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Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Brien and Mullins look likely to restore Irish sporting pride

Aidan O'Brien
Aidan O'Brien

Competing at the top table of the sporting world is not easy. Winning is an even more monumental task. Just ask the Irish rugby team.

Fewer sporting events, if any, have got as much column inches or broadcast time than this Rugby World Cup as the genuine belief that our little small island would be still competing this weekend increased the interest but that wasn't to be, unfortunately.

For such a seemingly sports mad nation, we are starved of success on big sporting occasions.

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However, for the third year in a row I am in the privileged position of being en route to Melbourne to cover one of the most famous horse races in the world, the Emirates Melbourne Cup. The race that really does stop a nation and is having quite a big impression on many other nations now too.

The prospect of witnessing an Irish winner has probably rarely been higher since Dermot Weld worked his magic and won the race for a second time with Media Puzzle.

Aidan O'Brien and Willie Mullins are responsible for the three-pronged Irish attack on the race this year that has been close to our hearts since Weld revived it by initially becoming the first trainer outside of Australia to train the winner. Some say that had Vintage Crop not won the Melbourne Cup in 1993 that it would no longer carry the prestige it does now.

It is now, and to the disgruntlement of some locals, an international affair.

O'Brien, Mullins and Weld are just three of Ireland's finest in the horse racing industry but they are part of a sport that can continue, time and time again, to dance the dance anywhere in the world. We have a whole host of trainers, jockeys and also horses bred in Ireland that can continually win the top spoils around the world and O'Brien and David Wachman will attempt to do that again this weekend at the Breeders' Cup.

But heading to Melbourne and getting the reports back from Werribee Racecourse where the international runners are based, there is a real feeling that the Irish runners can make a mark on this year's Melbourne Cup.

Most people in our corner of the world would probably point to the Aintree Grand National as the most famous horserace in the world and maybe they're right but being a Flat race, the Melbourne Cup obviously opens itself to a much wider audience and currently it looks like 11 of the runners in Tuesday's race will be from overseas.

In what has been a turbulent couple of weeks for Irish sport, with the unwanted Billy walsh saga grabbing headlines, maybe, just maybe the old reliables of O'Brien and Mullins can give us something to be proud of once again.

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