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O’Brien passes away in Ireland

Jockey’s riding career ended in 1974 Carolina Cup

Posted: December 27, 2011 2:45 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Michael O’Brien, 68, whose career as a steeplechase jockey ended following a fall in the 1974 Carolina Cup steeplechase, passed away last Friday afternoon at Tallaght Hospital in his native Dublin, Ireland, following an illness.
O’Brien’s connection to Camden stems from his being thrown from his mount, the William Pape-owned and Jonathan Sheppard-trained Athenian Idol, in the 1974 Camden spring classic feature. As result of the spill, O’Brien was left paralyzed from the waist down and was confined to a wheelchair.
Later, veterinarians determined that Athenian Idol, the 1973 Eclipse Award winner for steeplechasing, suffered a heart attack in the race.
Ironically, O’Brien’s brother, Leo, won the chase that afternoon aboard longshot Breaking Dawn at the Springdale Race Course.
Michael O’Brien won the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association’s (now National Steeplechase Association) leading rider crown in 1972 after he rode 21 winners (17 over fences) with 19 seconds and 11 thirds in 80 starts that year.
His days as a jockey finished, O’Brien returned to Ireland and began a career as a trainer. He would send out three Irish Grand National champions --- King Spruce, Vanton and Glebe Lad --- in his career. He also conditioned a pair of jumpers who won at the Cheltenham Festival in Shawiya, winner of the 1993 Triumph Hurdle, and Kadoun, who took the Pertemps Final in 2006.
Another of his major hurdle winners was Bright Highway, which completed the Mackeson Gold Cup - Hennessy Gold Cup double in 1980.
O’Brien retired from training two years ago, according to the Irish Times.

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