six of his races, and his final resumé contained a British Classic in the 2000 Guineas, two Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and two Champion Stakes victories.

The Ian Balding-trained Mill Reef had to play second fiddle to Brigadier Gerard in the 2000 Guineas of 1971 but, upped in distance, he would never be beaten again. His exploits included outstanding victories in the Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Meanwhile, the majestic Nijinsky, ridden by inaugural Hall of Famer Lester Piggott, made history in 1970 by scooping the Triple Crown. No horse has since achieved this milestone of winning the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger in the same year. Nijinsky went on to become a hugely successful stallion and, to this day, remains the only sire to have a winner of the Derby (Epsom) and the Kentucky Derby in the same year.

Connections of these four stars will receive a specially commissioned medal, designed by Asprey and unique within British racing, to mark their achievement. The four medals will be displayed at Doncaster on Saturday as part of a QIPCO British Champions Series Hall of Fame exhibition. The exhibition will be found within the racecourse’s grandstand in the Grandstand Enclosure.

A number of additional inductions will be announced in the build-up to QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot (Saturday October 16), including one horse chosen by the public (vote here) which is open until September 24.

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