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Sunday 23 September 2018

Guineas delight for O'Briens with successful Saxon Warrior

WINNER: Saxon Warrior, ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, after winning the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket. Photo: PA
WINNER: Saxon Warrior, ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, after winning the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket. Photo: PA

There was to be no fourth English Guineas double nor historic Kentucky Derby raid but Saxon Warrior's victory on Saturday will have given Aidan O'Brien and his team plenty to look forward to this season.

It can be easy to get carried away with Guineas winners as so much of the season has yet to develop and we saw that last year to a certain extent when Churchill could do the English/Irish double but not win again for the season. Saxon Warrior looks the real deal though.

Enjoying

Four from four now and without a run going into Saturday, it was telling enough when Donnacha O'Brien was asked after the opening Classic when he thought he'd win it, to which the response came "last Thursday!" A refreshing quip from the 19-year-old who was enjoying his biggest day in the saddle by far.

As good a trainer as Aidan O'Brien is, he is still also a very proud father and to have his second son ride a Guineas winner must have been a great moment for the trainer who was in America overseeing a disastrous trip for Mendelssohn.

Driving rain all day meant the Kentucky Derby would be run on a sloppy dirt track and while that was a major inconvenience for the UAE Derby winner, Mendelssohn and Ryan Moore suffered significant interference in the early stages and from there was never going to create history.

Billesdon Brook ridden by jockey Sean Levey coming home to win the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes during day two of the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourse. Photo: PA
Billesdon Brook ridden by jockey Sean Levey coming home to win the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes during day two of the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourse. Photo: PA

The Kentucky Derby raid was an ambitious one as it is a race that has eluded European trainers, but Mendelssohn's finishing position of being tailed off is an unfair reflection of the ability of the colt.

O'Brien won't be turned away from another American target though and has admitted that he will aim Mendelssohn at the Breeders' Cup Classic back on the dirt later this season.

Reflecting on Saturday night's Kentucky Derby, won in impressive fashion by Bob Baffert's Justify, O'Brien said: "We learned a lot, we prepared for normal dirt racing.

Demoralising

"Everyone was of the opinion that if you didn't get a good start your race is over in those conditions.

"Because of the bad kickback when it rains it is demoralising for a horse. American horses would have trained on it before but Ryan even said when he cantered to the start he was uncomfortable because it was coming up underneath him.

"It was a total extreme and we weren't prepared for that. A mid season break is now on the cards for Mendelssohn before a path is planned back to America. O'Brien added: "If we were in that situation again we might be a little more prepared.

"I think we are thinking of the (Breeders' Cup Classic) so it looks like a break now before two preps, wherever they may be, and then hopefully back for the Classic."

Happily was the best of the O'Brien string in the 1000 Guineas yesterday but she could only finish third as the 66/1 outsider, Billesdon Brook failed to follow the script and thus became the biggest price winner of the race.

Richard Hannon's filly was ridden by Seán Leavy, who spent a number of years working for O'Brien, and it was a race that could throw up no excuses for the major players with Laurens running well to finish second

The winning rider said: "That's a massive shock to me - she had a lot to find. I've come out and said we could do with a bit of luck, she needs to find 17lb! Where she's found that from, I don't know."

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