It was meant to be another crowning season, a season where the classics were to be heading back to Ballydoyle. Saxon Warrior was dubbed to be the next great thing, but that, nor any of the high standards Aidan O’Brien sets himself, materialised.
O’Brien, who last season broke the record for training the winners of 26 or more Group or grade ones, started the season in flying form, with Saxon Warrior and Forever Together both gaining classic glory. Yet, the Summer months turned into a disaster the Ballydoyle maestro had never faced before.
During the Ebor festival at York, he revealed that a respiratory illness had struck his Co. Tipperary yard and effected a large crop of his horses. His star attractions were not scoping clean all at the same time, leaving O’Brien reeling at missing some of the world’s biggest races.
So bad was the bug that O’Brien described it as ‘the worst we had’, and many below-par performances on the track by the likes of Saxon Warrior were attributed to this bug.
However, like many illnesses, the yard is back onto an even keel now and has seen the worst of it, and many of his best performers are coming back into themselves in the autumn season.
Saxon Warrior’s gutsy defeat in the Irish Champion Stakes reflected this, and he has gone on to achieve more classic glory with Kew Gardens in the St Leger and Flag of Honour in the Irish version.
With seven group race winners over last weekend at Newmarket and Naas, it’s full steam ahead at Ballydoyle, who were at one stage worried they wouldn’t see this part of the season.
As they say, you can never keep a good man down.