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Barney Army – Hannon Colt to repel French Raiders

It’s primed to be as good a Champions Day as any before, with numerous plots and subplots at play, set to engage and enthral the expectant Flat racing masses.

Ascot has practically sold-out, and it’s no wonder with the talent on display. Even the late withdrawal of Ulysses (anticipated in yesterday’s piece) cannot dampen the spirits for what is set to be a high-class end of season extravaganza. Stoute’s outstanding four-year-old heads to America for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but in his absence, there remains a glut of exceptional thoroughbreds battling for supremacy on the richest day of British racing.

News also came yesterday that Churchill will contest the QEII, rather than take on Cracksman and Barney Roy in the Champion Stakes. The dual-Guineas winner has disappointed since his success in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh, but it is hoped that a drop back to a mile will spark a revival in fortunes for O’Brien’s high-class colt. He and Caravaggio remain the most likely of the Ballydoyle team to deliver the Group One success needed to match Bobby Frankel’s record.

Though I am not focusing on the QEII for today’s preview, I fancy that Ribchester will prove an unsurmountable obstacle, though a reinvigorated Churchill is a huge danger to Godolphin’s talented miler.

It’s the showpiece event that I have chosen to look at today. The Champion Stakes is the most valuable event, and arguably along with the QEII, the most coveted. It’s fair to say that the roll of honour lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, though does carry the names of Brigadier Gerard, Frankel and last year’s exceptional French colt Almanzor.

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Despite Ulysses resting-up prior to an American excursion, the remaining field of 10 still pack a high-class punch.

It’s quite amazing that neither Frankie Dettori or John Gosden have yet managed to capture this prestigious event. They look to put that record straight with tomorrow’s race favourite Cracksman. Winner of the Great Voltigeur and the Prix Niel in his last two starts, this son of the mighty Frankel (himself the winner in 2012) out of a Pivotal mare has been campaigned at a mile and a half throughout the summer, and this drop to 10 furlongs could prove an issue. The forecast rain due to hit Berkshire should aid his chances, along with a forceful ride from Dettori as he looks to make his mounts stamina a telling factor.

Fellow three-year-old Barney Roy appears the main danger to the favourite. Connections will have been thrilled to hear the news on Ulysses, having finished behind Stoute’s fella in the Eclipse and the Juddmonte. You could argue that Hannon’s contender would appreciate a sounder surface, though he coped admirably at York following an apocalyptic morning’s downpour prior to that Juddmonte race. Barney won the St James’s Palace Stakes on his last visit to the track, and is likely to have a little more ‘zip’ than Cracksman. Nevertheless, the favourite will likely take some passing, and that may well prove the thrilling aspect of this race.

The French challenge is a two-pronged assault, and although Jean-Claude Rouget’s Brametot has star appeal, his compatriot Recoletos should not be underestimated, especially if the ground turns soft or heavy.

Brametot won the French Guineas and followed up by taking the Prix du Jockey Club. He was a creditable fifth in the Arc when incurring traffic problems, but this 10-furlong trip appears his optimum. Rouget’s Almanzor took this race 12 months ago, and though this challenger is not as good, none of the contenders are. I believe that he’s a leading player and is likely to be delivered late and fast, as he was in the French Derby.

Recoletos was just behind him that day having looked a likely winner inside the final furlong. The softer the ground the better for this three-year-old, and odds of 25/1 are more than generous. Though his season started in March he’s not been overplayed, and I have a strong feeling he’ll outrun those odds. He could prove a surprise package with conditions to suit.

With Ulysses away, Sir Michael sends Poet’s Word into battle. A typical Stoute sort, he has improved rapidly during his four-year-old campaign, and was a terrific runner-up last time in the Irish Champion Stakes. He stays further and goes on any ground. First or second in his last six starts, he looks sure to go well, though I fancy a place finish is the best he can hope for.

Of O’Brien’s duo only Highland Reel can win, and for that to happen the rain must stay away. Cliffs Of Moher is simply not good enough.

Yet again I find myself siding with Barney Roy. I was sure York would suit him last time, but he came off third-best behind Ulysses and Churchill. I fear Cracksman, especially if plenty of rain falls, as he’s a relentless galloper, rather than a colt with gears. Favourites have a modest record with three wins from the last 10, and so I’ll be backing Barney for the win. If plenty of rain falls I’ll chance a French three-year-old each-way, though it will be Recoletos rather than Arc fifth Brametot.

Best of luck to all those having a punt. And to those heading to Ascot on Saturday, enjoy a thrilling day of racing.

Champions Day Chat

His pedigree (by Frankel out of a Pivotal mare) suggests that the 10 furlongs of the Champion Stakes should prove ideal, yet the trip is touted by many as a concern for Cracksman. His last four outings have all come at a mile-and-a-half, and he looked a powerful stayer when winning both the Great Voltigeur at York and the Prix Niel last time at Chantilly.

