Over a sunny Early May Bank Holiday, racing returned to the Rowley Mile at Newmarket for the 2018 QIPCO Guineas Festival. Hosting the eponymous 2000 and 1000 Guineas races over the two-day festival, Aiden O’Brien and his horses Saxon Warrior and Sizzling were favourites to do well over the weekend, along with Soliloquy and Laurens.
Saturday saw the running of the 2000 Guineas, with Saxon Warrior not disappointing, winning the one-mile race in decisive fashion. It was very much a family affair for the O’Briens, with the winning horse being ridden by his son, Donnacha, with the race being the first Classics win for the 19-year-old.
O’Brien was pleased with his success, saying after the race, ‘I’m glad I can do the business. I’m very lucky to be sitting on some of these horses. I didn’t mess up on him anyway’, and the young rider is sure to be one to watch if he is achieving this so early in his career.
The second day wasn’t so easy, with O’Brien on Sizzling coming in last of the 15 riders. However, the race didn’t disappoint in regard to excitement and drama, with rank outsider Billesdon Brook taking the win. Ridden by Sean Levey and trained by Richard Hannon, the filly entered the race with 66/1 odds to win, but Levey powered up the inside of the track to win the race by one and three-quarter lengths, as well as claiming the biggest prize in the event’s history.
Other notable performances in the race were Laurens, ridden by PJ McDonald, and favourite Happily, ridden by Ryan Moore, who came in second and third respectively.
Levey was excited as the crowd was with his win, saying ‘I kicked on fully two furlongs out, which I thought might be a bit early, but I didn’t want to disappoint her…I’ve had plenty of winners and opportunities but I’ve always needed that Group One, so I’m delighted.’
The longevity of Billesdon Brook in future races is trickier to determine, as 1000 Guineas favourite Soliloquy, who came in sixth in this race, beat Billesdon Brook at Newmarket last month, but if this connection can keep turning in performances like this, they are certainly ones to keep an eye on.
The running of the 2000 Guineas always brings up the question of the Triple Crown, with the other two races being The Derby at the Epsom Derby and the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster later in the year. With Saxon Warrior’s success, there is the possibility of a win for Aiden O’Brien, something denied to the renowned trainer with Camelot six years ago.