Aidan O’Brien reports Churchill’s preparation to have gone to plan ahead of his bid for a fifth successive Group One triumph in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The Galileo colt has won seven of his eight lifetime starts, with his only defeat on his racecourse debut. He broke his maiden at this meeting 12 months ago in the Chesham Stakes and has not looked like being beaten since.
Churchill already has the English and Irish Guineas in the bag and he is aiming to repeat the feat of Gleneagles, the last colt to win the first three Group Ones over a mile for the Classic crop in England and Ireland.
“We were delighted with him at Newmarket and again when he won at the Curragh,” said O’Brien ahead of another leg of the Qipco British Champion Series.
“Everything has gone fine since then. He’s very straightforward and he should be happy on the ground.
“There are lot of good horses in the race and we have total respect for them all.”
It is 20 years since the first of O’Brien’s 55 Royal Ascot winners and the thirst for more glory is bigger than ever, but the Ballydoyle handler is keen to deflect the praise.
“It doesn’t feel like 20 years ago, it’s been brilliant,” the 47-year-old said.
“It’s a lot of hard work by a lot of people and we are very grateful to everybody. We are a very small part of the team and are privileged to be part of it.
“Royal Ascot is an unbelievable meeting and I think it’s something that everyone looks forward to every year. It’s great to be able to have the horses to compete there and we really enjoy it.”
O’Brien also runs Lancaster Bomber and Peace Envoy
Richard Hannon’s Barney Roy had genuine excuses behind Churchill at Newmarket and his trainer is confident he can get a good deal closer with a clear run.
“He had a nice breeze over seven furlongs at Kempton last week and James Doyle was delighted with him,” said Hannon.
“We pinpointed Royal Ascot after his run in the 2000 Guineas and have never been in a hurry with him. He became very unbalanced when he went through the dip at Newmarket and, in the circumstances, Barney Roy did exceptionally well to finish only a length behind Churchill.
“Ascot will suit him much better as you don’t have the ups and downs of Newmarket and he was only having the third run of his life there, so we will know more this time.
“The mile at Ascot is right up his street and I can see him putting it up to Churchill in a big way.”
Barney Roy runs in the Godolphin blue and they will also be represented by Thunder Snow, who was second to Churchill in the Irish Guineas after being pulled up in the Kentucky Derby.
“Thunder Snow is doing great and working well,” Saeed bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com. “He is a class horse – a Group One winner already – though he would prefer good to soft going.”
William Haggas’ Rivet returns to UK action after respectable runs in the French Guineas and Derby. “He has a bit to find with the front two [Churchill and Barney Roy], but there’s not a lot between him and Thunder Snow on past form,” said Haggas.
Richard Fahey’s Forest Ranger and Simon Dow’s Mr Scaramanga complete the eight-runner field.