Aidan O’Brien landed his ninth Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday afternoon and remarkably his 300th Group 1 success as his imposing colt Saxon Warrior (3/1) maintained his unbeaten record with a tremendously impressive length-and-a-half victory in the first colts’ classic of the season.
Given a fine ride by 19-year-old Donnacha O’Brien (pictured top), son of the winning trainer, the Japanese bred Saxon Warrior was unleashed coming out of the dip around two furlongs from home and stormed through to take it up from Elarqam and Masar. The final challenge came from 50/1 outsider Tip Two Win, who excelled himself, as Masar (5/2f) kept on for third ahead of Elarqam, Roaring Lion, and a disappointing Gustav Klimt (sixth), stable companion of the winner.
“It’s very special,” admitted Donnacha O’Brien. “Obviously, I’m winning this race and riding in big races because of the position I’m in. I’m just very grateful. He’s a very, very good horse. A proper horse. He’ll stay a mile and a half.”
Winner of all three starts last season culminating in a famous win in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October, there has never been any doubt that Saxon Warrior was a very smart colt, but many observers – this correspondent included – felt he would be seen at his best over at least a mile-and-a-quarter, and probably the mile-and-a-half of the Investec Derby.
The fact that O’Brien’s charge showed so much pace when asked to go about his business against specialist milers suggests he has just about all the tools in his armory and will prove very hard to beat for the rest of what could be a truly stellar campaign.
Most betting companies are now running scared of Saxon Warrior who has been slashed to a top priced 11/10 favourite for the Derby with both Betfair and Betfred. Many others go Evens, while some make the 2000 Guineas winner odds-on at as short as 5/6 to complete a famous classic double. You can bet 14/1 bar the favourite in what is now a truly lop-sided ante-post book for most firms.
If he does win at Epson on June 2 over a further half mile, Saxon Warrior could possibly set himself up for a potential bid for the Holy Grail of Flat racing, the Triple Crown, the final leg of which is the mile and six furlongs St Leger at Doncaster in September, a prize that so narrowly eluded his Ballydoyle predecessor Camelot in 2012.
Roger Teal, trainer of runner-up Tip Two Win, was almost speechless, telling reporters, “When he came out of the dip I thought ‘Oh my God’ – I’ve got a chance of winning the Guineas, and then he flashed by me. I was about 50 yards from the line. It’s amazing. We knew we had a decent animal. He was only a 50/1 shot because he was trained by me!”
Charlie Appleby confirmed that that third placed Masar will now head for a re-match with the winner at Epsom in four weeks’ time.
“He lost nothing in defeat there,” said the Godolphin handler. “He has progressed with every run. William [Buick] was very happy that he got into a nice rhythm there. He said he just felt when they quickened up he just lacked that turn of foot.”