Saturday 22 July 2017

Churchill heads Guineas field as Moher aimed at Dee return

Churchill, with Ryan Moore up, lead the field on their way to winning last year's Japan Racing Association Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Churchill, with Ryan Moore up, lead the field on their way to winning last year's Japan Racing Association Tyros Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Churchill heads a field of 10 for the English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket tomorrow as he bids to provide Aidan O'Brien with what would be a record eighth win for a trainer in the opening Classic.

O'Brien's colt was the leading juvenile last season, culminating in a victory at the track in the Dewhurst Stakes, and he will be joined by stablemates Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor. The line-up will be the smallest 2,000 Guineas field since Doyoun's victory in 1988.

Martyn Meade's Craven winner Eminent, a son of Frankel, has also been declared, while Greenham first and second, Barney Roy and Dream Castle, will joust again in the Godolphin colours.

The unbeaten Al Wukair, trained in France by Andre Fabre and owned, like last year's winner Galileo Gold, by Al Shaqab Racing, will take his chance, but the O'Brien-trained Peace Envoy and William Haggas' Group One winner Rivet were not declared. Churchill is a 5/4 favourite with most firms.

O'Brien said: "The horses have been running respectable this season and we have a good team for Newmarket.

"Churchill takes everything in his stride, he is laid-back in his races too. Ryan (Moore) doesn't ride him much at home but he knows him well. It's a Guineas, I am hoping he runs a good race. He is ready to start off."

His stablemate, last year's Irish Oaks heroine Seventh Heaven, features among six horses declared for the Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes on the same card. She is the only filly in the line-up as she tries to go one better after finishing second to Jack Hobbs at Meydan six weeks ago.

Chance

O'Brien also had news of Cliffs Of Moher, which is a general 12/1 chance for the Investec Derby, though he only has a two-year-old maiden win to his name.

"The plan with Cliffs Of Moher is to go for the Dee Stakes at Chester (this day week)," he said. "Everything is well with him."

The Curragh was open for the first time since its redevelopment yesterday morning in preparation for the opening weekend of the 2017 season next weekend. The track staged a test raceday to fulfil Turf Club licensing requirements.

Turf Club officials, vets, doctors, farriers and other racing personnel were present, along with representatives from the trainers', jockeys', stable staff and owners' associations.

A small group of horses galloped on the track over six and 12 furlongs.

"I was impressed by the layout and facilities and it was good to see that the track is in great condition," said local trainer Willie McCreery.

Meanwhile, Barry Geraghty, sidelined with a broken arm, is looking to return at the Galway Festival.

He told the At The Races website: "It was disappointing to miss the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals through injury.

"I am on the road to recovery now though. My arm has had the plate inserted, so I now have matching scars on each arm! It is not weight-bearing yet, but I do have the use of it.

"My back is still sore. I broke a wing of a vertebrae and the muscle in that area has been giving me trouble, but it is improving.

"I am swimming and doing all that I can do to get back as quickly as possible. My aim is to get back in time for the Galway Festival at the end of July, and I am on track for that."

Irish Independent

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