Frankie Dettori appears confident that the trip on Saturday will not inconvenience his mount. Speaking on Racing UK he said: “I think he'll be fine over 10 furlongs, he's getting stronger and if the rain comes it will help him and disadvantage some of the others, like Highland Reel and Ulysses. It will make it more of a test of stamina, so I'm praying the rain comes. John (Gosden) has done a brilliant programme for him this year bearing in mind we've got next year to look forward to as well. We're going there with lots of confidence and hoping for the best.”

France have a decent record in the Champion Stakes and have a live contender in the French Guineas and Derby winner Brametot. Racing manager for Al Shaqab in France, Rupert Pritchard-Gordon, said of Jean-Claude Rouget’s runner: “He did his last piece of work on Monday morning in Deauville and all the signs are good. He looks like he's taken the Arc very well and I think a truly-run mile and a quarter will really suit him. He comes into the race relatively fresh having only run twice since June and everything points to a good performance.”

Rouget’s Almanzor won last year’s race, though he was exceptional. Brametot is undoubtedly talented, but has something to find if he is to beat Ulysses. And the French three-year-old form in general looks a little below par this year.

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The amount of rain that falls in the next few days may well dictate whether Ulysses takes his place at the start. The main target for Stoute’s classy four-year-old has always been the Breeders’ Cup, and should the ground become testing at Ascot, the Eclipse and Juddmonte winner may well head straight to the States.

“We’ve said from a long way out the aim is Del Mar,” said the Niarchos family racing manager, Alan Cooper. “It was natural to leave him in this after the Arc. The other thing is the ground and we will have to see what the weather is doing.” Stoute has always said that a sounder surface is ideal, and with just two weeks separating Champions Day and the Breeders’ Cup, his participation has to be in some doubt.

A pair that look certain to take up their engagements at Ascot are Ribchester and Barney Roy. The Godolphin owned duo are fancied to go close in their respective races, with Barney, hopefully, set to clash again with his old adversary Ulysses. Pipped in the Eclipse, he was beaten further in the Juddmonte, though tactics look sure to change this time around.

Richard Hannon is clearly looking forward to the day, saying: “He’ll go to Ascot in great nick having had a break. He’s fresh, he’s a very exciting horse. Ride him a little bit differently and anything can happen.” Barney’s last visit to Ascot resulted in victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes, and he is yet to finish outside of the first three in six career starts.

Ribchester is favourite to land the QEII, having finished runner-up to Minding 12 months ago. Richard Fahey sounded happy with his outstanding miler when speaking earlier in the week: “Everything has gone according to plan. He’s a very easy horse to train with no issues, touch wood. He tends to go on any ground. When he got beaten at Goodwood, I’m not blaming the [heavy] ground, I’m blaming the conditions. It was blowing a gale and pouring down with the rain. It was a horrible day. But he’s bounced back and won a Group One in France since, so we are very happy and comfortable with him.”

It could be an exciting day for John Gosden. Along with Cracksman, he has a pair of talented fillies lined up for the Fillies And Mares Stakes. Speaking earlier this week, he said of Journey and Coronet: “Journey’s in great form. She ran a blinder in France when she ran into a filly (Bateel) who loved that ground more than she did. It will be her swansong, she goes to stud after this.”

Of Coronet he appeared just as enthusiastic, saying: “Coronet ran an exceptionally good race in the Yorkshire Oaks to Enable and just found the pace and distance too far in the Leger. She’s a very good filly and she’s getting better all the time. She seems to be racing more alertly now than she used to, so fingers crossed, they will both run good races. I haven’t got as far as riding arrangements. I’ll talk to Mr Dettori, who likes to tell us what to do. If he gets it wrong then it’s his fault, not mine.”

Girl Power – Fab Fillies Bashing The Boys

In the equine battle of the sexes, the fillies have more than held their own throughout the Flat campaign of 2017. Enable was without doubt the shining light, though others have landed major blows, and there remains time for several more to dazzle.

John Gosden’s stable star had already put the fellas in their place with a stunning success in the King George at Ascot, before confirming her supremacy over the colts with an emphatic victory in the Arc at Chantilly. She stands head and shoulders above her equine peers after a glorious and triumphant summer.

Winter may have fluffed her lines in the Arc, but like Minding 12 months ago, she seems destined for a grand finale on Champions Day at Ascot. She looks set to take in the Champion Stakes at 1m2f rather than the QEII at a mile. Team Ballydoyle have Churchill to consider, and it appears that the dual-guineas winner will drop back in trip after his disappointing effort in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

That leaves Winter looking to repeat her impressive success in the Nassau Stakes. She stayed-on powerfully to win at Goodwood, though that victory came against her own sex. She may well have Cracksman and Barney Roy to contend with at Ascot. The drop back in trip may not be ideal for the former, whilst the latter could prove the biggest danger to O’Brien’s filly, having run another solid race in the Juddmonte International at York.

