Friday 23 March 2018

All our Classic plans revolve around Churchill – O’Brien

Trainer Aidan O’Brien
Trainer Aidan O’Brien

Johnny Ward

HOW his other steeds are performing at home will have a major say in terms of where Churchill runs next, according to Aidan O’Brien.

And, by extension, where Churchill runs – in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas on Saturday week or the Investec Derby on Saturday fortnight – will dictate the plans of other colts too, he told the Irish Independent.

Churchill, winner of the English Guineas, heads a Derby market which O’Brien dominates. He disputes favouritism with Cliffs Of Moher, which seemed most impressive of O’Brien’s three Derby trial winners.

Cliffs Of Moher took the Dee Stakes at Chester, where Venice Beach landed the Chester Vase. At Leopardstown, General Macarthur led home a 1-2-3 in the Derrinstown for the barn.

O’Brien also runs Exemplar in the Betfred Dante tomorrow at York, though he warns that the colt is just starting off in that event, in which recent Derby gamble Crystal Ocean is expected to be a hot favourite.

“Exemplar will come forward a lot. The forecast rain would be fine. He is a grand colt,” O’Brien said. “I was happy with the trials but have no idea how many will run at Epsom. We’ve plenty of choices and likely will sort all that out at the end of this week or early next week.

“None of the horses that ran well in the trials are out of Epsom and our Curragh plans will depend on the Derby. With Churchill, absolutely we are open-minded. He does relax, with a relaxed way of racing.

“You couldn’t be confident he would get a Derby trip though and with most horses you wouldn’t be as he is one with plenty of pace. It’s whether we go that route or not; it depends on what way the other horses are going, what routes they go. Everything revolves around Churchill: if we make a decision on him, we make a decision on the others.”

Regarding Cliffs Of Moher, his trainer says that he “needed the run badly at Chester and was just ready to go racing. We were very happy with him.”

Caravaggio is to make his return in Naas’ Lacken Stakes on Saturday, while Somehow and potentially Cougar Mountain will run in the Lockinge for the stable on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Shane Foley (above) believes that there is more to come from Irish Correspondent, just 8/1 for the Irish Guineas after a bloodless triumph on Sunday for Michael Halford.

“All he can do is beat what’s in front of him and he has done that well twice. I’d have preferred to get a lead a bit longer on Sunday,” the Co Kilkenny native said.

“He never got a proper belt and it’s still very early days – he has not been tested and must step up to be competitive in two weeks’ time but he has everything to go with this talent: he is clear-winded with a great mind and temperament. He does what he has to do at home, very laid-back. I feel we’ve not seen the best of him. Sunday was just a nice bit of work but I’ve faith in him and think he’s a proper horse, Over ten furlongs he may be even better. And better ground would be no problem.”

Foley respects Churchill. “It’s been well marked up what he did last time, but we’ll give it a go. There’s improvement there: the boss (Halford) does not have them fully ready for one day.”

Brilliant mare Annie Power has been retired. She won six Grade Ones for Willie Mullins but did not race last season and is in foal to Camelot.

“She is probably responsible for two of the most memorable moments in recent Cheltenham history, her fall in the Mares’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle victory 12 months later. That was a special day,” said owner Rich Ricci.

Meanwhile, rider Robbie Power will be out for up to three weeks after cracking two ribs in a fall at Killarney on Monday evening.

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