Saxon Warrior breaks Group One record for Aidan O’Brien

Two-year-old battles back to take Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster under Ryan Moore

Saxon Warrior (R) holds off Roaring Lion to give Aidan O’Brien a 26th Group One of the season. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

Saxon Warrior (R) holds off Roaring Lion to give Aidan O’Brien a 26th Group One of the season. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

 

Aidan O’Brien is Ireland’s newest world record holder after Saxon Warrior provided the Co. Tipperary based trainer with a 26th Group One success of 2017 in Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

The 13-8 favourite beat Roaring Lion in a thrilling finish to break the old mark of 25 Group/Grade One winners in a calendar year set by the late American trainer Bobby Frankel in 2003.

O’Brien equalled that with Hydrangea’s ‘Champions Day’ success at Ascot last weekend and created history when Saxon Warrior rallied under jockey Ryan Moore to maintain his own unbeaten three-out-of-three record.

That provoked some bookmakers to cut to Saxon Warrior to as low as 4-1 favourite for next year’s Derby. But the focus was inevitably all on the colt’s 48-year-old trainer who is enjoying the most successful season of a stellar career.

“I’m delighted and delighted for everybody. There’s a lot of hard work put in by a lot of people in Ballydoyle and in Coolmore. There are so many people who put in so much hard work day in, day out.

“It’s a privilege to be working with such people. We’re in a very lucky position and we’re a very small link in a big chain,” O’Brien said afterwards with typical understatement.

Aidan O’Brien celebrates after Saxon Warrior gave him a 26th Group One win of the year. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Aidan O’Brien celebrates after Saxon Warrior gave him a 26th Group One win of the year. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty

O’Brien was joined at Doncaster by his family, including his daughter Ana who was seriously injured in a fall when riding in a race at Killarney in July.

Saxon Warrior travelled notably well throughout the race and looked set to win easily until challenged by the 8-1 shot Roaring Lion outside the furlong pole.

Racing into a stiff headwind, the Japanese bred colt hung left and was then bumped by the runner up when he hung left as well. However after going half a length down, the Irish hope rallied to win by a neck. His stable companion, The Pentagon, was third at 10-1.

“He travelled very strong and Ryan gave him a brilliant ride,” O’Brien added. “When John’s (Gosden) horse went by him you thought he was beaten but he found plenty and we’re delighted.”

The pattern race system, which divides racing’s top races into various groups, including the very best Group One races, was introduced in Europe in 1971. A similar system was introduced in North America some years later.

Saxon Warrior has been calculated to be O’Brien’s 319th top-flight winner in all and he has already been installed at 10-1 to break his 2017 record in 2018.

What the new benchmark figure proves to be has yet to be established. O’Brien has runners in both of France’s final two Group Ones of the year in Saint-Cloud on Sunday and could have more than a dozen horses to run at next weekend’s Breeders Cup at the Del Mar track near San Diego.

A few days after Johannes Vermeer is a possible starter for the record-breaking Irishman in Tuesday week’s Melbourne Cup in Australia while he also has entries for Hong Kong’s International carnival in early December.

Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive praised O’Brien’s achievement as a historic feat.

“It looked for some weeks like Aidan would create a new world record and now that he has we shouldn’t allow what we thought was inevitable distract from the achievement. This is an incredible historic feat and one worthy of great celebration,” said Brian Kavanagh.

“In posting a tally never before realised in the international world of flat racing, he has also captured the imagination of the sporting public at large. Knowing his dedication and the talented team of people and horses he has assembled, I would expect Aidan could add even more Group and Grade one success to his tally with the number of top level races left to compete for around the world in 2017,” he added.

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