Aidan O’Brien is a relentless thinker who is cut from the same cloth as Pep Guardiola… watching him close up you can understand why there will be more glory days, writes DOMINIC KING

Breakfast at Ballydoyle and Aidan O’Brien breaks away from a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon to grab his phone. There is something he wants us to see.

‘Look at this!’ he says as, suddenly, the distinctive first bars of Born In The USA start blasting out. O’Brien’s wife, Anne-Marie, went to see Bruce Springsteen in Kilkenny on Sunday night and, clearly, a good time had been had by all.

‘He’s 74!’ O’Brien says, head shaking in disbelief. He had been unable to attend himself, having been saddling runners in Paris that day. ‘Amazing, isn’t he? And then you think about Mick Jagger still performing – look at him. He’s 80! Unbelievable!’

This is a side to O’Brien you rarely see. With a number of his star horses having suffered costly defeats in recent weeks, you might have expected his mood to be as filthy as the rain and wind that makes this May morning feel like mid-winter but nothing could be further from the truth.

One of Springsteen’s songs would perfectly encapsulate O’Brien’s career and rich experience, gained over almost 30 years, tells him that things will change. Watching him work at close quarters, at this historic facility that stretches over 750 acres, you understand why there will be more Glory Days.

Aidan O'Brien is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest horse racing trainers of all time

Aidan O’Brien is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest horse racing trainers of all time

Mail Sport went behind the scenes with O’Brien (left) at Ballydoyle Stables in County Tipperary

O'Brien was busy searching for answers to explain City of Troy's extremely disappointing display in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas last week where he struggled as the race favourite

O’Brien was busy searching for answers to explain City of Troy’s extremely disappointing display in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas last week where he struggled as the race favourite

O’Brien’s attention to detail is meticulous and in the week since City Of Troy bombed out in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, the search for answers to explain the lamentable display – he trailed in ninth of 11, having been sent-off the 4/6 favourite – has been forensic.

If anyone can turn a wooden horse (as some would call City Of Troy) into a wonder horse it is O’Brien and the signs after he watched the colt twice swiftly breeze up a four furlong gallop were positive. Certainly his experienced work rider Dean Gallagher was impressed.

The next time we will see City Of Troy run is at Epsom on June 1, in the Betfred Derby. O’Brien has won the greatest flat race a record-breaking nine times, so the way he chooses to describe his number one candidate for the latest renewal is deeply significant.

‘I’m not sure we’ve ever sent a horse to The Derby with as much ability as this,’ O’Brien insisted. ‘If we can get him to come out those gates and everything to work properly for him then we can have him in the right place. Everything has been good since the Guineas.

‘We just accepted all these things went wrong on the day and we’ve decided to stay with the plan. He’s done nothing since to make us change our minds. The plan was always to start with the Guineas and go on to The Derby and that’s where we are. We’re still in the “hope” department.’

He says this as City Of Troy circles around close by in an indoor barn, cooling down after his work, and the conversation is absorbing. At times it feels like he is finding it cathartic, pinning blame on himself, in other moments it is clear he’s providing an education into training a thoroughbred.

O’Brien is clearly cut from a similar cloth to Pep Guardiola, a relentless thinker who obsesses over the minutiae. He misses nothing, knowing the name of every work rider – there is a team of 65 at Ballydoyle – and, most significantly, knowing their tone when they report back from the gallops.

‘I would always feel that we were in the wrong mind-set and something happened that we didn’t think was going to happen,’ said O’Brien, during this visit organised by The Jockey Club. ‘That’s the way it is. We can’t be winning all the time – but we try. If you do your best, it’s easy to accept.’

How easy? O’Brien was apologetic when he left Newmarket, almost indicating that he had let the public down by City Of Troy’s no show. Does that sense of frustration and upset linger when he returns home? Does he have a routine to get over a setback?

‘A bottle of whiskey, always!’ says a man who is famously teetotal. ‘No, no. Look, when the day is bad like that, I get on the plane and I sleep. That’s the first thing, to cut myself off. When I get home, I’ll have two or three hours work to do in the yard and set up tomorrow morning.

‘That takes me to bed time. I’ll go straight to sleep and when I get up, I never thinking about yesterday. It’s gone. By thinking about it, you’re not going to get it back. You have to get focused on the days in front and learn from the things we need to be working on.

‘I can sleep no problem. If you don’t sleep, the next day you’ll be destroyed and the reason I would sleep is to let your mind heal, relax and go on. If you start off the day after not sleeping it’s going to be a disaster the next day and that’s a little bit of a strange thing that I’ve done over the years.

Watching O’Brien work at close quarters, you understand why there will be more glory days

He’s cut from a similar cloth to Pep Guardiola, a relentless thinker who obsesses over small details

‘I always count my breaths and I never, ever get near 20 breaths. I’d be gone to sleep. I would wipe everything out of my mind and concentrate on my breathing and I’d never get to 20 breaths, no matter how bad the day was. It’s nearly like turning yourself off.

‘I do my exercise because everyone has to exercise and I do that during the day, maybe before I start in the morning and then exercise through the day. That’s only about getting the best out of yourself – that’s the reason for that.’

It certainly works. There are 230 of the best-bred horses in the world in his care and the task of trying to produce stallions for his bosses, Coolmore Stud, is never ending. One day City Of Troy will retire to stand at the farm and who knows? He could yet retire as Derby winner.

‘There’s been pressure on him from the first time he won his maiden,’ said O’Brien. ‘The whole world has been looking at him. So maybe it might be good for him that the spotlight is leaving him alone a little bit. That could be where he is now. But, listen. We’re still dreaming.’

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