By Duane Fonseca -
The Irish family name of O’Brien has had a long history training racehorses and for as far back as you can remember it’s possible to find one involved in racing in Ireland. While the O’Brien’s of Ireland are involved in the Thoroughbred side of things, Dennis O’Brien, with perhaps no connection to his Irish counterparts, has started to make waves in Purebred Arabian circles here in the UAE.
Operating at a strike rate of over 15 per cent Dennis has managed to turn more than a few heads as the chief trainer at Al Asayl and has saddled 10 winners and enjoyed a further eight seconds and six thirds from the 65 he’s dispatched so far. Not bad at all considering the ongoing campaign is the 56-year-old’s rookie year as a professional trainer.
“This is my third season here and first with a licence,” O’Brien tells Adiyat Racing Plus. “I was assistant to Salem (Al Ketbi) during the first two years during which we learned a lot and he was very helpful and so was the entire management. “Sheikha Alyazia bint Sultan Al Nahyan and her family have been very helpful and have been big supporters of mine. They know it’s been taking us time to find our feet and learn what the system is out here. But we have learned a lot from the first two seasons.”
ALL ROUND TRAINING
O’Brien has learned immensely from his years in racing. First as a jockey, then as assistant trainer, then as someone who worked closely with breaking horses and rehabilitating the ones that had broken down, then back to assistant trainer. His last role was with Al Ketbi and O’Brien spent two years under the Emirati learning the ropes and getting ready for the inevitable: training horses under his name.
“I learned to ride in Ireland and moved to Newmarket with an Irish trainer named Barney Curley,” O’Brien said. “I was a jockey for him and rode over jumps — not very successfully — then I became his assistant trainer and was there for five years.” A move to Shadwell in 1992 changed the game for O’Brien, creating in him an appetite for bigger and better.
“I moved to Shadwell as the pre-training and rehabilitation manager. At Shadwell, we broke the horses and did their pre-training and also took care of the injured horses and sent them to the different trainers,” O’Brien recalls. “The most famous horse I worked with there was Battaash, the champion sprinter. Our job was to ensure the horses were ready to do serious work and not be far off racing. I also looked after the sales horses.