Monday 19 February 2018

V-sign for Moore, Churchill in Guineas

Last year's top two-year-old the class act in small-field Classic renewal

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Aidan O'Brien bids for a record eighth 2,000 Guineas triumph today - and it's hard to tell whether he is confident of achieving that feat.

The great man has three runners in the first Classic of the season: Churchill, long the ante-post jolly, and two apparent rags in Lancaster Bomber and True Valor, both attempting to improve on stallion War Front's poor record in the race. O'Brien has gone from talking of how "unbelievably well" Churchill was doing to telling this newspaper yesterday that he was "ready to start off", refusing to say he was confident that the favourite would oblige.

Speaking elsewhere, Seamus Heffernan - his opinion valued like fresh air in Ballydoyle - extolled the qualities that Churchill has. They were evident in a two-year-old career which featured pretty faultless wins in the National Stakes and Dewhurst especially.

His style endears. If he were human, he would be difficult to rise in the morning, popular with the ladies and never especially worked up about anything - but a banker to get his job done in a subtly impressive manner.

These races can be over-hyped or under-appreciated at the time, one's judgement altering later on, but it hardly seems a vintage renewal. Nothing else from Ireland set the world alight last season, while second-favourite Barney Roy comes here after winning a Group Three.

Barney Roy is by a fledgling sire in Excelebration, Al Wukair by another in Dream Ahead. The French runner is feared more and it would be no surprise if either got Churchill off the bridle before finding him too tough to repel.

Churchill will probably be ridden handy as he is certain to get further than a mile, though perhaps not a mile and a half. That is the distance over which the Group Two Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes is run, with O'Brien represented by last year's Irish Oaks winner Seventh Heaven.

Her second in the Dubai Sheema Classic earned connections a pretty obnoxious figure just shy of £1m, considering how little the race mattered to Coolmore otherwise.

She looks a short price at evens and Across The Stars gets the nod. He could prove to be one of these improvers at four and five for Michael Stoute and the small field is no issue.

ITV's first race is the Spring Lodge Stakes, preference at around 16/1 for Berkshire, the top weight, which has slopped down 5lb from his career-high figure. Strong fractions would help the chance of the six-year-old, which is a course-and-trip winner.

The Longholes Palace House Stakes could go to Priceless, which was really impressive on her return at Bath. She crossed over from a high draw then, yet continued to pour it on in the closing stages, and hers is a progressive profile for Clive Cox.

A pair of Goodwood races also feature. The Betfred TV EBF Stallions Daisy Warwick Stakes. Ajman Princess should take the beating here for Roger Varian, especially on her Ribblesdale second to Even Song, a similar sort to Seventh Heaven, last year.

In the Betfred "Treble Odds On Lucky 15's" Handicap, The Warrior is noted back on turf and has each-way credentials.

The 1,000 Guineas tomorrow has lured a field of 14, with O'Brien responsible for four runners.

What a story it would be were Padraig Beggy to win aboard Hydrangea, considering how few rides he has at the track and his rather mixed career. She has a chance too under this talented rider but the nod goes to seasonal debutante Rhododendron, which had her stablemate's measure in the Fillies' Mile, and has retained Ryan Moore's allegiance.

Irish Independent

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