Sunday 18 February 2018

Churchill seals O'Brien record

Churchill ridden by Ryan Moore crosses the line to win the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. Photo: Jon Buckle/PA Wire
Churchill ridden by Ryan Moore crosses the line to win the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. Photo: Jon Buckle/PA Wire

Greg Wood

Two colts from Frankel's first crop lined up for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket yesterday, but the great champion's own father, Galileo, showed that when it comes to siring Classic winners, he is still the daddy.

Churchill, last year's champion two-year-old and the 6/4 favourite, found a clear path to the line against the stands' rail to take the Guineas by a length from Barney Roy, and establish a clear record for Aidan O'Brien as the most successful trainer in the race's history.

This was O'Brien's eighth victory in the 2,000 Guineas, one more than the total recorded by John Scott between 1842 and 1862 and double the career total of his namesake Vincent, his predecessor at Ballydoyle in Co Tipperary. In the end, it was a comfortable and well-executed success, as Lancaster Bomber, a stable companion of the winner, set a very steady pace through the early part of the race which allowed Ryan Moore, on Churchill, to choose his moment to attack along the near side despite having been drawn in one of the wider stalls.

The race did not unfold as favourably for Barney Roy, the second favourite, which was forced to challenge between horses on the way to second place, while André Fabre's Al Wukair stayed on well in the closing stages to finish third and ensure that the first three horses in the market filled the frame in betting order.

Both placed horses might have benefited from a stronger gallop, but Churchill was a ready winner on the day and now has options including the Derby at Epsom over a mile-and-a-half on June 3, or a possible rematch with Barney Roy in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in mid-June.

"When he gets there, he doesn't do much and he was like that last season," O'Brien said. "We were a bit nervous coming here with him, he is a big horse and it was his first run this year but everyone was very happy with him at home and that gave us confidence. He [Moore] had said going out that if the pace wasn't quick he was going to be handy and I think it went as he thought it was going to happen.

"The lads [the Coolmore Stud syndicate] make all the plans, they'll see how he is after a week or 10 days and make a plan where they want to go with him next. He has a lot of options, distance is usually not a problem to a Galileo. You'd say he'd definitely get a mile and a quarter well, obviously a mile-and-a-half you're never sure but he can go a lot of roads."

Churchill was quoted at around 6/1 for the Derby before yesterday's race and can still be backed at the same price with Paddy Power, although several bookmakers have cut his odds for Epsom to around 7/2. He is top-priced at 6/4 for the St James's Palace Stakes should "the lads" opt to stay at a mile, with Barney Roy available at 7/1 with Stan James to reverse the form at Ascot.

Al Wukair, which is an 8/1 chance, is also a probable runner in the St James's Palace. "André [Fabre] and Grégory [Benoist, his jockey] were just frustrated that the pace was so slow and we had to come out wide," Harry Herbert, the racing manager for the colt's owner Al Shaqab Racing, said. "But it shows what a good horse he is and a very exciting animal to go to war with this year. Hats off to the winner who is a hell of a horse, but in a fast-run race, it would be interesting."

The next stop for Churchill may well depend on whether a better Derby candidate for Ballydoyle emerges in one of the trials scheduled for the next fortnight.

"My horse does everything the right way," Moore said, "and through the race he filled me with a lot of confidence. He's done everything right all his career and I couldn't have been happier with him.

"He's improved with every run and he's come out and beaten the best at two, and he's put up the best performance so far at three. I think he'll keep on performing and he can improve on today. His dad won a Derby but we're still a month away and I'm sure it will be discussed."

Seventh Heaven, which won the Irish Oaks last season, enjoyed a comfortable success on her four-year-old debut in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes. Aidan O'Brien's filly went five lengths clear of One Foot In Heaven in the closing stages and could now be aimed towards the Coronation Cup. Observer

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