Churchill rules in Ballydoyle treble
Churchill could be aimed towards the English 2000 Guineas after confirming himself a colt of immense potential when coming out on top in the seven-furlong Galileo EBF Futurity Stakes at the Curragh yesterday.
Aidan O'Brien's Royal Ascot winner was already at the forefront of the betting for next year's Guineas and Investec Derby after following up in a Group Three at Leopardstown, and travelled well behind leader Arcada in the early stages.
After Seamie Heffernan angled out the 1/4 favourite to lead over a furlong out, the result was hardly in doubt as he fended off the challenge of Radio Silence by two lengths.
Ladbrokes left him at 8/1 market leader for the first colts' classic at Newmarket, with Coral giving him a 16/1 quote for the Epsom Derby.
"I'm delighted with him. He's lovely and lazy and just quickens. Seamus was very happy with him," said O'Brien. "He's very lazy and doesn't do an awful lot in front. It was the same at Ascot and Leopardstown. He's a big, sleepy fellow.
"He'll come back here for the National Stakes and there's no doubt he'll be better on better ground. Hopefully he'll get further than a mile, but he's not slow this horse. I'd definitely say he's a Guineas-type."
Rhododendron gave the Ballydoyle surpremo his 11th win in the Debutante Stakes when holding stablemate Hydrangea. After opening her account at the second attempt in a Goodwood maiden last month, the daughter of Galileo took the big step up in grade in her stride.
Oh Grace set the early pace before Hydrangea set sail for home three furlongs out, with Rehana - a previous conqueror of the winner - and Intricately looking dangerous.
Seamie Heffernan brought Rhododendron with a strong run in the centre of the course to hit the front a furlong out.
It as not quite all over, though, as Hydrangea rallied for Padraig Beggy and was only a head down at the line to give O'Brien a 1-2. Just over a length back in third was Intricately, trained by son Joseph. Big Ben (13/8 favourite) gave O'Brien and Heffernan a treble when opening his account in the Breast Cancer Research Maiden.
The three-year-old was thrown off balance in the final furlong but was gathered up by Heffernan to hold stablemate Tree Of Knowledge by three-parts of a length.
The champion trainer had to settle for fourth with Derby runner-up US Army Ranger (evens favourite) in the Royal Whip Stakes as Ken Condon's Success Days bounced right back to his best to beat Fascinating Rock by three-parts of a length.
Without a win since his two Classic trial victories last season before picking up an injury in the Epsom Derby, Condon's admirable grey returned to action in November.
Three outings this term had seen him far from disgraced and to that end it could have been worrying for the market leaders as the 10/1 chance bowled along happily in front for Shane Foley. And so it proved, as while his Tattersalls Gold Cup conqueror Fascinating Rock closed at the line, Condon's stable star had three-quarters of a length in hand.
Derby runner-up US Army Ranger made nice headway around the home turn, but flattened out in fourth on his first run since Epsom in June.
Looking to the future, Condon said: "He'll go to Leopardstown for the Champion Stakes if the ground is suitable, and if for some reason it's not we'll look at the Champion Stakes at Ascot."
This victory completed a 131/1 double as Condon had earlier struck with Landfall (11/1), on whom Niall McCullagh saw off 11/4 favourite Exemplar by three-parts of a length in the seven-furlong maiden which saw O'Brien's Frankel colt San Remo finish down the field.
Ronan Whelan brought Morga (16/1) with a late run to take the fillies handicap over 12 furlongs.
Dessie McDonogh's six-year-old pulled clear in the final furlong to score by three-and-three-quarter lengths from Ceol Na Nog. "I had to fancy her as in Galway she gave 12lb to Heartbreak City and was only beaten two lengths," said McDonogh.
The trainer's son was on the mark in the day's opener as jockey Declan guided the Andrew Slattery-trained Red Sabor (13/2) to a length-and-a-half victory from Bective in nursery over six furlongs.
In the apprentice handicap over a mile, Killian Leonard steered Joe Murphy's Flying Fairies (4/1) to a length and three-quarters verdict over Club Wexford.