Friday 24 May 2019

Magna claims tenth Guineas for O'Brien

Donnacha O’Brien rides Magna Grecia to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Donnacha O’Brien rides Magna Grecia to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Marcus Armytage

Aidan O'Brien extended his record of Qipco 2,000 Guineas winners to 10 when Magna Grecia, an 11/2 shot ridden by his son, Donnacha, came home fast and straight up the Rowley Mile a comfortable winner of the Flat season's first Classic yesterday.

When King Of Kings gave the trainer a first win in the race 21 years ago, no one - with, perhaps, the exception of John Magnier, the brains and funds behind the Coolmore and Ballydoyle empires who had just taken him on - foresaw such domination, which now amounts to a 2,000 Guineas every other year.

On top of that, it is almost 200 years since a trainer, James Edwards, won the race three years in succession which O'Brien has done with Churchill, Saxon Warrior and now Magna Grecia. However, though Magna Grecia may doubtless have won regardless of the draw, the race was slightly unsatisfactory in that he was in a group of three horses which peeled away to the stands-side rail from the main pack made up of 16 racing up the middle of the course.

One of his gang, Shine So Bright, set a very strong pace and by halfway Magna Grecia's little trio had a clear lead. The Irish colt challenged the pacesetter two furlongs out, ran on strongly and, perhaps demonstrating the advantage, towed the 66/1 shot King Of Change into second.

The Craven winner Skardu, one-and-three-quarter lengths away in third, won his race up the middle and, given the horse's nature of not doing any more than necessary, his connections were unlucky to find that their colt had nothing to aim at.

"We're over the moon," said O'Brien. "We were always of the opinion he could start off over a mile and then get further. Though we'll take it one step at a time, the plan before today was to take in the Curragh (Irish 2,000 Guineas) and Ascot (St James's Palace Stakes). The lads (Magnier and his associates) make the plans, we try to follow them.

"We knew the other horse (Ten Sovereigns, fifth) would struggle to get a mile and the rain counted against him. When they split, it was always going to depend on where the pace was, but Magna Grecia is a lovely straightforward horse.

"Donnacha is very confident and sure of the horse. He rides him in all his work. As a family, we do nothing else day in, day out, so there's always a feeling of satisfaction when it happens."

The scales will dictate how long the jockey, who has now won four Classics, rides for before he gets too heavy. Having been put "in charge of a bunch of two-year-olds" this year, that day may not be too far off, but he is certainly enjoying some big successes, quite often at the expense of stable jockey Ryan Moore, who was unplaced on Ten Sovereigns. "It looks like I was on the right side of the track," said O'Brien, 20, "but I wouldn't have swapped the horse for any of the others on the other side.

"We were ahead at halfway and, once I hit the front, I never saw another horse and I knew he wouldn't stop."

Richard Hannon, who won the 1,000 Guineas last year with a 66/1 shot, nearly repeated the feat in the colts' version with King Of Change. Though slightly surprised about the finishing position, he said he always felt King Of Change would out-run his odds. In contrast, William Haggas was somewhat deflated after Skardu had won the race on his side of the course.

"I feared this might happen when I saw the draw," he said. "It's a shame there was an advantage coming up the stands side, but there clearly was. He ran a good race and stuck it out well. Take nothing away from the winner, though, he bolted up. It was hard for our horse to battle, but battle he did." Telegraph

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