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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably the world's greatest racehorse trainer ever, 11 May 2009
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography (Hardcover)
Vincent O'Brien was never my favorite trainer but he and the horses in his stable always commanded my respect and with good reason. This lavishly illustrated book clearly shows what he achieved during his career. It isn't the first book about Vincent; indeed, parts of it have been lifted from an earlier book, Vincent O'Brien's great horses. However, it is the definitive book, with a chapter on his early life and tracing his career from beginning to end.

Chapters 2 to 7 focus on Vincent's career as a trainer of steeplechasers and hurdlers, an extremely successful period that is often overlooked. During that time, Vincent trained Cottage Rake to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups and Hatton's Grace to win three Champion Hurdles. He also trained Knock Hard to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As if all those winners and many others in Cheltenham Festival races were not enough to prove his brilliance, Vincent also won the Grand National in three consecutive years, each time with a different horse, these being Early Mist (1953), Royal Tan (1954) and Quare Times (1955). Some of Vincent's jumping horses also ran on the flat but he took the decision to switch fully to flat racing in the late fifties. Not every trainer makes the switch successfully, but Vincent actually became even more successful in his new role.

Vincent became embroiled in some controversies including the loss of his training licence twice, first in 1954 because of apparent inconsistencies in the running of some of his horses and second in 1960 over the Chamour case. In both cases, there is some suspicion that the Irish racing authorities wanted to find fault with Vincent. In any case, these two lengthy suspensions did not stop his rise to the top. A chapter each is devoted to these scandals.

Ballymoss, Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, Roberto, The Minstrel, Alleged, Storm Bird, Golden Fleece, Sadlers Wells, Caerleon and Royal Academy are among the horses that Vincent trained to success on the flat. Yet he didn't just train them. Sometimes he was involved in selecting them for purchase. One of his owners wanted Vincent to fly from Ireland to Canada just to give his opinion on a yearling son of Ribot, then the world's most popular stallion. Vincent duly obliged but wasn't impressed by the yearling in question. However, he took a liking to a different yearling that he saw while he was there. The owner took Vincent's advice and bought the other yearling instead. It was good advice as the yearling grew to become a champion - Nijinsky.

Although Golden Fleece died in his first year at stud, Vincent's other star colts later became influential stallions. Ballymoss was not especially successful but sired the Epsom Derby winner Royal Palace. Storm Bird sired Storm Cat, the leading American stallion of his generation. Sadlers Wells, not one of the greatest racehorses that Vincent trained, nevertheless won some Group 1 races and became the leading European stallion of his generation, siring many horses of superior ability to himself. The Minstrel didn't sire anything of note himself but one of his sons sired Cigar, the champion American racehorse. Nijinsky and Roberto both became outstanding stallions, without matching the achievements of Sadlers Wells.

Vincent had comparatively few successes with fillies and mares but I'm not sure if he trained very many. The only one to get significant coverage in this book is Gladness, who won the Ascot Gold Cup for him in the fifties. In the sixties, Vincent trained a 1,000 Guineas winner and two Epsom Oaks winners, but didn't win either race subsequently. Contrast that with four 2,000 Guineas winners and six Epsom Derby winners in his career. Likewise Vincent's record in the equivalent Irish classics is much better with colts than with fillies. Most of his big wins with fillies and mares came early in his career, so maybe he focused mainly on colts once he established his reputation.

Vincent had plenty of success with sprinters and milers but except for Royal Academy, they get very little coverage in this book. British and Irish racing fans may remember Thatch, Jaazeiro, Saritamer, Solinus, Thatching, Artaius, King's Lake, Abergwaun, Peterhof and College Chapel. Some aren't even mentioned except in the list of big-race winners near the back of the book, while others are only mentioned briefly. King's Lake does best of this group, getting a couple of paragraphs describing his rivalry with To-Agori-Mou. Still, if all these horses got the coverage that the other stars got, we'd be looking at an encyclopedia.

Some time after I bought this book as a hardback, a paperback edition was published. I took a quick look through it and was immediately pleased that I'd bought the hardback even though it was difficult for me to afford it at the time. For many books, the price saving on the paperback is worth having. From what I've seen, this is one book where the extra cost of the hardback is well worth the premium.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 24 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography (Hardcover)
This is an outstanding book if you are into racing.This book allows you to have a look behind the scenes of one of the most famous stables ever. MV is a remarkable man who's life's work should never be forgotten!. The book remembers legends past and present,both equine and human, plus a truly good look at racing's top horses. This is a must for the true racing lover, how-ever, if you are not "into" racing, in my opinion, this book is not for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 13 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography (Hardcover)
The best racing book ive ever bought, delighted, also the price was so cheap, very happy with this product ,
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read for any racing fan, 14 Dec 2006
This review is from: Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography (Hardcover)
An excellent well written book that gives a real insight into racing during the last 50 years and the forward thinking of a genius of racing, I thoroughly enjoyed every page !!
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Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography
Vincent O'Brien: The Official Biography by Ivor Herbert (Hardcover - 21 Oct 2005)
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