10/28/2017 10:53AM

Saxon Warrior wins Racing Post Trophy to give O'Brien single-season record

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Saxon Warrior stamped himself as a major contender for the 2018 classics and put trainer Aidan O’Brien’s name in the record books by winning the Racing Post Trophy Stakes on Saturday at Doncaster Racecourse in England.

Saxon Warrior’s victory was O’Brien’s 26th Group 1 win of 2017, a calendar-year world record for a trainer. In 2003, the late, great Bobby Frankel sent out 25 Grade 1 winners. O’Brien approached the single-season mark in 2016 but wound up with 22 top-level wins. He has been closing relentlessly on the record this fall and had runners in two French Group 1s on Sunday in addition to more than a dozen Breeders’ Cup-bound runners for next weekend’s Grade 1 festival at Del Mar. But any wins from those horses will now only add to O’Brien’s record-setting total thanks to a brave performance by Saxon Warrior.

Running near the front of the Racing Post Trophy’s main pack as pacemakers Coat of Arms and Theobald set out on a clear lead, Saxon Warrior moved toward the front with a little more than a quarter-mile left in the straight-course, one-mile Racing Post Trophy. Moving even faster to his right was Roaring Lion, who put in a big run to sweep past the leaders, Saxon Warrior included, and hit the front with a little more than a furlong left to race.

But, as he had done in winning the Royal Lodge Stakes in his most recent start, Roaring Lion could not hold a straight line once he made the lead, and as he drifted left under Oisin Murphy, Saxon Warrior and jockey Ryan Moore came back on the horse who was taking away their path. It took only a few strides for Saxon Warrior to get back on even terms with Roaring Lion, and in the final yards, he was pulling clear to post a neck victory. The Pentagon finished third, more than two lengths behind the top pair, while slow-starting Verbal Dexterity was fourth. The winning time over good-to-soft going was 1:40.12.

In England’s last Group 1 of the season, it was a Japanese-bred colt who gave the master Irish trainer his milestone victory. Saxon Warrior is by Deep Impact and out of the Galileo mare Maybe, and though he was bred in Japan, the colt’s family is deeply Irish. As often is the case with Racing Post Trophy winners, the colt is seen as a better prospect for derbies than Guineas the following year. Saxon Warrior ends his 2-year-old campaign with three wins from three starts, all at one mile but at three different racecourses – a maiden win at The Curragh, a victory over the talented Delano Roosevelt in the Group 2 Beresford at Naas, and then the Racing Post Trophy.

Regardless of what Saxon Warrior’s future holds, his win Saturday becomes a significant marker in racing history.