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Ballydoyle’s Minding defeated Godolphin’s Ribchester in the QE11 12 months ago. There’s every chance that the Irish powerhouse could again get the better of the ‘Boys in Blue’, with Winter striking for the fillies against Godolphin’s Barney Roy.

Another filly with star quality and a reputation for bashing the boys, is Karl Burke’s sprinting sensation Quiet Reflection. Absent over the summer, she returned with a stylish success at Naas a couple of weeks back. That run should have her fighting fit for Ascot, and if the ground is in her favour (soft ground ideal), she looks capable of putting up a serious challenge. Harry Angel has looked sensational in recent starts, but Burke’s filly is something special in testing conditions.

Another that shows signs of returning to her best is Ballydoyle’s Rhododendron. At Chantilly she took the Prix de l’Opera, getting the better of stablemate Hydrangea in a thrilling finish. It’s worth remembering that she was unlucky in running when runner-up to Winter in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. She was then travelling better than Enable at the two-furlong pole in the Epsom Oaks, before being out-stayed by this year’s star filly.

She bled in the French Oaks and it took some time for O’Brien and his team to get her back on the track. She’s likely to head to America for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and a decision will then likely be made as to whether she stays in training next season. She’ll need to step forward again if she it to mix-it with the leading colts, but she has the potential of becoming a leading contender for races such as the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes.

Ballydoyle also have in their ranks the leading juvenile fillies who look capable of playing a starring role in the Flat campaign of 2018. Clemmie landed the Cheveley Park at Newmarket on Saturday and is currently favourite for next year’s Guineas. She’s improved rapidly throughout her two-year-old campaign and has the stature to match the talent that she has so clearly displayed on the track. Much depends on her progression over the winter, but she’s certainly an exciting prospect.

The same can be said of next year’s Oaks favourite Happily. She’s already beat the boys, after her power-packed finish to the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly. She was well on top at the end of the eight-furlong trip and is clearly a filly of huge potential. She’s another from the Galileo/Storm Cat bloodline which is also responsible for Clemmie and Churchill.

It’s been another thrilling summer on the flat, thanks in no small measure to the wonderful Enable. Other fillies such as sprinters Lady Aurelia and Marsha, have also played their part in the battle of the sexes. Chances are that there’ll be more of the same in a couple of weeks at Ascot on Champion’s Day.

Ulysses Crowned King of the Knavesmire

Ulysses gave weight and a beating to the young pretenders, as he landed the prestigious Juddmonte International at York.

Jim Crowley delivered the four-year-old to perfection, sinking the duelling three-year-olds of Churchill and Barney Roy. The pair had finished first and second in the Guineas, and again were locked in battle from the two-furlong pole. But Ulysses was travelling powerfully in-behind, with Crowley waiting until well inside the final furlong before asking for maximum effort. Sir Michael Stoute’s colt forged ahead as the line approached, to win impressively by two lengths. Churchill got the better of Barney by a neck to take the runner-up spot.

It was the cracker everyone had hoped for and there looked to be no hard-luck stories. The weather had done its utmost to disrupt proceedings, with a deluge of biblical proportions during the morning. Ground conditions went from the firm side of good to the soft side in no time at all, but thankfully rain abated around midday, and no serious damage was done.

Ulysses has now won two of the last four Group One’s that he has contested, and Crowley is certainly getting to grips with producing the colt at just the right moment. He’d found it difficult to creep up on Enable at Ascot in the King George, though she looks to be an exceptional filly. Nevertheless, this was without doubt the best performance by both jockey and horse, and bodes well for the remainder of the campaign, with the Champion Stakes at Ascot a likely target.

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Stoute was clearly thrilled with the win, saying: “It all just went so smoothly and there was never a blip. I think it was his best performance to date. He's become a very professional athlete now. York is a different track to Sandown, it's so level, and I never had any worries the way he was travelling. I think it's time to give him a break and work backwards from the Breeders' Cup Turf. The owners are keen to go for that. We'll go home and work it out.”

Crowley is clearly enjoying his relationship with the horse, and said of the winner: “He seems to like being ridden with confidence. He is improving and today is the best feel I have got off him. I always had plenty of horse. Today he relaxed so nicely and he just lobbed round. He got there quite soon, and I just had to nurse him along to make sure he got there. These are the races when you are champion you want to be winning.”

