There are 36 Group races for which only two-year-olds are eligible and the final two are taking place on Saturday. The Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury is a Group 3 contest but the Racing Post Trophy is a Group 1 race and that is significant for Aidan O’Brien. The Irish trainer needs one more win at the highest level to set a new record for Group or Grade 1 wins in a calendar years. He trains the favourite for the Doncaster race in Saxon Warrior who is also prominent in the betting for the Derby.
There are only five Group 1 races for two-year-olds and the earliest is in September. The other four are at Newmarket and O’Brien has won three of them this season. He won the British Trainer’s Championship by targeting the major races, including the Derby which he won for the sixth time with Wings Of Eagles. He has now won 29 British Classics and let’s not forget he win three Champion Hurdles with Istabraq who he often jokes is the best horse he has ever trained.
O’Brien has the huge responsibility of training the expensive horse owned by Coolmore. The partners have made a massive investment in racing and they want their return. While O’Brien is producing the goods all is well with the relationship and he must have a fortune in goodwill in the bank. The demands are relentless and already the organisation is thinking about their Classic horses for next season.
O’Brien has a very modest and humble demeanour but to be seen as one of the best trainers in the world there must be ambition and determination. He would never admit it in public but privately he must be proud of his achievements and breaking the record for winners at the highest level is one of his best. Rest assure he will be sending a strong team to Doncaster and won’t be leaving anything behind at home.
Before the final declarations O’Brien still had 12 horses entered in the Racing Post Trophy. He must have a good idea of their relative ability and it looks his main weapons at Doncaster are Saxon Farm and the Pentagon, both high in the betting for the 2018 Derby. The winner of Saturday’s race could become the strong winter favourite for the Classic that matters most.
However, O’Brien has won the Derby in the past with horses that have not run aged two and there could be the next superstar lurking in his stable who has not raced yet. We can assume Saxon Farm and the Pentagon are two of the better raced juveniles because O’Brien wants to win the Racing Post Trophy and set a new world record for Group and Grade 1 wins. Despite the odds The Pentagon could be his best chance.
Saxon Farm is a shorter price and on ratings and form is the most likely winner. However, The Pentagon has more experience and looks like the horse with most improvement to come. Ryan Moore rides Saxon Farm and Seamie Heffernan gets the mount on The Pentagon. O’Brien is odds–on to win the Racing Post Trophy and set the new mark but his second string could deliver this time. The Pentagon could become established as the best two-year-old in training in Britain and Ireland.