Guineas Glory For Deep Impact's Saxon Warrior

Saxon Warrior and Donnacha O'Brien |


Hours before Churchill Downs launched another Triple Crown dream, the British version was very much alive in 2018 after Ballydoyle's “monster” Saxon Warrior (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) beat the cream of the milers in the G1 Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. In a year when the stable could conceivably win Triple Crowns in two continents, the heavily-supported 3-1 second favourite emerged front and centre to upstage some race-fit rivals with the kind of speed which will make him nigh-on unbeatable in the Derby. Every one of Aidan O'Brien's previous eight Guineas heros had come here first time up and even after one of the most torrid winters in recent times the maestro of Ballydoyle managed to deliver Derrick Smith's TDN Rising Star in the right order. A late market move and paddock inspection suggested that was the case and his familiar rider Donnacha O'Brien was always travelling easily in the main group led up the centre by the stable's Murillo (Scat Daddy). Set alight running towards the two-furlong pole, the unbeaten G1 Racing Post Trophy and G2 Beresford S. scorer swept by the pacemaker and Elarqam (GB) (Frankel {GB}) soon after and on to a 1 1/2-length success from the 50-1 outsider Tip Two Win (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}). There was another head back to the strongly-backed 5-2 favourite Masar (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) in third, with Elarqam, the only other of the close finishers having his seasonal debut, another half length back in fourth. “This is very special and I have to give a huge thanks to all the owners for giving me the chance to ride him,” commented Donnacha, who followed brother Joseph in winning this Classic for his father Aidan. “He's a very good horse–very special. I had planned to follow Jim Crowley [on Elarqam], but he turned his head when the stalls opened and I missed it. I followed Seamie [Heffernan, on Gustav Klimt] and when I got down to the two I got a bit excited and set off too early, but he's a proper horse.”

As soon as Saxon Warrior set foot on the track before his Curragh debut in August, he was a horse to take note of on pedigree and looks alone but as is the case with so many of the stable's first-timers a respectable midfield finish would have sufficed. When he delivered a scintillating rush down the outer under Donnacha to score with some ease at 8-1, there was reason to get excited and his follow-up performance in the Beresford against his smart stablemate and more typical Derby type Delano Roosevelt (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) was as straightforward as that of Sea the Stars (Ire) in the same race nine years earlier. There are definite parallels with the former great, who was packed away after that Curragh contest by John Oxx, while Saxon Warrior went to Doncaster in October to register a neck defeat of Roaring Lion (Kitten's Joy) in a deep-looking G1 Racing Post Trophy. While that appeared a special piece of form at the time, the latter received a real beating at the hands of Masar in the Craven last month and the public began to doubt its efficacy. Emerging from the harsh wet and cold months that beset Europe in general, Aidan O'Brien had his mind on channeling the imposing bay towards his first main target of the year and those closest kept the faith as the money spoke for the stable's race-fit Gustav Klimt (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). In the 48 hours approaching the race, that pairing swapped places in the market with Saxon Warrior generating the kind of support that marks out Ballydoyle's elite performers.

For the first half mile, the latest O'Brien junior sat still while his sizeable mount hacked along behind Gustav Klimt with Murillo achieving the perfect splits up ahead and a fresh Elarqam over-raced close to the pace. As Gustav Klimt struggled to step through the gears, Shadwell's great hope made hard work of subduing Murillo and for a brief moment heading past the three-furlong pole it looked as if the isolated Roaring Lion might have made the winning move as he took on Masar towards the stand's rail. Then, in less than a furlong the race was decided with that surge first demonstrated nine months ago taking Saxon Warrior into the clear for Aidan O'Brien's 300th group 1 victory with Doha's Al Biddah Mile winner Tip Two Win gallant in his slipstream. Masar, who was the subject of a plunge down from around 5-1 to 5-2, stayed on to get involved having been away from the main action throughout.

Saxon Warrior's success, with comes 20 years after his trainer's opening 2000 Guineas victory with King of Kings (Ire), avenges the heavy defeat of his dam Maybe (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) when the 13-8 favourite for the fillies's equivalent in 2012. More importantly, it represents a landmark moment for the widely-revered Deep Impact whose reputation now faces an even greater inflation. It is also the first time that this race has gone to a son of a sire trained outside of Europe since Gone West's Zafonic issued a similarly authoritative directive in 1993. As suggested in the TDN after his Beresford success, Saxon Warrior has all the credentials on pedigree for a Triple Crown winner and while the last to achieve that was Nijinsky in 1970, he was also at the time coming from an outside influence alien to European racing in Northern Dancer.