Aidan O’Brien spoke of the Irish Champion Stakes as a possible target for Churchill, though again mentioned decent ground as a necessity. Richard Hannon was also at pains to mention ground conditions when reflecting on Barney’s performance, saying: “We might run him over 10 furlongs again, but a lot will depend on the ground. If it comes up soft we could go back to a mile with him. But we are certainly not ruling it out.”

Earlier in the day, we were treated to a sparkling performance from John Gosden’s Cracksman. Placed in both the English and Irish Derby’s, he romped home in the Great Voltigeur, though the quality of the opposition was somewhat questionable. Nevertheless, his trainer spoke in glowing terms after the success, though plans are more long-term, and do not include a crack at the St Leger.

Gosden said of the winner: “He was only a shell of a horse earlier in the season. We've spaced his races deliberately, whether he runs again I'll discuss with the owner. He won't go for the Leger. We've never thought of going that route. The main focus is next year. Ascot (Champion Stakes) and the Arc are the only two possibilities this year. And they are only possibilities, not probabilities. We'll see which way we want to go.”

Today sees another middle-distance star take to the track, with Enable going for the Group One Yorkshire Oaks. Only five take her on, and though by no means testing, the ground has probably gone against both Nezwaah and Queen’s Trust. June and July saw a trio of Group One victories, and assuming those excursions have not left a mark, she should be banker material. She’ll have earned a break after this, and then be freshened up for a date at Chantilly in October.

Let’s hope she puts in a stunning performance in front of an excitable and appreciative Yorkshire crowd.

Barney can battle to a Joyous Juddmonte

All eyes will be on the Knavesmire today, as York’s Ebor Meeting begins, with the Juddmonte International a thrilling centrepiece.

A magnificent seven take to the field, with Ballydoyle’s finest clashing head-on with the best from Godolphin. Throw into the mix a Stoute stalwart and a Juddmonte ‘flying filly’ and we have the prospect of a sizzling showpiece.

The first two home in the 2000 Guineas head the market, closely followed by the Coral-Eclipse winner, and the Epsom Derby runner-up. This is a truly high-class renewal, and for once the weather Gods have been kind, hopefully ensuring all seven reach the start-line.

Upsets are very rare, and in the past 20 years only Arabian Queen has managed a shock victory at odds exceeding 10/1. Chances are that we have five realistic contenders for today’s prestigious prize, though Decorated Knight and My Dream Boat are by no means a pair of nags.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this renewal is just who takes on the responsibility of setting the pace. Cliffs Of Moher may be sent to the front under Seamie Heffernan, though he’s unlikely to be making it a test of stamina with stablemate Churchill attempting the trip for the first time. Frankie Dettori is renowned for getting the fractions right, and if the pace is not to his liking, expect him to take matters into his own hands onboard John Gosden’s filly Shutter Speed.

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I fancy James Doyle will be rowing away on Barney Roy from some distance out. The long straight at York should prove ideal for the Godolphin colt, allowing him time to get into top gear. Expect Ulysses and Churchill to be played as late as possible.

Confidence appears high among the principals, with Aidan O’Brien saying this week: “You can put a line through his (Churchill) run at Royal Ascot and we've been looking forward to this day for a while. His running style suggests he'll have no problem over a mile and a quarter and he has certainly not been wilting at the end of his races over a mile. He's not soft and that toughness he shows at the end of his races will be a big asset over this trip. He's very relaxed in his races too and I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets on.”

Heffernan was also upbeat about his chances on the supposed second-string, Epsom Derby runner-up, Cliffs Of Moher, when saying: “He looks great and has been working very well. He showed a lot of pace as a two-year-old and I think the trip will suit him. He was trained for the Derby and was only collared very late in that. He has lots of pace and we know he stays. He's a great ride to get. I've no doubt Churchill will stay the trip too and they're two very, very nice colts.”

Richard Hannon believes Barney Roy is probably the best he’s trained, and can’t wait for the challenge, saying: “He hit a few of the undulations at Newmarket and Sandown. I think York will suit him immensely because it’s flat and will give him plenty of time to get going with his long stride. I’d love it if he was the type to go and win by four lengths but he’s not that sort of guy. He always makes it look like he’s struggling but the quicker they go, the quicker he goes. He keeps finding.”

The concern for Barney fans is undoubtedly the pace angle. If the race is run at a crawl and left to a sprint finish, Hannon’s fella could be caught on the hop. There’s every chance that we could see Doyle forcing the issue from a fair distance out, with Churchill, Cliffs Of Moher and Ulysses all travelling up strongly. It’ll then be a case of whether any can force their way past him, in a bruising battle to the line.

