Friday 21 September 2018

Saxon Warrior comes up short for Aidan O'Brien as Masar claims Epsom Derby

Horse Racing - Derby Festival - Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Britain - June 1, 2018 Trainer Aidan O'Brien looks on Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Horse Racing - Derby Festival - Epsom Downs Racecourse, Epsom, Britain - June 1, 2018 Trainer Aidan O'Brien looks on Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Graham Clark

Aidan O'Brien was in a philosophical mood after odds-on favourite Saxon Warrior could finish only fourth in the Investec Derby at Epsom.

The 2000 Guineas winner needed to overcome the terrible record of horses drawn in stall one, and while he was hemmed in by the winner Masar, and then Roaring Lion, once in the clear he failed to gain any noticeable ground on those in front of him.

Although in no rush to make plans, the Ballydoyle handler did not rule out staying at a mile and a half in the Irish Derby.

"It wasn't to be. He ran a good race and I'd not like to take it away from the winner in anyway. These things happen, but I wouldn't be making excuses," said O'Brien.

"We will take him home and see how he is. It might have been all new to him as he was drawn in there (one) and down there on the rail, and it would have been a big shock to him.

"I've often seen that happen to horses and they leave a run behind them very quick.

"I think he was a little bit in awe of the whole thing, really. He is a baby horse. It's only his fifth run. We will look forward to him the next time."

He added: "We will see how is, but I wouldn't rule it (Irish Derby) out. He has run on very easy, uncomplicated tracks and this is probably the first complicated track he has had to handle."

His rider Ryan Moore said: "He just didn't pick up. Maybe it was the track or the ground but I just don't think he fired.

"These races are always tight - the winner got first run and I followed him through so I can't have too many excuses."

Mark Johnston feels he has never had a better chance of winning the St Leger after Dee Ex Bee finished a gallant second.

A day after the Oaks was won by the father and son team of Aidan and Donnacha O'Brien, this time a father and son were first and second, with Dee Ex Bee, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, finishing behind Sheikh Mohammed's Masar.

Johnston said: "We came here with doubts about his effectiveness on the track and I'm not sure it suits. Because of the camber he rolled on to the one on his inside, but he rallied again up the hill so it bodes really well for the future.

"You could go to the Irish Derby, but I've said before that I don't think I've ever had a horse more suited to the St Leger, so I think it could be best to work backwards from that.

"For the owners I'm sure they couldn't have dreamt of a better result, but for me it would have been nice the other way round. Our horse has got a tremendous future. The plan was to go to Royal Ascot after this, but that might be a bit much to ask him.

"He's still a big baby and probably the biggest horse in the field, everything suggests there should be better to come."

Dante winner Roaring Lion moved ominously well until the two furlong marker, and John Gosden's colt had to settle for third.

"He ran a blinder and I'm delighted with him. He travelled well into the race," said Gosden.

"He did nothing wrong, he just simply didn't stay. He handled the track beautifully and came through, but he simply didn't stay the mile and a half.

"I think we will drop back to the mile and a quarter and the Eclipse is an obvious place to go."

David Redvers, racing manager for Qatar Racing, who own Roaring Lion, said: "I'm still all a flutter really, to see a horse travel that well over a field as good as that.

"We always had a doubt that this could be a step too far, certainly on this ground, and it's proven that, but we'll have a fun summer.

"We'll aim towards the Eclipse or something. Mr (John) Gosden and Oisin (Murphy) are both thrilled and if it had been fast ground today, who knows, he might have held on.

"What a machine, it's very exciting."

Frankie Dettori enjoyed a great ride for a long way with Hazapour, but ultimately had to settle for fifth place on the Dermot Weld-trained runner.

He said: "I had a lovely trip, sat in third but he didn't get home."

Press Association

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