by Jack Murphy (1920 – 2000)
The first big success of a Churchtown bred horse was when St. Brendan won the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Wednesday June 25th 1902. St. Brendan was bred by Edward Flannery at his Churchtown Stud out of his Mare Court Card whom he sold to James Daly of Dublin with an older own brother of St. Brendan for £400. This older own brother also won some valuable races including the valuable Leopardstown Grand Prize over 5 furlongs in August 1902.
The next big success of a Churchtown horse was when Loch Lomond won the Irish Derby for Miss E. Cowhy of Churchtown House on June 19th 1919. This horse was trained by Michael Dawson at the Curragh and ridden by Martin Quirke to a very clear win over an English horse who was a favourite.
Some years after this period most successes of Churchtown horses were confined to National Hunt at Point-to-Point races who were owned and trained by local farmers including the late Dan. P. O’Brien of Clashganniff House who was Vincent O’Brien’s father. D. P. O’Brien won some good races on the flat with Solford including the Irish Cambridge at the Curragh 1939. Other good winners were Astrometer and Astrologer. Solford was sold to Miss Dorothy Paget for whom he won a Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham as well as some other valuable races.
In the late 1930s Vincent O’Brien was supervising the training of the horses at Clashganniff although the licence was held by his father up to his death in May 1943. Vincent got his licence to train in the 1944-45 period and that was the start of a glorious period of success after success at National Hunt level as well as some nice races on the flat.
In the period 1944 to 1946 Vincent had some good successes and then he got really into the big time at National Hunt level in 1947. In 1948 he was to prove along with Tom Dreaper that he was one of the two great National Hunt trainers. Cottage Rake won his first Gold Cup this year. He also won the Emblem Chase at Manchester and the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
From 1948 to 1959 Vincent O’Brien trained the winner of 22 races at the Cheltenham meeting a record that is unlikely to be equalled over such a short period of 11 years. Also during this period he had re-written every record as a National Hunt trainer and was soon to do the same on the flat.
Vincent O’Brien moved his stables from Clashganniff to Ballydoyle in Tipperary in 1951 where his successes continued. Even though he had left Churchtown to train in Tipperary the parish has always been exceptionally proud of his achievements both in Churchtown and Ballydoyle. Vincent O’Brien is undoubtedly Churchtown greatest sporting hero.
To train one Aintree Grand National winner is every National Hunt trainer’s dream. To do it three years in a row and with three different horses will never be equalled? Vincent achieved these victories at Aintree with Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times during 1953, 1954 and 55. Hatton’s Grace won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham 1949, 1950 and 1951 in addition to an Irish Lincoln, two Caesarawich (check spelling) at the Curragh.
Two very important Churchtown men who worked with Vincent for over 40 years were the late Danny O’ Sullivan and Maurice O’ Callaghan. Vincent describes Danny as “one of the best work riders ever”. Danny also rode Cottage Rake to his first victory at Limerick Races on St. Stephen’s Day 1945. Speaking about Maurice O’Callaghan he said: “Maurice was my head lad for over 40 years. He was a great horseman with a natural instinct for feeding horses and he treated them as individuals”.
After dominating the National Hunt scene up to 1959 Vincent concentrated on the Flat with outstanding success in Ireland, England, France and America. His classic victories during his period training on the Flat really put him on a pedestal above all other trainers:
– 6 Irish Derbys
– 5 Irish 2,000 Guineas
– 3 Irish 1,000 Guineas
– 4 Irish Oaks,
– 9 Irish St. Legers
– 6 Epsom Derbys
– 4 English 2,000 Guineas
– 1 English 1,000 Guineas
– 2 Oaks,
– 3 St. Legers
Having trained 43 Classic victories between England and Ireland is a record that should stand for all time. He won the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe in France three times and the Washington D.C. International Stakes with Sir Ivor. Shortly before he retired he won the most important One Mile Race Breeders Cup in America with Royal Academy. In his entire career he trained 1,579 winners and was leading trainer on money terms 13 times winning £5,759,460 in his whole career.
Another Churchtown man Jack Moylan was a leading flat jockey during the late 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Towards the end of his a career he won two Irish Derbys in successive years riding Slide On and Picadilly. He also finished second in the Aintree Grand National on a horse called Fly Mask in 1924. Jack Moylan also has the distinction of being Pat Eddery’s grand-father. Pat was Champion jockey on several occasions in England and also was first jockey to Vincent.O’Brien during the 1980’s and his biggest win was on Golden Fleece in the Epsom Derby 1982.