It is almost 200 years since the same trainer had won the 2,000 Guineas three years running, which is one measure of Aidan O’Brien’s achievement in saddling Magna Grecia to give him a 10th winner in this Classic here on Saturday. Another is that O’Brien has now won exactly half of the Classics run in Britain since the start of 2014: 13 out of 26. He has reached a stage where he does not so much break records as extend those he already holds.

Magna Grecia did not set off as the favourite on Saturday. Although as Donnacha O’Brien, his jockey and Aidan’s son pointed out, “he was the favourite when I got on him” when the final field was published on Thursday.

Ryan Moore, O’Brien’s principal jockey, had been booked for Ten Sovereigns, last year’s Middle Park Stakes winner, and he swiftly replaced his stable companion at the top of the betting. Once the race was underway, however, there was never a moment when Magna Grecia did not look the more likely winner.

Magna Grecia was drawn high, towards the stands’ side, and his rider was one of only three to race against the rail. It can be difficult for a small posse of runners to set the right pace against a much bigger group but Silvestre de Sousa, the champion jockey, was also in the trio aboard Shine So Bright and he judged the pace to perfection.

When O’Brien launched Magna Grecia into the lead just over a furlong out, there was not enough time or ground left for his rivals to mount a worthwhile challenge.

It was a sign of how well De Sousa had set the pace that the third member of the stands’ side group, the 66-1 outsider King Of Change, finished two and a half lengths behind Magna Grecia in second while Skardu, the Craven Stakes winner, led the main group home in third, nearly two lengths behind the runner-up. Ten Sovereigns, the favourite at 9-4, was fifth.

“He’s a lovely, straightforward horse and he’s done very well over the winter,” Aidan O’Brien said. “He’s got very pacy and he’s a strong traveller now.

“We were a little bit worried that he was over there by himself when all the more fancied horses were on the other side. Donnacha knew the horse, he was riding him in all his work, so I didn’t have to explain much to him.

“John [Magnier, Magna Grecia’s part-owner] was very confident he was quick enough for a mile. When he was getting a mile [as a juvenile] last year some people were saying that he would have to step up in trip, but he was adamant that he was going to get stronger two to three and that’s what’s happened.”

Saxon Warrior, O’Brien’s 2,000 Guineas winner 12 months ago, made his next start in the Derby at Epsom, where he was the beaten odds-on favourite behind Masar. He then failed to record another victory in four subsequent starts and Magna Grecia’s connections seem reluctant to take the same route with their latest Classic winner.

“Listening [to the owners],” O’Brien said, “I would imagine that he will go to The Curragh [for the Irish 2,000 Guineas] and if that goes well, to Ascot [for the St James’s Palace Stakes].

“The rain didn’t help Ryan’s horse, he was a six-furlong horse that we were hoping might get a mile, but he ran a very good race.”

Like his older brother, Joseph, before him, Donnacha O’Brien is making the most of what is likely to be a brief career in the saddle due to his height and increasing weight. He will not be 21 until July, but this was his second consecutive win in the 2,000 Guineas, his ninth Group One winner overall and his fourth since September 2018.

“I jumped out well, Silvestre set a nice even pace and we seemed to be on terms or even ahead from halfway,” O’Brien said.

“When I asked my horse, he quickened up well and I never saw another horse after that. It’s never going to be easy [to do the weight] and it absolutely sucks sitting in the sauna for an hour or whatever, but when you’re riding them horses, it’s worth it.”

 

 

 

 

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