Who was John Dunlop?

John Dunlop, who retired from the training ranks at the end of the 2012 Flat season and died in July, 2018, at the age of 78, after a long illness, was a doyen of British horse racing for nearly half a century. Born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire on July 10, 1939, Dunlop became assistant trainer to Gordon Smyth at Castle Stables in Arundel, West Sussex in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Smyth moved to Heath House Stables in Lewes, East Sussex, on the retirement of John ‘Towser’ Gosden and Dunlop took over the licence as private trainer to Bernard Fitzalan-Howard,16th Duke of Norfolk, and his wife, Lavinia.

Dunlop had the distinction of saddling Hatta, the first British winner in the now familiar maroon and white silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at Brighton in 1977. In 1983, he also saddled British Horse of the Year Habibti to win the July Cup, William Hill Sprint Championship, Vernons Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. Dunlop was Champion Trainer just once, in 1995, but, at the peak of his powers, had over 200 horses in his charge. All told, he trained over 3,500 winners, including ten British Classic winners. He never won the 2,000 Guineas, but won the 1,000 Guineas and the St. Leger three times apiece and the Derby and the Oaks twice apiece. Habibiti aside, arguably the best horse he ever trained was Shirley Heights, winner of the Derby and the Irish Derby in 1978.

Who is Sir Michael Stoute?

Born on October 22, 1945 on the Caribbean island of Barbados, Sir Michael Stoute has been a leading light in British horse racing for decades. In fact, he was Champion Trainer ten times between 1981 and 2009, yet was awarded a knighthood, in 1998, for services to tourism in his native country. Having narrowly lost out, to Julian Wilson, as the new BBC Television racing correspondent in 1965, Stoute subsequently became assistant trainer to the late Hubert Patrick ‘Pat’ Rohan in Norton, County Durham, before taking out a training licence in his own right in 1972.

All told, Stoute has won the Derby five times, most notably with Shergar in 1981 and Workforce in 2010. The fate of Shergar, kidnapped from the Ballymany Stud in County Kildare, Ireland two years later is an abiding mystery, but his ten-length winning margin remains the widest in the history of the Epsom Classic. Workforce won the Derby by just seven lengths but, in so doing, beat the previous track record for the mile-and-a-half at Epsom, set by Lammtarra 25 years earlier, by nearly a second.

Stoute is also the most successful trainer in the history of Royal Ascot, have beaten the previous record of 75 winners, set by the late Sir Henry Cecil, when Poet’s Word won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in 2018. Stoute has since saddled four more winners at the Royal Meeting, most recently Crystal Ocean, also in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, in 2019, to extend his career total to 80 winners.

Which are the most valuable races in Britain?

The most valuable horse races in Britain naturally include some of the most prestigious, and most coveted, contests on the horse racing calendar. Traditionally the fourth Classic of the season, the Derby Stakes, or Derby, for short, run over a mile-and-a-half at Epsom, is currently the most valuable horse race run in Britain, with a total prize money of £1.62 million. Elsewhere on the Flat, the Ebor Handicap, run over a mile-and-three-quarters at York, has received a massive boost in prize money since Sky Bet took over sponsorship of the race in 2018 and now has a total prize fund of £1 million; it is, in fact, the most valuable race of its kind, not only in Britain, but in the whole of Europe.

In 2020, two Group One races at Royal Ascot, namely the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, run over a mile-and-a-quarter, and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, run over six furlongs, were due for an increase in prize money, to £1 million from £750,000 and £600,000, respectively. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, prize money at the Royal Meeting was amended, such that all eight Group One races were run for £250,000.

Generally speaking, National Hunt racing is less lucrative than Flat racing, in terms of the prize money on offer. Nevertheless, while not quite on a par with the Derby, the Grand National, run over four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs at Aintree, offers total prize money of £1 million, making it the most valuable steeplechase run in Europe.

Who is Aidan O’Brien?

Born on October 16, 1969 in County Wexford, Ireland, Aidan O’Brien has, since 1996, has been private trainer to Irish business magnate John Magnier at Ballydoyle Racing Stable, County Tipperary. Magnier is married to Susan O’Brien, daughter of Vincent O’Brien, co-founder of the Coolmore Stud breeding operation in 1975.

Prior to succeeding Vincent O’Brien as ‘Master of Ballydoyle’, Aidan O’Brien had, like his unrelated namesake, been a highly successful National Hunt trainer. In fact, he won Irish National Hunt trainers’ championship in Ireland five seasons running between 1993/94 and 1997/98 and famously trained Istabraq to three consecutive wins in the Champion Hurdle in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

By that stage of his career, O’Brien had already become the youngest-ever winner of the Irish Flat trainers’ championship, in 1997, and was well on his way to becoming the outstanding trainer of his generation. Indeed, he has been Irish champion trainer every year, bar one, since, and British champion trainer on six occasions, most recently in 2017.O’Brien is the leading trainer in the history of the 2,000 Guineas, with 10 wins, including three in a row between 2017 and 2019, courtesy of Churchill, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia. He is also, jointly, the leading trainer in the history of the Derby, with 7 wins, most recently with Anthony Van Dyck in 2019. In 2017, O’Brien trained 28 Group One or Grade One winners in a calendar year, thereby beating the previous record, 25, set by the late Bobby Frankel in 2003.

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