Laurens set to be pointed at Prix de Diane

KARL BURKE'S stable star Laurens enhanced her reputation on Sunday despite finishing runner-up to rank outsider Billesdon Brook in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Billesdon Brook, foreground, surges home to win the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes ahead of Laurens, left (Picture: PA Wire).

On quicker than ideal ground under a drying sun at Newmarket the filly made the running under PJ McDonald and then battled back tenaciously once passed by the Sean Leavy-ridden victor.

A winner of a Group One race at Newmarket last season after coming to prominence at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting, next month’s 10-furlong Prix de Diane – the French Oaks – is likely to be her next objective.

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The result more than vindicated the gamble that owner John Dance took at Doncaster Sales when he purchased the horse because his daughter is called Lauren.

“The first thing PJ said was, ‘We’ll go to France over 10 furlongs and she’ll gallop them into the ground’,” said a delighted Dance.

“It’s been a dream since day one with her. Just to win a Listed race was great, but she’s won a Group One and been second in a Classic.

“If she’d have won I think I’d have been in tears and on the floor. I’m just incredibly proud.”

This view was shared by Burke who, like McDonald, felt the fast conditions did not assist Laurens who was making her seasonal reappearance.

“I know she didn’t win, but we can’t be disappointed,” said the Leyburn trainer who had been hoping to go one better than 2013 when Libertarian was second in the Epsom Derby.

“It’s just a shame they didn’t get the extra rain on Monday, but there’s nothing we can do about that. She’s a high-class filly and PJ gave her an excellent ride.

“I thought we came with a great chance and the winner wasn’t one we were frightened of, but we’ve been second in a Guineas and have a lot to look forward to.

“She’ll come on and I imagine it will be the Prix de Diane now. She’s in the Irish Guineas, but I imagine it will be France.”

In a race where more fancied horses did not get into contention Billesdon Brook turned the form book on its head after only managing to finish fourth in last month’s Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.

It was a landmark first Classic for Levey, the victor’s Swaziland-born jockey. “It’s a massive shock, to be honest,” he said.

“When she ran in the Nell Gwyn she was a little bit gassy, but that was her first run and I thought she ran well to finish fourth.

“She had a lot to find with a lot of them, but she was settled throughout and then found a turn of foot. I kicked on fully two furlongs out, which I thought might be a bit early, but I didn’t want to disappoint her. I’ve had plenty of winners and opportunities, but I’ve always needed that Group One, so I’m delighted.”

The Classic came 24 hours after Aidan O’Brien landed an unprecedented ninth 2000 Guineas when Saxon Warrior prevailed under his teenage son Donnacha, with Mark Johnston’s Elarqam fourth for Yorkshire.

Saxon Warrior, the winner of last season’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, is favourite for the Epsom Derby after providing the trainer with a 300th Group One success.

And if the horse prevails next month there is every reason he will be aimed at Doncaster’s St Leger and attempt to become the first colt to land the Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970.

O’Brien’s Camelot narrowly failed in 2012 to make turf history and the Ballydoyle trainer believes Newmarket’s mile test may have been the greatest obstacle.

North Yorkshire jockey Paul Mulrennan can look forward to this summer’s big sprints after Mabs Cross took the Palace House Stakes for trainer Michael Dods.