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Aidan O’Brien relishing running Gustav Klimt and ‘monster’ Saxon Warrior in QIPCO 2000 Guineas

2 May 2018

Watch master trainer Aidan' O'Brien discuss both his QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas hopefuls

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien

says he is delighted to have got a run into Gustav Klimt ahead of the antepost favourite lining up in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

Champion trainer O’Brien is seeking a ninth success in the mile showpiece, which heralds the start of the QIPCO British Champions Series, having won it for a record-breaking eighth time 12 months ago with Churchill.

All his previous winners of the £500,000 contest have been making their seasonal reappearances but he says that should not be regarded as a negative for Gustav Klimt, who made a successful return to action in the Ballylinch Stud 2000 Guineas Trial Stakes over seven furlongs at Leopardstown last month.

“We would have liked to [have given previous winners a prep run] but until this year we never had a race in Ireland that was suitable,” O’Brien said. “This is the first time we had the [option of] seven furlongs at Leopardstown. “For us, the Craven is too close and maybe the race in Newbury [Greenham] is a little bit close as well. And then we had a Guineas trial at Leopardstown over a mile, which is too far, and the Gladness is against older horses and too tough.

“So up until now we’ve never had a prep. I suppose [our previous winners] were good two-year-olds and they had done plenty and learnt plenty.”

Gustav Klimt showed great acceleration to master three rivals on his return, having not run since landing the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket last summer. A minor setback meant he missed intended engagements in the autumn.

“We were anxious to get a run into him as he had not run since Newmarket in the middle of the summer,” O’Brien said. “We would have liked to have run him in the Dewhurst to find out a little bit more about him, so were a little bit in the dark.

“It was soft ground, very heavy really, and probably not ideal but we felt we needed to run him. We always thought he would prefer better ground and he did well to quicken in the ground. “Ryan [Moore] rode him in the July meeting [at Newmarket] last year and was very, very full of him. You are never sure, but we were delighted with his run in Leopardstown. We think and hope he’s in good form.”

The unbeaten Saxon Warrior was ante-post favourite over the winter, having signed off his two-year-old career with victory in the Group 1 Racing Post at Doncaster in October. He has not run this year and been usurped at the head of the market by his stablemate. O’Brien says racegoers will see a different specimen.

“We’ve probably never had a horse to change so much over winter as he has – he’s turned into a monster of a horse – big, powerful and strong,” O’Brien said. “He’s going to run a long way off his two-year-old weight but his work is very nice and we are very happy with him. We think he will get further than a mile. It will be a nice place to start him and we look forward to him for the rest of the year. He looks a very unusual horse at the moment [in] how much he has changed from two to three, but we have to start somewhere.”

Saxon Warrior’s Group 1 success at Town Moor provided O’Brien with his world record 26th triumph at the highest level last year. He eventually ended the year with 28 to his name.

“He jumped a little bit more forward that Ryan thought he would and raced to the front earlier than he might have really liked,” O’Brien recalled. “But he got him organised when they went by and him and he came back strong at the line.”

Moore is committed to ride Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and riding arrangements for Headquarters have yet to be fully confirmed. O’Brien said: “At the moment it looks like Seamus [Heffernan] might ride Gustav, and that Donnacha [O’Brien, his son] will ride Saxon Warrior. That’s what we are thinking at the moment but all those things can change.”

U S Navy Flag and Murillo remain in the mix with the former having won the Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst last season. “U S Navy Flag is a very solid horse and improved with racing,” O’Brien said. “He’d love really nice ground, fast ground and he could be an exciting horse this year.

“The ground wasn’t ideal [for his reappearance at Leopardstown] but we felt we needed to run him because the more we ran him last year the better he got. If it’s going to get too slow he might not run, we might wait.” Of the opposition, he said: “We don’t take any horse for granted no matter where they are from or trained. They are always to fear and we don’t take any of them lightly.”