Declan Rix

Declan Rix takes a closer look at Saxon Warrior’s ready 2000 Guineas success and has an eyecatcher from the race that could go close in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

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For various reasons, with hindsight of course, the 2018 renewal of the 2000 Guineas is unlikely to feature high on the list among handicappers, historically. I’d be confident the likes of Churchill and Galileo Gold ran to higher levels in the two most recent runnings than Saxon Warrior did in what proved to be a slightly unsatisfactory race from a form point of view.

The presence of the officially 106-rated Tip Two Win in second, beaten one-and-a-half lengths, means we should be questioning the level of the race, especially considering he came from one of the worst early positions off what was a sedate-looking gallop by Group 1 standards. That said, Roger Teal’s stable star has clearly run a fantastic race, achieving a career best in the process. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this level as the season goes on.

Runaway Group 3 Craven Stakes winner Masar looks to have been officially overrated for that nine-length success back in April, in a race where he got an extremely easy lead off slow fractions against inferior and/or unfit rivals.

To be fair to Charlie Appleby’s colt, he’s a likable horse and again ran well to finish third, a head behind the second, but was ultimately found wanting in this stronger race. He raced on his own for much of the contest, but that shouldn’t have been any inconvenience, although he’s maybe deserving of a small mark up for losing ground in switching to the middle of the track late on.

Mark Johnston’s regally bred colt Elarqam ran a career best to finish fourth (beaten 2 ¼ lengths) in circumstances that wouldn’t have played to his strengths. The son of two Guineas winners in Frankel and Attraction, he raced keenly in a contest that developed into a little bit of a sprint. This scenario along with him not handling the track, on only his third career start, means he’s certainly not one to give up on yet.

Saxon Warrior wins the 2000 Guineas
Declan feels there is much more to come from Saxon Warrior

Roaring Lion took a big a step forward from his disappointing Craven Stakes effort to finish fifth, but it’s a slight concern he hasn’t got to the level of last season’s Racing Post Trophy run, where he was second to Saxon Warrior. He raced on his own down the standside in the latter parts of the race which may not have been ideal, but according to the Newmarket going stick readings, that was the fastest part of the track on Saturday. At the moment, he hasn’t shown he’s a better horse this season, for all this effort was a step in the right direction.

The not overly big Gustav Klimt was possibly the biggest disappointment of the race. On good ground, a surface connections were sure would suit, he looked paceless in comparison to some. Maybe he needs further on this kind of ground or maybe he’s best served by cut. Either way, he’s got something to prove now at Group 1 level.

You’ll be glad to hear I’m not all doom and gloom, because in Saxon Warrior we have a winner of the first Classic of the season that still excites. The ease of his success under Donnacha O'Brien was pretty taking. The son of Deep Impact’s ability to travel and quicken was there for all to see; he just looked a different quality animal to his rivals on the day in more ways than one.

What may well set Aidan O’Brien’s inmate apart from his three-year-old peers going forward is his tranquil mental state. He appears to be an entirely straight-forward horse to deal with. At The Races presenter Jason Weaver made a salient point in noting the bridle and bit used with Saxon Warrior, saying the apparatus was indicative of a calm and easy-going horse. This laidback nature will no doubt be key in helping him stay the stiff 12f Derby trip at Epsom, should connections go down that route.

Furthermore, physically, there should be more to come. Pre-race, Aidan O’Brien had said his inmate had developed into a “monster of a horse” over the winter. Given the trainer’s softly-softly approach, in terms of fitness, and in dealing with a young, lightly-raced and developing horse, there could be so much more to come, especially given he still looked a little green and idled when he hit the front.

Congratulations to Aidan on his 300th success at the highest level, and also to Donnacha on a first Classic.


The biggest eyecatcher in the 2000 Guineas appeared to be the David Simcock-trained RAID, who finished eighth. In a first-time hood, he raced keenly to the rear and away from the main action for much of the race. He travelled well and appeared to quicken before losing his balance coming out of the dip. In the final furlong, he blatantly didn’t get home and a drop in trip looks a wise move.

Five of the last five Jersey Stakes winners at Royal Ascot had run in some form of Guineas before winning the seven-furlong Royal meeting contest. Three of those came from the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

This nicely-bred son of Havana Gold is a half-brother to the classy Grendisar and looks tailormade for the opening race on Wednesday at Royal Ascot.

Declan Rix
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