Churchill has had a decent break since his disappointing run at Royal Ascot behind Barney in the St James’s Palace Stakes. He’d certainly finished strongly when winning the English and Irish Guineas, and if back to his best looks likely to see-out this extended trip. It’s no surprise to see Moore choose him over the Derby runner-up, though it’s far from certain he’ll finish ahead of his stablemate. We’re stepping into the unknown with this fella, and there’s enough doubts surrounding O’Brien’s star to look elsewhere for the selection.

Cliffs Of Moher had problems in running when fourth in the Eclipse, but he was alongside Barney Roy a couple of furlongs out, and looked to be outpaced by the Godolphin colt and eventual winner Ulysses. A clearer path and possibly a stronger pace may suit Ballydoyle’s second-string, and it does appear that there’s plenty of stable confidence. Nevertheless, I’d be surprised if he manages to turn the tables on his Coral-Eclipse adversaries.

Ulysses continues to surprise me and I’m sure many others. Sir Michael Stoute does this year after year, and the four-year-old backed up the Sandown success with a cracking run behind Enable on unsuitable ground in the King George. He’ll travel much better on a sounder surface at York, and will again be delivered as late as possible by the outstanding Jim Crowley. The way Barney came back at him in the Eclipse hints that a protracted battle will not be in his favour, and that will surely be an issue for Crowley as he tries to ‘hold-on’ to his fella for as long as possible. I’ve underestimated Ulysses throughout this campaign, but he certainly won me over with his performance last time at Ascot. I fancy he and Barney may well go hoof-to-hoof once again.

The Juddmonte filly may well prove the surprise package, especially under the ‘canny’ handling of Frankie Dettori. She won the Musidora over course and distance, and then ran respectably in the French Oaks, when fading slightly late-on. She has plenty of speed, and if allowed to dictate, Dettori could have the boys in trouble when deciding to quicken from the front. She has a victory over Enable to her name, and is therefore impossible to discount. I just fancy that despite my concern over the pace of the race, she’ll be bullied out of it in the latter stages.

I’m siding with Barney, as I’ve thought all along that York would be his ideal track. Ulysses and a resurgent Churchill could prove the biggest dangers. This looks sure to be an absolute cracker.

Rough Day For Rouget

Jean-Claude Rouget had a day to forget at Deauville, with the eagerly anticipated return of Almanzor proving something of a disaster.

Off the track since his sensational victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last October, he was sure to show a little ring-rust. However, finishing last in a mediocre Group Three was certainly not scripted, and Rouget has his work cut out to get this high-class colt back to his best for those autumnal showpieces.

The trainer’s comments after the disappointment put into question Almanzor’s future, when saying: “It is so hard to bring a horse to a race like this after being stopped for ten months, it’s impossible. He rose to such heights at three it is difficult to get that back. People talk about racehorses like they are racing cars but if a car’s engine begins to tire, you take it out and replace it.”

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He continued: “You have to remember the best of times with him and they were really very good. The race at Leopardstown was the best field I have ever seen and he beat them all so well, you have to remember that, when you think of his future as a stallion. No decision has been made and we’ll have to talk with all the partners, but he seems to have come back to the stables fine.”

The trainer’s post-race comments hardly installed confidence, though the bookmakers possibly overreacted when sending Almanzor out to 20s for both the Arc and Ascot’s Champion Stakes. The horse was the best in the business last year, and is surely worth another shot before career defining decisions are made. A repeat trip to Leopardstown looks a possibility, with his performance there likely to prove critical. After such a poor return to the track, a shot at the Arc, over a trip he is yet to attempt, now looks completely out of the question.

Almanzor’s flop resulted in a shortening of Enable’s odds for the Chantilly showpiece. She’s now even-money in places, for a race that is rapidly looking uncompetitive. Rouget’s day out at Deauville failed to improve, when Brametot also flopped on his return to a racecourse. He’d been off the track since winning the French Derby in early June, but even a near two-month absence could not explain the dismal 10-length drubbing by Eminent in an ordinary looking Group Two.

He can be backed at anything from 10s to 20/1 for the Arc, but will need to improve vastly if he is to be considered a serious challenger to John Gosden’s flying filly.

Of the two, the Champion Stakes at Ascot now has a far deeper look to it than the Chantilly headliner. Almanzor may still line-up in hope of repeating last year’s Champions Day success. But should Rouget’s star fail to shine between now and then, the race still looks a potential thriller.

The Juddmonte International at York next week is a likely dress-rehearsal for the Ascot renewal. Dual-Classic winner Churchill is set to clash with Barney Roy and Ulysses, who were first and second home in the Coral-Eclipse. All three are prominent in the betting for the Champion Stakes in October, where the field may also include, Enable, Eminent, Highland Reel and Deauville disappointment Brametot. This year’s Arc is devoid of such depth in quality.

The Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe has long been Europe’s most prestigious race, drawing a stellar cast. But it’s starting to look as if Ascot’s Autumn extravaganza will attract a more powerful field over the shorter trip of 1m2f. The influence of modern day stallions, producing quicker horses, rather than those with the requisite stamina for the Arc, may be a reason for the apparent shift in target. But whatever the explanation, Chantilly’s loss looks sure to be Ascot’s gain.

High-Class Entrants for Champions Day

Almanzor, Found, Minding and Ribchester, are just some of the stars that appeared on the card at last year’s Champions Day.

Ascot’s season ending extravaganza began in 2011, and acts as a ‘Finals Day’ for five divisions of a Flat racing series. Sprinters, Milers, Mid-distance, Long-distance and Fillies and Mares form the content (along with a one-mile handicap), of a valuable event that has fast become both prestigious and eagerly anticipated.

Its timing (close to the Arc meeting) had, and still does, attract negative press from a standpoint that many of the best racehorses will be otherwise engaged and unable to appear, thereby undermining the status of the occasion. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting that the quality of fields continues to improve, and connections appear to be targeting Ascot in October as a fitting finale for their equine stars.

This year sees a gap of three weeks between the Arc meeting at Chantilly and Champions Day, and there’s every chance that many will take-in both. Just two weeks separated the prestigious events last year, and that didn’t stop Aidan O’Brien’s Found winning the Arc before chasing home Almanzor at Ascot. The extraordinary mare then headed to America for a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Turf. That she finished third at Santa Anita, was testament to both her talent and cast-iron constitution.

Yesterday saw the announcement of entries for British Champions Day 2017, and as we head deep into this year’s Flat season, it’s exciting to look at the likely clashes that will bring the campaign to an exhilarating conclusion.

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An incredible 18 Group One winners are entered in the showpiece Champion Stakes, won last year by French star Almanzor. Rouget’s outstanding colt could return in an attempt to defend his crown, though his season thus far has yet to begin due to injury. The French trainer spoke of the possibility, saying: “I have yet to make any decisions, and we will know more after his comeback race on 15th August in the Prix Gontaut-Biron. He satisfied me when working last Tuesday and although he won’t be 100% fit, I’m hopeful of a good performance.”

The prospect of a clash with super-filly Enable is truly mouth-watering, though I have my doubts that John Gosden would come here so soon after a crack at the Arc. Much could change between now and then, but the trainer likes his trips to America, and I’d fancy a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Turf is more likely to follow Chantilly.

Barney Roy and Ulysses are far more likely to line-up, and there is now a real prospect of Churchill attending this end of season bash. He heads to York in a couple of weeks for the Juddmonte, and how he does against Barney and Co will determine the remainder of his campaign. Ballydoyle also have Highland Reel and Winter entered in this, though HR’s target will be determined by the ground, and Winter now looks set to drop back to a mile.

As such she may well take a similar path to Minding and eventually line-up in the QEII on Champions Day. Despite a powerful performance in the Nassau Stakes, her trainer Aidan O'Brien said earlier this week: “Winter is well entered up, but at this stage we're looking at going back to a mile with her in the Matron Stakes. She's come out of her Goodwood win well.” Churchill up and Winter back down appears to be the plan for the Ballydoyle stars at this stage, but October remains a distance away.

Should Winter line-up in the QEII, she’ll be looking to replicate Minding in defeating Godolphin’s Ribchester. This looks the obvious target for Richard Fahey’s classy miler, who now looks set to have a break after the disappointment of losing out in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. Speaking earlier this week, Fahey said: “I haven't entered him for the Champion Stakes as I think we're going to stick at a mile with him for the time being. Quite what happened at Goodwood I'm still not sure, but I suspect it was a mistake to try to make the running, and that was my mistake. They were proper extreme conditions. It was just one of those things and we all live to fight another day.”

Andre Fabre could send Royal Ascot winner Le Brivido or Guineas third Al Wukair. Both are high-class and would prove a serious threat if travelling from France. Jean-Claude Rouget also has the recent Messidor Stakes winner Taaref entered. The four-year-old colt is improving at a rate of knots, and would be another exciting addition to a classy looking field.

The Tin Man took last year’s Champions Day Sprint, and looks sure to return. He loves the track, and trainer James Fanshawe is excited at the prospect, saying: “Hopefully we can have him in as good a form as he was last year when we get to 21st October. It’s a great day and we really enjoyed last year. He seems fine after Newmarket and the idea is to aim for the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock next month.”

Brando was third 12 months ago, but connections will be hoping for better this time around, especially after the thrilling recent success in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. Prior to that, the five-year-old was a fast finishing fourth to Harry Angel in the July Cup at Newmarket. There’s no doubting that Kevin Ryan has the sprinter better than ever, and he’ll prove a serious contender come October.

