State Of Rest is better travelled than most of us can claim to be, certainly after the past few years, and Joseph O’Brien’s colt has seen the inside of the winner’s enclosure in three continents in the past year.
A flagbearer if there ever was one, the bay may have landed the Prix Ganay, the Cox Plate and the Saratoga Derby, but Royal Ascot represented unchartered waters for both trainer and horse.
The four-year-old had never won on British turf and O’Brien had never tasted a training victory at the Royal meeting in his successful but somehow still burgeoning career.
The fixture has hardly been a luckless one for O’Brien, however. As a jockey he was a six-time winner, including in the 2012 running of the Prince of Wales’s with So You Think.
Only a handful of rivals joined State Of Rest in the race, but the colt was mildly overlooked as a 5-1 chance with Sir Michael Stoute’s Bay Bridge and John and Thady Gosden’s Lord North both more favoured.
Ridden by Shane Crosse, a rider O’Brien took under his wing as an apprentice, the distinction of lifting a Royal Ascot trophy both as a trainer and a jockey was achieved as the horse produced a superb front-running victory from the Stoute contender.
“It’s very special to train my first winner here,” said O’Brien.
“We’ve been coming here for a couple of years and we’ve yet to have a winner, so to win a race like the Prince Of Wales’s is special, I’m very proud and very thankful for the team at home.
“He’s a very tough horse and he loves a fight, he’s hard to go past and we knew that he’d be fighting hard at the line. Shane executed it perfectly.”
Trainer and jockey, 29 and 20 respectively, are aged more like brothers than mentor and mentee, but it was clear that O’Brien has been a key figure in the appreciation and nurturing of Crosse’s talent.
“Shane has proved himself to be a top rider over the last few years, he’s still a young man and he gave the horse the most wonderful ride today,” he said.
“He couldn’t have done a better job, he’s a very cool customer and he proved that today.
“We walked the track a couple of times, I had full confidence in Shane and I’m delighted and proud of him.”
Even in the out-and-out games for the younger generation like football and gymnastics, it is rare to hear such a young figure appraising an even younger one – the two of them having triumphed in a sport where octogenarians, and even nonagenarians, are not precluded.
As a jockey O’Brien started young and ended young, winning the Derby aboard Camelot in 2012 as a teenager and lifting the Irish jockeys’ title that year and the next before retiring aged just 23 to take up training.
It was a transition that took little time to gain pace and within 12 months he had landed his first major prize with Rekindling, a half-length winner of the Melbourne Cup.
It was a victory that stated O’Brien’s intentions when it came to the international stage and of that plan of attack there is no better example than State Of Rest, who arrived at Ascot a Group One winner in America, Australia and France successively.
“We’re always very keen to go wherever we have to go to win big races all around the world,” O’Brien said.
“When we get nice horses we’re always keen to travel and get the prizes, if we win it’s great, but we’re not afraid to lose if it doesn’t go right. And it doesn’t often go right and that’s fine too, we learn and we regroup from there.
“You lose every day of the week, this game is all about losing, you regroup and go again. We knew the Royal Ascot winner would come when it was meant to come.”