Thursday 18 July 2019

O'Brien plots Triple Crown bid for Guineas hero 'Warrior'

Donnacha O’Brien punches the air as Saxon Warrior passes the winning post after their victory in Saturday’s English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Donnacha O’Brien punches the air as Saxon Warrior passes the winning post after their victory in Saturday’s English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Graham Clark

Mendelssohn may have flopped in Saturday's night's Kentucky Derby, but Saxon Warrior ensured the Classic weekend was hardly a total bust for Aidan O'Brien with victory in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Hopes were high that Mendelssohn could break new ground at Churchill Downs and both O'Brien and Ryan Moore had made the trip to America only to be disappointed as he trailed home last.

O'Brien had nevertheless secured an important win earlier in the day, with Saxon Warrior giving him an unprecedented ninth 2,000 Guineas win as well as his 300th strike at Group One level.

The landmark victory was further enhanced as it was O'Brien's son, Donnacha, who steered the 3/1 chance to a length-and-a-half verdict over 50/1 shot Tip Two Win.

Part-owner Michael Tabor said: "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.

"There has to be more to come (over further), common sense would say this not his trip, but this is always the best trial for a Derby as a rule."

O'Brien Snr has already raised the possibility of Saxon Warrior being aimed at the Triple Crown. The Epsom Derby is next on his plate and if all goes well there it will be off to Doncaster for the oldest Classic of them all, the St Leger, in a quest the Coolmore team so very nearly achieved with Camelot in 2012.

The Ballydoyle maestro watched the race on a computer in a hotel room in America as he was with Mendelssohn in his failed bid at Churchill Down.

"We were watching it from afar but it was unbelievable," O'Brien told ITV Racing. "Donnacha (O'Brien) has ridden him in all his work so he knew what he was able to do. He knew the horse better than I did.

"The lads (owners) always had it in their heads he would go for the Guineas and Derby. Donnacha was very happy, too, so I think that is what everybody is thinking next.


"The Triple Crown has to be on our minds, if he wins the Derby that would be the obvious thing to do but I haven't been told yet."

O'Brien confirmed that Ryan Moore would be back on board at Epsom in his role as number one rider.

As for the disappointment of Mendelssohn, O'Brien felt the sloppy dirt conditions at Churchill Downs were against him. The UAE Derby winner was attempting to become the first European horse to win the Classic but torrential rain made the surface atrocious.

The was colt done no favours when knocked sideways on leaving stall 14 and the writing was on the wall from some way out. As Moore pushed in vain approaching the home turn, up front the favourite Justify kicked off the bend and Bob Baffert's charge - unraced as a two-year-old - never looked like being caught.

Good Magic gave chase to the Mike Smith-ridden winner but to no avail, with Audible in third.

When his chance had gone, Moore allowed Mendelssohn to come home in his own time, eventually finishing last.

"We learned a lot, we prepared for normal dirt racing," O'Brien said. "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.

"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."

Irish Independent

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