Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Keeping it in the family: 'Wizard of Ballydoyle's' master apprentice

July 31, 2013 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
  • The rising star of champion trainer Aidan O'Brien's stable is his own son Joseph
  • The pair are the first father-and-son to win the Epsom Derby as trainer and jockey
  • Joseph jokes their plans "don't always go to plan" but the pair have had great success
  • O'Brien says Joseph could one day take over training at the prestigious Coolmore stable

(CNN) -- The man they call the "Wizard of Ballydoyle" has got a master apprentice.

Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has a reputation as a brilliant tutor of horses, but his most prized protege is now his eldest son, Joseph.

The pair galloped into the history books last season as the first father and son -- in the role of trainer and jockey -- to win England's Epsom Derby, one of the world's most famous flat races, with Camelot.

"It works well," Joseph, who is his father's first-choice jockey, told CNN's Winning Post.

"We both discuss what way we're going to ride the horse and it doesn't always go to plan -- it usually doesn't -- but when it does it is great."

Joseph is lean, rosy-cheeked and softly-spoken -- and modest too.

Jockey and successful trainer
Breeding the next generation of champions
Queen joyous at Royal Ascot win

The 20-year-old rode his first winner, trained by his father, at Leopardstown in 2009 just days after his 16th birthday.

Since then the O'Brien father-and-son combination has claimed high-profile victories in England, Ireland, the U.S. and Dubai on celebrated horses including Camelot and St Nicholas Abbey.

"I suppose Joseph has never known anything else since he was a baby," said O'Brien, surveying the Ballydoyle yard tucked away in the heart of the Irish countryside in County Tipperary.

Read: Ruler of the World wins Derby for O'Brien

"He probably knows how we think better than anybody. He knows when it goes wrong too -- he's the first to admit it."

O'Brien learnt his trade from his own father, a farmer and small-scale trainer in County Wexford, Ireland, before becoming a jockey, who dabbled in training on the side.

The 44-year-old was Ireland's amateur champion jockey but it was his knack of training horses that saw him snapped up by Coolmore, Ireland's global breeding and training powerhouse, in 1995.

He has been Ireland's champion trainer since 1998 and British champion trainer four times, guiding great horses such as Giant's Causeway, Galileo and High Chapparal.

With such a prestigious brand to protect, not to mention family honor, does O'Brien treat his son differently?

"No, I don't think so," answered O'Brien in a straightforward manner. "He's seen it all and heard it all good and bad.

"It's obviously a much closer relationship as we all live together but it's more or less the same."

Joseph agrees that he is not treated any differently by his father to the other jockeys charged with riding potential winners home.

"There's always a little bit of pressure," he explained. "But I like pressure because when the pressure's on it means you'll be sensible."

Dynasty in safe hands

The pressure just might increase on Joseph at some point in the future.

As well as being his father's favored jockey, O'Brien has named him as his potential successor.

"I'd be delighted," said O'Brien. "He'd have to be finished riding at that stage but those things are a long way down the road.

"We'll look forward to it when it does happen."

At least Joseph does not have to worry about sustaining the O'Brien dynasty alone.

The 20-year-old is the eldest of four children and O'Brien -- whose wife Anne-Marie was also a trainer -- already has them all riding out to exercise the horses.

No wonder Ballydoyle has a reputation for breeding future stars of the turf -- and the training yard.

Part of complete coverage on
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
He's won six Olympic medals on two legs, but Bode Miller's future will ride on four -- can he replicate his skiing success in the "Sport of Kings"?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1247 GMT (2047 HKT)
As a jockey, Philip Blacker lived for the thrills and spills of horse racing. As a sculptor, his work captures the horror of World War I.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
Ever thought zebras couldn't be tamed? Think again. Gary Witheford has a remarkable way with wild animals -- which he proved after a pub boast.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
The internet went wild for so-called "horse yoga" -- but there was something deeper going on that reconnects humans with the animal world.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1323 GMT (2123 HKT)
The going is always soft and the only permanent building is a toilet block. It's the antithesis to the pomp of Royal Ascot ... welcome to Irish beach racing.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1107 GMT (1907 HKT)
Each August, over a thousand tents and hundreds of horses converge on Little Big Horn River in Montana for the Crow Fair and Rodeo.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 0957 GMT (1757 HKT)
Show me the money! Hollywood star Tom Cruise was a big hit when he visited the Glorious Goodwood festival.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Little-known outside the tribes of the Rocky Mountains in the American northwest, Indian Relay is a "magical" horse-racing relay.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Now in his 50s, one of the world's most successful jockeys explains why he gave up acting to return to the sport that nearly crippled him.
Winning Post's Francesca Cumani is impressed by the all-round multitasking skills of Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien.
June 7, 2014 -- Updated 0853 GMT (1653 HKT)
 An infrared camera was used to create this image.) A horse and exercise rider head to the main track for morning training at Belmont Park on June 4, 2014 in Elmont, New York.
More people have walked on the moon than have won the fabled Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing. California Chrome is seeking to square that score.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
A long history of controversy made him the "enfant terrible" of horse racing, but veteran jockey Kieren Fallon is looking for redemption.