Donnacha O’Brien enjoys fresh-faced outlook as he targets Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood

DONNACHA O’BRIEN has a tough act to follow – both his father Aidan and older brother Joseph are prolific and prodigious trainers of world renown.

Donnacha O'Brien (right) with his father Aidan after teaming up to win the 2018 Epsom Oaks with Forever Together. Now they're rivals - as trainers.

Yet the newest member of the O’Brien training dynasty has already proved his adeptness after hanging up his riding boots last year.

One of the 21-year-old’s first successes was a Classic One after Fancy Blue won the Prix de Diane – the French Oaks – following a fine second in the Irish 1000 Guineas.

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And today the filly, owned by the Coolmore breeding empire, contests the Group One Qatar Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, part of the Qipco British Champions Series, as O’Brien prepares for his first runner in Britain.

This was donnacha O'Brien after Magna Grecia won the 2018 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

Her rivals include Magic Wand, trained by O’Brien senior, and the Japanese challenger Deirdre, who won the corresponding contest 12 years ago under champion jockey Oisin Murphy. But the younger O’Brien, who won the 2000 Guineas on Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia in 2018 and 2019 respectively before losing his unequal battle with the weight, is hopeful of coming out on top in this rivalry.

And while he won’t be at Goodwood owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions, O’Brien said: “Hopefully, by that stage, my job will be done and it won’t make too much difference whether I’m there or not.

“It’s not ideal (starting training shortly before a global pandemic) but I was going to have a new routine anyway, so it was going to be different for me regardless.

“Some trainers will have been training for 20 years or more, and it might be more difficult for them than it is for me as I’m new to it all anyway.”

One of Donnacha O'Brien's last major successes before retiring from the saddle was Magical's success in last year's Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Fancy Blue, the mount of Coolmore’s retained rider Ryan Moore, prevailed in the French Oaks – a race previously won by Yorkshire racing heroine Laurens – from Jessica Harrington’sAlpine Star, the easy Coronation Stakes winner at Royal Ascot, and her Irish Guineas conqueror Peaceful. O’Brien said: “In a tight finish between four horses you can usually mark it down a bit but they were definitely the right horses involved that day and they pulled clear of the rest of the field, so it looks like very strong form.

“Fancy Blue is very genuine, tries hard and takes her work well. She’s a very uncomplicated and talented filly who relaxes and is able to quicken.

“She gets a mile and a quarter very well and is closely related to High Chaparral (the 2002 Derby winner), so there’s plenty of stamina in her pedigree.

“I think she can probably be competitive in Group 1s anywhere from a mile to a mile and a half.

“There are a great bunch of fillies around at the moment. Among the three-year-olds you have Love, who looks special, and then, of course, you’ve got Enable and Magical, and a few of the those turning up at Goodwood this week, including ours.”

O’Brien is training out of the County Tipperary yard formerly occupied by David Wachman, who landed the 2015 Nassau Stakes with 1000 Guineas heroine Legatissimo.

He rode numerous high-profile winners before making the switch and admitted: “Of course, you miss the big days riding.

“I guess that’s going to happen for a while, but I’ll learn to get used to it.”

He remained passive watching Fancy Blue edge home at Chantilly, saying: “I stay pretty cool and there wasn’t much point shouting because she wasn’t going to hear me in France.”.

It is a similar story with the jockeys he now employs.

“I don’t see any point of giving out to jockeys – I wouldn’t be into that,” he added. “I think I have enough experience to know what they can and can’t do in a race.

“Sometimes the criticism of them from different places is completely unfair, and sometimes perhaps a jockey will do something where I wouldn’t agree, whereas other people wouldn’t pick up on it.”

Meanwhile, Ed Walker is hoping English King can turn around the Derby form with Khalifa Sat and confirm his Group One potential in the Gordon Stakes.

The colt shot to prominence after a facile trial success at Lingfield, but he could finish only fifth behind surprise all-the-way winner Serpentine at Epsom.

Andrew Balding’s Khalifa Sat finished second on that occasion, three-quarters of a length ahead of English King, and it is a fascinating rematch.

“It’s like a mini re-run of the Derby,” said Walker.

“The ground should suit – he should handle the track and he hasn’t missed a beat since Epsom.

“He was [finishing fast at Epsom], but take nothing away from Khalifa Sat – he won a trial and finished second in the Derby and is clearly a very good horse.

We have great respect for Khalifa Sat and the others, but we are obviously hopeful he can turn the tables after a bit of a strange race at Epsom.”