Harry Angel is also likely to be aimed at this. Mightily impressive at Newmarket last time, he lost out to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal Meeting, and despite the latter seemingly going ‘off the boil’ of late, the pair may well clash again in October. Limato will need his ground, but would be another leading contender should he take his chance.

I’ve already got my ticket for the day. I, like many others, was uncertain about the meeting a few years back, but it has won me over. Its proximity to the Arc remains an issue, but Champions Day continues to grow as a spectacle. The list of outstanding entrants gives hope that this year’s meeting will prove the best yet.

Enable – Simply Sensational

Enable put in a star performance to land the prestigious King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The John Gosden-trained filly hammered a field of talented colts, and in doing so leapt to the head of the market for the Arc in October.

Sent-off a short-priced favourite on Saturday, the result was never in doubt. Frankie Dettori kept matters simple, positioning the dual-Oaks winner to the fore throughout. Jack Hobbs looked a threat turning for home, but the 2015 Irish Derby winner is a shadow of his former self, and faded tamely out of contention. When Frankie said ‘go’ to the filly, she quickly put lengths between herself and the field. Only Ulysses proved capable of launching any sort of challenge, though even the Eclipse winner was comfortably brushed aside.

As in the English and Irish Oaks, the King George concluded with Enable first, the rest nowhere.

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“All in all she's as good a filly as I've ever trained,” said a serene looking Gosden after the dazzling performance. “Taghrooda was brilliant to win this and she's following Dahlia and Pawneese. I am a great believer in this race being a meeting of the generations and she has proved it. She would have won on good ground. She just takes the race by the horns. The Yorkshire Oaks is where we want to go and then freshen up and see where we are about a race on October 1 (Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe). No preps or things, maybe a racecourse gallop and then the Arc.”

Dettori had starved himself to make the weight, and could not have been happier with the winner, saying: “I'm thrilled. I said to John after the Irish Oaks that I haven't had a feeling like that since Golden Horn in the Arc. I knew she was up to the task, but I didn't expect her to do that and she destroyed them. She is uncomplicated with a good mind. I was confident, then I started reading all these negative things, but I thought they have got to give a stone to a superstar and that was a big task for them.”

It’s true, that several ‘so called’ experts, had taken on the filly, putting up the likes of Ulysses and Jack Hobbs as potential winners, pointing to Enable’s lack of experience, or pouring scorn on the strength of those Oaks performances. At Geegeez, we were prepared to believe our eyes, and the noises coming from Gosden and Dettori. Thankfully the punters followed suit.

Of the also-rans, Ulysses ran a cracker, on ground that was far from ideal. On a sounder surface, he may have got closer to the filly, though better ground would also be loved by Enable. Sir Michael Stoute now has plenty of options for this progressive four-year-old, and said of the run: “I am delighted with him. We like him on better ground, but we were beaten by a very good filly. He is very versatile really. He gets a mile-and-a-half no problem. We can do 10 (furlongs), we can do 12.”

The Juddmonte International at York looks a likely target for Stoute’s colt, where a rematch with Barney Roy is a thrilling proposition.

Soft ground on Saturday put-paid to the chances of Highland Reel, and though a brave fourth, he never looked likely to land a blow. We are now in no doubt as to his preference for a sounder surface, and trips abroad in the autumn are sure to bring further success. Idaho ran a promising race in third, though looked out-paced turning for home, before staying-on strongly approaching the post. A step-up in trip seems likely for the colt, with the Ascot Gold Cup a possible long-term target.

For Enable, all roads now lead to Chantilly in October. John Gosden can rest easier, knowing that his star filly is just as effective on soft ground. And should she arrive there fit and well, there’s every chance she can replicate Golden Horn, giving Gosden his second Arc in three years.

Ulysses hold off Barney in Sandown Sizzler

Ulysses edged-out Barney Roy to win a thrilling Coral-Eclipse.

In the battle of the generations, it was Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive four-year-old that held off Richard Hannon’s young warrior in an epic finish. Ulysses had travelled powerfully throughout the contest, and shadowed the move made by Barney as the pair approached the final furlong. Godolphin’s colt hit the front only briefly before being seemingly swamped by a motionless Jim Crowley on Ulysses. The result appeared a formality, but the youngster was far from finished. In a pulsating climax, Hannon’s stable star proved he has the battling qualities to go with an immense amount of talent. At the post, he was a nose shy of getting back in front.

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Crowley was understandably thrilled with his success onboard the rapidly improving Ulysses, saying: “That was fantastic. It was great to get the ride on him and I'm very grateful to the owners and Sir Michael Stoute. I learnt a lot from riding him last time. The race went really well today and when he got to the front he thought he'd done enough. I cruised into the race and my only concern was getting there too soon. Fair play to the second, who came back at us, and I wasn't sure we'd won.”

