September 22, 2018

Saxon Warrior racks up more milestones for O’Brien in 2000 Guineas

Saxon Warrior is now the prohibitive favorite to turn the classic double in the Derby (Photo courtesy of The Jockey Club via Twitter)

About eight hours before Mendelssohn bids for an historic Kentucky Derby (G1) victory, master Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien made history across the pond Saturday as unbeaten Saxon Warrior handed him a record ninth score in the 2000 Guineas (G1). The Japanese-bred son of Deep Impact and star Galileo mare Maybe has now seen his odds plummet to even-money, or odds-on with a few bookmakers, for the June 2 Derby (G1) at Epsom.

The antepost Guineas favorite before a troubling drift in recent weeks, Saxon Warrior had packed on weight over the winter, with O’Brien describing him as a “monster of a horse” who was just ready to return to the races. But he must have come on a ton in his homework of late, for the market jitters were not only soothed but forgotten. In the past several days, money poured in on Saxon Warrior, his price fell dramatically, and the steam continued on course as he went off as the close second choice at 3-1.

Godolphin’s Masar was accorded 5-2 favoritism on the strength of his course-and-distance romp in the April 19 Craven (G3). He could not repeat the feat, however, in the first British classic of the season.

With Ryan Moore away at Churchill Downs (with O’Brien) for Mendelssohn, the trainer’s son Donnacha reunited with Saxon Warrior. The 19-year-old rode him to perfection, settling him in midpack while stablemate Murillo filled the pacemaking role. Saxon Warrior traveled like the winner at every stage, and once he was tipped out in the clear, he lengthened stride and surged clear.

The 50-1 Tip Two Win, last seen winning in Qatar, ran the race of his life to edge Masar for second. Elarqam, the son of Guineas winners Frankel and Attraction, reported home another half-length astern in fourth. Roaring Lion, beaten a pole by Masar in the Craven, proved that trial all wrong when spearing through on the stands’ side rail in fifth. O’Brien’s other well-supported hope, Gustav Klimt, checked in sixth. Murillo tired to ninth, one spot ahead of the inconsistent Expert Eye, who might revert to sprinting now.

Saxon Warrior clocked 1:36.55 down the Rowley Mile to remain perfect from four starts, all at a mile. Donnacha guided him to a debut victory at the Curragh last August. Moore took over for his imperious success in the Beresford (G2) at Naas and his superb tally in the Racing Post Trophy (G1), where Roaring Lion headed him but he found another gear to get back on top. That lifted O’Brien to a single-season record 28th Grade/Group 1 win.

Saxon Warrior’s Guineas represented another milestone. Not only did he further his grip on the record book in the Newmarket classic, but it marked a 300th top-level victory for the wizard of Ballydoyle.

Already a coup for Coolmore’s stud operation as the first classic-winning son of Deep Impact in Europe, and at the commercial distance of a mile, Saxon Warrior would be an even hotter property should he complete the Guineas-Derby double. Then might they go for history – and an exceedingly rare attempt at an English Triple Crown sweep in the St Leger (G1)? The Coolmore partners took that route with Camelot, a slightly unlucky second in the 2012 St Leger.

Sire Deep Impact, who swept the Japanese Triple Crown in 2005, imparts stamina but with acceleration. Dam Maybe, herself trained by O’Brien, likely gives Saxon Warrior that extra bit of speed to help at a mile. Europe’s co-champion two-year-old filly of 2011, Maybe captured the Moyglare Stud (G1), Debutante (G2), Silver Flash (G3), and the Chesham over the boys at Royal Ascot. She was not as successful at three after placing a distant third in the 1000 Guineas (G1).

Maybe is a full sister to another smart juvenile, Promise To Be True, who also won the Silver Flash and placed in a pair of French Group 1s. This is the family of Dancing Rain, heroine of the 2011 Oaks (G1) at Epsom, and Dr Devious, the 1992 Epsom Derby hero who was coming off a seventh in the Kentucky Derby.

If Mendelssohn becomes the first European-based horse to win the roses, O’Brien would be in position for an incredible Derby double.

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