Saxon Warrior Derby defeat saves bookies millions

horse race

Bookmakers were spared a multi-million pound pay-out as odds-on favourite Saxon Warrior could finish only fourth in the Epsom Derby.

The Derby attracts the highest turnover of any flat race in the UK with up to £20million gambled across the land. The build-up to the race had focussed almost exclusively Saxon Warrior, the winner of the 2,000 Guineas who started as the 4-5 favourite.

He was widely expected to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a record-equalling seventh Derby victory and his fifth in the past eight years.

Pedigree experts had suggested that the mile at Newmarket was on the sharp side for the son of Deep Impact and that he would improve over the mile and a half at Epsom.

A Derby victory could have resulted in Saxon Warrior being valued at around £50million at stud ahead of a bid for the Triple Crown in the Autumn. The last horse to win the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger was Nijinsky in 1970.

His statue stands at the entrance to Ballydoyle where O’Brien now trains and he had made no secret of his desire to emulate that tremendous achievement.

Recent downpours at Epsom left the ground riding soft for the opening day of the Derby meeting. This had cast doubt on the likes of Masar and Roaring Lion staying the trip, third and fifth in the 2,000 Guineas respectively.

Masar was virtually friendless in the betting and was allowed to start at odds of 16-1. He had won the Craven Stakes by nine lengths in the spring and had started a well-backed favourite in the Guineas.

As the money poured on Saxon Warrior, the sun shone at Epsom and the ground dried up to ride officially good. By the time the horses came around Tattenham Corner, it was the favourite who was being ridden along as Masar and Roaring Lion eased into contention. Ryan Moore’s urgings proved in vain as Masar held the strong-finishing Dee Ex Bee and Roaring Lion to present Godolphin with their first Derby victory.

It was the second year running that bookmakers had been left celebrating a dream Derby result. Last year Wings of Eagles (40-1) swooped to beat Cliffs Of Moher and the favourite Cracksman. The favourites have now been defeated in each of the first four English Classics. Billesdon Brook (66-1) was the longest priced winner in the history of the 1000 Guineas while outsiders have also won the Irish 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas.

There will be another day for Saxon Warrior who is likely to try to redeem his reputation in the Irish Derby at the Curragh on 30th June. Punters hoping to recoup their Derby losses can get odds of 6-4 while market rival Masar is being considered for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee could be supplemented for the Irish Derby at a cost of €100,000.

On a tough day for punters and horse racing tipsters, the £626,187 bonus fund also eluded the winner of last week’s Scoop6. They had already won £213,777 but their hopes were literally dashed in the Epsom Dash as Duke of Firenze could finish only sixth behind Tanasoq.