Deep Impact, who completed the Triple Crown in Japan himself, saw out two miles without any problem when winning the 2006 G1 Tenno Sho Spring and so it could be argued, as it was after Camelot (GB) (Montjeu {Ire}) scored here in 2012, that his son has just achieved the hardest part of the Classic sequence. The speed that allowed him to prevail over the pacy Tip Two Win here pours out from the European champion juvenile filly Maybe and her dam Sumora (Ire) (Danehill) who was fast enough to win the five-furlong Listed St Hugh's S. Sumora's full-sister Promise To Be True (Ire) took the G3 Silver Flash S. over seven furlongs before placing in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac and G1 Criterium International in 2016, while on the stamina side the second dam's half-sister Dancing Rain (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) captured the G1 Epsom Oaks, G1 Preis der Diana and G2 Qipco British Champions Fillies' and Mares' S. and is related to the G1 Epsom Derby-winning sire Dr Devious (Ire). As long as he stays sound and makes normal improvement, which is to be expected given that his trainer stated that he was a “long way” off his juvenile weight, what happens in the upcoming Derby trials is almost irrelevant and the major question is probably whether John Magnier et al opt to head to Doncaster after Epsom for the St Leger to banish the painful memories of Camelot's failure there.

Part-owner Michael Tabor could not subdue his confidence regarding more Derby glory in four weeks's time as bookmakers ran for cover. “Obviously a mile is not his ideal trip, but when a horse has got speed and the class of Saxon Warrior we were always hopeful the mile would be fine, which it proved to be,” he said. “There has to be more to come, common sense would say this is not his trip, but this is always the best trial for a Derby as a rule. I'd rather back it than lay it, but even-money is what he should be. Other horses will come out of the woodwork, I suppose, but they would have to be good to beat this one. Listen, it's a horse race and as we know things can happen and it's a few weeks until the Derby–you can't count your chickens–but if we arrive there then all things being equal he would have a strong favourite's chance. I know what Aidan thinks of this horse, so I was not overly surprised. If you had have asked me before the race, our number one was Gustav who had already had a run, but he was never really travelling today. A classy horse would win the July Cup, I'm not saying he would, but you've got to have speed and he has certainly got that.” Maybe, whose first foal also by Deep Impact is the Listed Platinum S.-placed Pavlenko (Jpn), has another exciting project in the works in a yearling colt by American Pharoah and was bred to War Front for 2018.

Tip Two Win provided the race's biggest surprise and his trainer Roger Teal was overwhelmed afterwards. “I can't put it into words,” he said. “I was trying to watch it out the front, but I didn't bring my binoculars so all I could see was his white breast girth. When he came out of the dip I thought I'd got a chance of winning the Guineas and then he flashed by me. It's amazing. We knew we had a decent animal. He was only a 50-1 shot because he was trained by me. We entered him for the [G1] St James's Palace Stakes [at Royal Ascot June 19], so I guess it will be that or the [June 20 G3] Jersey. We'll just get over today and digest it and see what happens.”

Masar's trainer Charlie Appleby was thinking about stepping up in trip now. “He lost nothing in defeat there. He has progressed with every run,” he said. “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. If you'd told me five weeks ago he'd be third in the Guineas I'd have been very pleased. He is a horse with a Derby pedigree and that's where we will head now, all being well.” Mark Johnston said of Elarqam, “It's not a bad run, but we came wanting to win so it's a little bit of a downer. I said all along he was a little bit inexperienced. We beat the second horse last year and he's had three or four runs since and we've only had a racecourse gallop. At the point in the race he needed a turn of foot, he just dwelt, which is not the mark of a true miler. It may be inexperience, but first impression is he needs further, so it looks more like the [G2] Dante [S. at York May 17] than St James's Palace next.”

Saturday, Newmarket, Britain
QIPCO 2000 GUINEAS S.-G1, £500,000, NEW, 5-5, 3yo, 8fT, 1:36.55, gd.
1–SAXON WARRIOR (JPN), 126, c, 3, by Deep Impact (Jpn)
1st Dam: Maybe (Ire) (Ch. 2yo Filly-Eur, G1SW-Ire & G1SP-Eng, $469,223), by Galileo (Ire)
2nd Dam: Sumora (Ire), by Danehill
3rd Dam: Rain Flower (Ire), by Indian Ridge (Ire)
O-Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier & Michael Tabor; B-Orpendale, Chelston & Wynatt (JPN); T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Donnacha O'Brien. £283,550. Lifetime Record: GSW-Ire, 4-4-0-0, $641,571. Werk Nick Rating: A+. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.[bullet ad=”irt-shell”]2–Tip Two Win (GB), 126, c, 3, Dark Angel (Ire)–Freddie's Girl, by More Than Ready. O/B-Mrs Anne Cowley (GB); T-Roger Teal. £107,500.
3–Masar (Ire), 126, c, 3, New Approach (Ire)–Khawlah (Ire), by Cape Cross (Ire). O/B-Godolphin (IRE); T-Charlie Appleby. £53,800.
Margins: 1HF, HD, HF. Odds: 3.00, 50.00, 2.50.
Also Ran: Elarqam (GB), Roaring Lion, Gustav Klimt (Ire), James Garfield (Ire), Raid (Ire), Murillo, Expert Eye (GB), Cardsharp (GB), Headway (GB), Rajasinghe (Ire), Nebo (Ire). Click for the Racing Post result or the free catalogue-style pedigree. Video, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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