Aidan O’Brien secured a record 26th Group One victory of the year as Saxon Warrior claimed the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
The Deep Impact colt made a huge impression on his racecourse debut at the Curragh and having followed up in last month’s Beresford Stakes at Naas, he was the 13-8 favourite to provide his trainer with an eighth triumph in this juvenile event.
Ryan Moore’s mount travelled powerfully throughout the one-mile contest, but looked booked for minor honours when the John Gosden-trained Roaring Line swept alongside and briefly went to the front.
Jockey Ryan Moore (third left) with trainer Aidan O’Brien (second right) in the winners’ enclosure after the Racing Post Trophy Stakes at Doncaster Racecourse. Photo: Clint Hughes/PA Wire
However, he veered off a true line when push came to shove, giving Saxon Warrior a chance and he fought back admirably to claim a historic victory by a neck.
The winner’s stablemate, The Pentagon, was third.
O’Brien surpassed the record for number of top-level wins in a calendar year set by American trainer Bobby Frankel in 2003.
He told ITV Racing: “I’m delighted and delighted for everybody. There’s a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people in Ballydoyle and Coolmore.
“It’s unbelievable really. There are so many people who put in so much hard work day in, day out. If I start mentioning people, I’d forget somebody. They know who they are.
“It’s a privilege to be working with such special people. We’re in a very lucky position and we’re a small link in a big chain.”
Of Saxon Warrior, the trainer added: “He travelled very strong and Ryan gave him a brilliant ride.
“When John’s horse went by him you thought he was beaten, but he found plenty and we’re delighted.”
O’Brien paid tribute to the Coolmore triumvirate of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith for producing such incredible thoroughbreds for him to train.
He said: “You’re always afraid when you want something to happen, it doesn’t happen.
“I couldn’t believe it when this horse came back. When John’s horse came by him I said ‘that’s it, he’ll be second’, but Ryan really conjured a new run out of him.
“It’s been a funny year really. A lot of horses have progressed and progressed. There were so many horses like that, it was unusual.
“A lot of very well-bred horses just got better and better. The lads have an unbelievable band of mares and stallions and there are a lot of horses with blue chip pedigrees.
“The genes are obviously there if you can get them to fire up.”
Saxon Warrior is as short as 6-1 for next year’s 2000 Guineas and a best priced 5-1 favourite for the Epsom Derby.
O’Brien added: “He travelled very well. Ryan said he surprised him how quickly he jumped into it.
“He was very impressed with him and he’s a horse to really look forward to.
“He’s a very special horse, we think. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and he’s only been a baby.
“Originally we thought we’d get one run into him (this year). He had that run and then we said we might chance another and then he won in Naas.
“He came out of Naas so well we said we’d come here. It’s incredible really.
“I’d say there’s no doubt he’ll be better on better ground.”
Paul Smith, son of Saxon Warrior’s part-owner Derrick Smith, told At The Races: “I’m so pleased for Aidan and everyone at Ballydoyle.
“It wasn’t straightforward, but I’ve spoken to Ryan (Moore) and he was very happy and very complimentary about the horse.
“He travelled beautifully and quickened up when John Gosden’s horse came alongside.
“He’s still a bit inexperienced and still a bit green and there’s a very strong crosswind as well.
“He travelled well and toughed it out well, which are the qualities you need in a good horse.”
Gosden was pleased with the performance of the runner-up, Roaring Lion.
He said: “He ran a great race, but it’s very tough with that wind. The wind literally blew him off a true path.
“He was last off the bridle, hit the front but Ryan’s horse had the rail and that is a big advantage in the wind. At least we gave him a scare.”
Paying tribute to O’Brien, he added: “It’s a fabulous achievement. He’s a great man to compete against and to get 26 in one year is incredible.”
Aidan O’Brien’s Group One winners in 2017
Churchill (Qipco 2000 Guineas) Newmarket, May 6
Winter (Qipco 1000 Guineas) Newmarket, May 7
Churchill (Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas) Curragh, May 27
Winter (Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas) Curragh, May 28
Highland Reel (Investec Coronation Cup) Epsom, June 2
Wings Of Eagles (Investec Derby) Epsom, June 3
Highland Reel (Prince of Wales’s Stakes) Ascot, June 21
Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup) Ascot, June 23
Winter (Coronation Stakes) Ascot, June 23
Capri (Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby) Curragh, July 1
Roly Poly (Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes) Newmarket, July 14
Roly Poly (Prix Rothschild) Deauville, July 30
Winter (Qatar Nassau Stakes) Goodwood, August 3
Sioux Nation (Keeneland Phoenix Stakes) Curragh, August 13
Hydrangea (Coolmore Matron Stakes) Leopardstown, September 9
Happily (Moyglare Stud Stakes) Curragh, September 10
Order Of St George (Comer Group Irish St Leger) Curragh, September 10
Capri (William Hill St Leger) Doncaster, September 16
Clemmie (Juddmonte Cheveley Park) Newmarket, September 30
US Navy Flag (Juddmonte Middle Park) Newmarket, September 30
Happily (Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere) Chantilly, October 1
Rhododendron (Prix de l’Opera) Chantilly, October 1
Roly Poly (Sun Chariot Stakes) Newmarket, October 7
US Navy Flag (Darley Dewhurst Stakes) Newmarket, October 14
Hydrangea (Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes) Ascot, October 21
Saxon Warrior (Racing Post Trophy) Doncaster, October 28