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Warrior strikes as Saxon puts rivals to the sword - 2000 GUINEAS DAY - NEWMARKET

10/05/2018
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SEPARATED by the Atlantic Ocean but united in a momentous moment made on the Rowley Mile, where Saxon Warrior’s storming display in the 2000 Guineas, father and son shared an unforgettable occasion, providing trainer Aidan O’Brien Group One winner number 300 and 19yo Donnacha O’Brien a precious first Classic. In emulating his elder brother Joseph, who steered Camelot in the same Derrick Smith silks to teenage Guineas glory six years ago, the youngest man in the O’Brien family achieved a major personal milestone that left his father excited in America, his mother crying in Newmarket and the Coolmore partners dreaming of the Derby.

The swaggering hulk of a horse who is Saxon Warrior is now hot favourite to maintain his unbeaten record at Epsom, where further success could conceivably prompt connections to consider a Triple Crown challenge. At Epsom and beyond it will almost certainly be Ryan Moore in the saddle, but while he was preparing to steer Ballydoyle stable companion Mendelssohn at Churchill Downs, Donnacha O’Brien was living up to the enormous responsibility placed upon him. No trainer is more used to the big time than Aidan O’Brien, now with nine 2000 Guineas to his name, and he seems sure to enjoy more big days with last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner, a breakthrough British Classic winner for Japanese supersire Deep Impact.

In a contest in which Godolphin’s eventual third Masar started favourite, on a day the owner enjoyed a quadruple, it was just over a furlong out Saxon Warrior, second in the market, led. Yet asked when he thought he had the 2000 Guineas won, the young O’Brien said: “Last Thursday! “He had been working very well. He has looked special all throughout the winter. We’ve made no secret of that. He is very, very good. “He travelled beautiful today and I thought I was the winner the whole way. I probably was a bit excited at the two pole, gave him a squeeze and was there too early.

“He is an absolute monster of a horse, so, you never know, he could improve again. I was very impressed. “If I had to put my neck on the line I would say his optimum trip is a mile and a quarter. He is definitely not a slow horse but he is bred to stay, and he is very relaxed, so there’s every chance he’ll stay a mile and a half.” That will be tested at Epsom, where among his supporters will be Michael Tabor. “Like night follows day,” said Tabor when asked if he expects Saxon Warrior to go from the Guineas to the Derby. “Obviously a mile is not his ideal trip, but with the speed and class Saxon Warrior has, we were always hopeful the mile would be fine, which it proved to be.

“Aidan has said he will only improve, although he added the caveat he still thought he could win or run a very big race here. That’s how special he thinks he is.” So special, in fact, that when asked if he would be keen to see Saxon Warrior seek to do what Camelot so nearly did by capturing the Triple Crown, Tabor was noticeably enthusiastic in his answer. “No question, I would think,” he said. “Why not? “It most definitely motivates me. I haven’t discussed it with the team but, to me, yes.” Aidan may have been in America but son Joseph and wife, Anne Marie, were both present at Newmarket. “He gave the horse a wonderful ride; he’s obviously very good,” observed Joseph, while mother Anne Marie, fighting a losing battle to hold back tears, said: “It’s incredibly emotional.

I’m so delighted for Donnacha. He’s very independent and he manages his weight very well. He’s a great guy. We’re very proud of him.” The last word went to Donnacha who joked: “If I hadn’t won a Guineas I would probably be the disappointment of the family! “A huge thanks to Dad and all the owners for letting me sit on him. Thankfully I didn’t mess up.” Progressive grey Defoe showcased his class with a comfortable victory in the 1m4f Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes on the same card. Although jockey Andrea Atzeni, sporting the predominantly yellow silks of his main employer, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, was happy to sit still whilst the other jockeys quickened off a slow pace, Defoe eventually picked up to win convincingly for trainer Roger Varian.

Sent off hot favourite after winning the Group 3 John Porter Stakes at Newbury, Defoe settled in second behind Count Octave, who finished ahead of him in the St Leger last season, with Khalidi, Master The World and Red Verdon following.It was James Doyle who made the first move aboard Red Verdon, asking his mount to quicken up the stands’ side rail. He briefly looked to have his rivals on the stretch, but Defoe quickened up and strode clear in the closing stages to win by almost four lengths from Red Verdon who stuck on well for second. The trainer said: “It was a tough race to watch and it always threatened to be tactical. They went steady and Andrea always looked comfortable but James Doyle made a very good move on his blindside, came very quick and secured the rail.

“I was really impressed with how the horse galloped us out of trouble. He looked about eight lengths out of his ground. As hard as it was to watch, the result was impressive in the manner that he did it.” He added: “Whether ten or twelve furlongs will be his trip at the top level is something we have to find out. We might have to protect him at the height of the summer on firm ground but we’d love to consider the Arc.” Michael Dods proved he was exceptional at training sprinting mares with dual Nunthorpe heroine Mecca’s Angel, and, although she’s not quite at that level yet, his Mabs Cross flew home to collar Judicial on the line in the 5f Group 3 Palace House Stakes, suggesting there was plenty more to come.

It didn’t look likely for a long way, however, as Mabs Cross looked to be struggling to keep up in the early stages, but once Paul Mulrennan became serious with David Armstrong’s 4yo daughter of Dutch Art she responded in remarkable style towards the stands’ side and won by a neck. The owner’s distinctive red silks were carried to victory in the race aboard subsequent July Cup winner Mayson in 2012. Emma Armstrong, wife of owner David, said: “We’ll have to go up to Group Ones now so we will have a look; she’s in the King’s Stand. Miss Meggy, the dam, was our first winner and Mabs Cross was winner 100 when she won a Listed race at Musselburgh last year.”

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