Aidan O’Brien isn’t usually so effusive after a third place finish, especially in a race that he has dominated more than any other trainer, writes James Toney.
O’Brien has claimed the first Classic of the English flat racing season a record ten times, a cast of champions that includes legends like Rock of Gibraltar and Camelot.
But Luxembourg’s third place in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, behind Godolphin speedsters Coroebus and Native Trail, still ticked all the boxes.
Time and time again this race has proven the best indicator of success at the Derby - and while one mile looked too sharp for O’Brien’s charge, he seems primed to step up to 1m 4f 6y on the unique undulating cambers of Epsom next month.
“I was delighted with that, he was a bit slow from the stalls but Ryan Moore gave him a beautiful ride and they came home very well,” said O’Brien.
“This was the plan, to come here and then go to the Derby as he always looked like a middle distance horse.
“This was a lovely starting race for the season and it’s straight to Epsom now."
Luxembourg’s favourite odds were trimmed for the Derby after this Newmarket show, a market he has fronted since a first group one victory in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes in Doncaster last year.
Since Galileo’s win in 2001, O’Brien has won the Epsom Derby a record eight times and while he will be expected to fire plenty of bullets at the race - Luxembourg certainly looks the pick of the punch on this performance.
O'Brien needs just one more win to secure more English Classics than any other trainer - quite the feat considering the history of these races dates back over 200 years.
And while Luxembourg had other targets in mind, O'Brien's hopes in Sunday's Qipco 1000 Guineas are ready to rock down to the Rowley Mile.
He has won five of the last six editions, none of his rivals have claimed this race more than twice, and Ryan Moore's mount Tenebrism seems the one to beat on Sunday.
And she certainly looked the real deal when winning the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes over six furlongs last September.
Her biggest rival could well be stable mate Tuesday, ridden by Frankie Dettori, while Jessica Harrington's beautifully-bred Discoveries, a sister to superstar Alpha Centauri, also looks one to watch if pedigree is your thing.