Donnacha O’Brien became the latest in the O’Brien dynasty to claim Classic glory as Saxon Warrior ran out a stylish winner of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
Following in the footsteps of his elder brother Joseph, now a leading dual-purpose trainer having left the riding ranks, the 19-year-old is ultimately likely to suffer the same fate as his sibling given the size of his frame.
However, he has always been regarded as a stylish pilot and he showed nerves beyond his tender years on the biggest stage.
Maintaining his unbeaten record, the Deep Impact colt – now odds-on with some firms for the Investec Derby – had reportedly strengthened up over the winter and duly cruised to the front over a furlong out.
Taking up the running heading into the dip, the 3-1 winner never looked like being caught, scoring by a length and a half and a head as he provided the winning rider’s father, Aidan, with a ninth triumph in the colts’ showpiece.
Roger Teal’s 50-1 chance Tip Two Win ran a stormer to finish second, with the Charlie Appleby-trained 5-2 favourite Masar in third.
Elarqam ran well just out of the places in fourth, while Roaring Lion improved in leaps and bounds for his Craven run in fifth.
O’Brien said: “A huge thanks to all the owners for giving me the chance to ride him and especially to dad for the faith in putting me on him in the first place.
“It’s very special. Obviously, I’m winning this race and riding in big races because of the position I’m in. I’m just very grateful. He’s a very good horse, he’s a proper horse.”
He went on: “I wanted to follow William Buick (on Masar) and Jim Crowley (on Elarqam), but I was quite slowly away so I had to change plan.
“He travelled beautifully, I thought I was the winner the whole way but I probably got a bit excited at the two pole as I gave him a squeeze and got there too early, but he’s a very good horse.
“He might even come on for the run, everyone could see him today, he’s a monster of a horse. I thought he was a very good horse on his homework – he’s very very good.
“If I had to put my neck on the line I’d say his optimum trip will be a mile and a quarter, he’s not slow but he’s bred to stay.”
With O’Brien senior in America supervising Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby, Paul Smith, son of co-owner Derrick, said: “It was really eyecatching, Donnacha couldn’t speak too highly of him. He said when he quickened it was all over in a flash.
“He probably got there sooner than he wanted to, but he had so much horse under him. It’s very exciting when they have that speed and look like they’ll get further. All things point to June (Derby) now.”
He added: “That’s 300 Group Ones wins for Aidan and Donnacha’s first Classic. They are an incredible family.”
Michael Tabor, another of the Coolmore partners, 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 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 evens is what he should be (Derby). 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 (Klimt, sixth) 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.”