Churchill proved himself the ‘real deal’, as he powered to victory in Saturday’s 2000 Guineas.
Ridden prominently by Ryan Moore, he got the perfect tow into the race from stable companion Lancaster Bomber. Moore grabbed the rail inside the three-furlong mark, and that proved the place to be, as runner-up Barney Roy along with third-place finisher Al Wukair suffered a far-less smooth run to the line. The winner was impressive, though the second and third may well get closer in the future.
Ryan Moore was positively gushing with praise for the winner: “He's such a lovely horse. He has a magnificent mind. I think he has everything you want in a racehorse - he travels, has speed and loads of class. He was always racing comfortably. He always feels like there's more when you ask him.”
For Aidan O’Brien, this was a record breaking eighth 2000 Guineas success. As ever, the Ballydoyle chief was quick to praise the efforts of the team in preparing this latest Classic winner: “Everyone at home was very happy with the horse, which is why we took the chance to come first time, so I'm delighted. We always thought he was a horse with a lot of speed. Ryan was very happy to be handy. The pace was sensible and Ryan knew Donnacha's horse (Lancaster Bomber) would take him there. The lads (owners) will decide about the Derby themselves. They make all the decisions about all the horses.”
O’Brien gave hope of an Epsom challenge when adding: “He is very relaxed and will probably get as far as you want him to get. He is by Galileo and horses by that sire very rarely lack stamina.”
On only his third career start, Barney Roy appeared to find the notorious ‘Newmarket Dip’ a little tricky, before staying-on strongly to the delight of trainer Richard Hannon. “He’s finished second in the Guineas and it’s marvellous,” said the handler.
He went on: “It would have been better if he’d won but he’s a good horse and that’s what we came here to prove and he’s proved that. I am very proud of him. He ran a good race, but he stumbled coming into the Dip, mainly through a little inexperience, but he has run a super race. The St James’s Palace Stakes is likely to be on the cards for him now.”
Jockey James Doyle, clearly felt his horse a little unfortunate in defeat: “He has run a cracking race. We were hoping for a better pace and they didn’t go very quick at all. He’s a big baby and was a little awkward early. He got the hang of it at halfway, but Ryan grabbed the rail, whilst we were caught in a tangle. He didn’t handle the Dip at all, but once he met the rising ground he finished off really well. A flatter track will definitely suit him better.”
The French challenger, Al Wukair, had to come widest of all to make his challenge. He looked likely to sweep past the leaders coming out of the Dip, but was unable to reel in the winner, or indeed overhaul the runner-up. He certainly has gears, and the stiff finish did him no favours.
Andre Fabre appeared less than impressed with proceedings, merely saying: “It’s over.” Harry Herbert, advisor at Al Shaqab Racing, had more to say of the French colt: “He ran a hell of a race, but the pace was so slow. He would be much better off a stronger-run race. As a result, he [jockey Gregory Benoist] had to come wide and there was nothing to follow. He has done very well, all things considered. It is very likely that he will come back to the St James’s Palace Stakes. We will talk to Andre and let the dust settle.”
With a hint of understatement, Herbert added: “Andre is very disappointed.”
Another to take from the race, looked to be Godolphin’s second-string, Dream Castle. He had absolutely no luck in running, and had to be switched on a couple of occasions before running on strongly at the finish. He’ll ‘win big’ before the season is over, and may be one for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
Ballydoyle completed a Classic double on Sunday, when Winter caused something of an upset by beating stable companion, and short-priced favourite, Rhododendron into second-place. The winner had a dream passage, and had things sewn-up inside the final furlong. For Ryan Moore, things couldn’t have gone much worse. The favourite was caught in traffic, and when finally finding a gap, had no chance of reeling in the winner. It would come as no surprise should placings be reversed the next time the pair meet.
It proved another sensational weekend for Coolmore’s super stallion Galileo. And could prove to be a long and arduous summer for O’Brien’s opponents.