Saxon Warrior (JPN); winner of the Beresford Stakes

by Alastair Bull

With a Road to the Kentucky Derby series now in place for Europe and Japan, Churchill Downs wants its flagship race to become more international than it already is.

If the winner of the first race in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby makes it to the First Saturday in May, they will have succeeded, as his pedigree couldn’t be more international.

It’s no surprise the Coolmore-connected trainer Aidan O’Brien saddled the winner of the Beresford Stakes (G2) – he has won 16 times before, and he trained three of the five runners.

However, Saxon Warrior is not a son of perennial top Coolmore sire Galileo, or even their other notable stallions like Excelebration and Fastnet Rock. Saxon Warrior is by Japanese superstar Deep Impact.

The Coolmore team sent three mares to Japan in 2013 and 2014 to visit Japan’s champion son of Sunday Silence and the group 1-winning German mare Wind in Her Hair. Among them was Maybe (Galileo), an unbeaten 2-year-old whose victories included the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1), Debutante Stakes (G2), and Silver Flash Stakes (G3). She finished third in the 1,000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket the following year.

Maybe’s sister Promise to be True also won the Silver Flash Stakes; both are out of the stakes-winning mare Sumora (Danehill), a three-quarter sister to Epsom Oaks (G1) winner Dancing Rain (Danehill Dancer). Maybe’s third dam is Rose of Jericho (Alleged), whose four stakes-winning progeny include Dr Devious (Ahonoora).

Those with good memories may recall Dr Devious was sent from England to contest the 1992 Kentucky Derby. He finished seventh (though still ahead of fellow European Arazi), and his trainer Ron McAnally advised the horse wanted to be back on grass. He won the Epsom Derby (G1) at his next start.

Stamina probably won’t be an issue for Saxon Warrior, but the Dr Devious tale highlights the chief doubts about him. As with any European horse, there are two main questions regarding the Kentucky Derby: one, will they handle dirt, and two, will they be aimed at U.S. or European classics.

Deep Impact’s progeny have overwhelmingly succeeded on turf, as has Maybe’s family, and European bookmakers already have Saxon Warrior as favorite for the Epsom Derby. But if he contests any races on dirt or synthetic surfaces between now and the end of March, Kentucky Derby players should pay attention.

Additional Prep Race Pedigree Profiles:

BULL: Iroquois Stakes, The Tabulator

BULL: FrontRunner Stakes, Bolt d’Oro

BULL: Beresford Stakes, Saxon Warrior (JPN)