Stoute is a past-master at improving these mid-distance horses, year on year. Ulysses is a wonderful mover, and clearly operates at his best on a sound surface. He continues to progress, and will prove competitive in major races throughout the summer.

The trainer was more than satisfied with the performance, when saying: “He's a very brave and admirable horse and so consistent. I wasn't confident he was going to win, but I was hopeful. I felt he was holding on. He's been to Santa Anita and he's been to Goodwood and he's very adaptable. I wouldn't rule out going back up to a mile and a half as he won the Gordon Stakes last year and ran a big race at Santa Anita (fourth in Breeders' Cup Turf). He's not as keen this year and settles better, so he'll get a mile and a half.”

To the victor the spoils, but Barney Roy lost little in defeat, and should improve plenty for the experience. He proved that he stays the trip well, and was possibly less comfortable than the winner on the quick ground. He still looks a little babyish at times, but certainly enjoys a scrap. James Doyle was thrilled with the performance: “We actually had a lovely run round. He was a little bit green on the track, but he turned into the straight nicely and I thought we'd win. Ulysses jumped on us quick and I thought we were definitely beat and then he's rallied back in the last 50 yards. In another stride I think we'd have got there, but full credit to him, he's run a stormer.”

Hannon echoed the jockey’s views, and remains excited about the future, saying: “He is a good horse and he is getting better. We are delighted, he has run a super race. He was just a shade unlucky. I'm very proud of him and the team, it was a good effort. He is a brave horse and he is only a baby. He will be a very good middle-distance horse for this year and next year. He is in a lot of good races. He is still quite inexperienced, but he has run a super race all things considered.”

The Juddmonte International at York may prove to be the next stop-off for both horses, with the Irish Champion Stakes further down the line. I remain a Barney fan, and would expect the long straight at the Knavesmire to prove ideal. Exciting times lie ahead for both him and Ulysses.

Barney can win the Eclipse ‘Generation Game’

It’s the prestigious Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on Saturday, with the eagerly anticipated clash of the generations.

One of the truly great Flat races, the Eclipse roll of honour bears the names of some of the sports heroes. In recent times, three-year-olds Golden Horn and Sea The Stars captured the Sandown feature. The sensational Dancing Brave took this en-route to his Arc success in 1986. And in the early 1970s, racing legends Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard also captured this celebrated event.

Not only does the Eclipse pitch three-year-olds against their elders, but we have the added intrigue of Guineas and Derby runners clashing at an intermediate trip. The question of whether a classy miler can see-out those extra two furlongs, against high-class thoroughbreds proven over the Derby trip, is a thrilling conundrum. Many have failed, despite a pedigree that suggested otherwise. Saturday’s renewal poses just such questions from a field of nine.

Barney Roy is potentially the star of the show. Runner-up in the Guineas at Newmarket, when struggling to cope with the dip, he made amends when finishing powerfully to land the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s a son of Excelebration, out of a Galileo mare, giving hope that a step-up in trip will not unduly inconvenience him. It was noticeable at just how strongly he finished off the race last time, and that performance would have influenced the decision in heading here.

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He had finished several places ahead of Eminent in the Newmarket Classic, with that rival going on to finish a close fourth in the Derby at Epsom. Though Hannon’s colt does remain very inexperienced, with just four runs to his name, this does leave him open to plenty of improvement, and he looks to be the class act in the race.

Eminent is clearly a talented colt, and was a little unlucky in the Derby, when finding himself short of room on a couple of occasions. Like Barney, he also has just the four career starts, and may well ‘come-on’ again from his Epsom effort. A powerful looking son of Frankel, he has no stamina doubts following that Epsom run, and indeed this mid-trip may prove his optimum. His trainer Martyn Meade believes that he has ‘strengthened up’ since the Derby, and he looks a leading contender.

Aidan O’Brien came close with The Gurkha 12 months ago, and last took the event in 2011 with So You Think. Cliffs Of Moher arrives having been mugged late-on in the Derby by stable companion Wings Of Eagles. The Epsom form has been knocked by many, yet horses coming out of the race have kept winning. This fella is another lightly raced three-year-old, and looks closely matched with Eminent. The pair made a similar run at Epsom, and had Meade’s colt not been squeezed up just inside the two-furlong mark, they may well have been head to head at the line. I doubt Cliffs Of Moher has the gears of Barney Roy, but he’ll certainly see-out the trip strongly.

With the trio of three-year-olds at the head of the market, the older brigade is led by the Royal Ascot Prince Of Wales’s second and third place pair. Roger Charlton took the Eclipse in 2013 with five-year-old Al Kazeem, and has one with a very similar profile in Decorated Knight. Both won the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland, though AK followed up with victory at Royal Ascot, whilst Decorated Knight was unable to overhaul Highland Reel in this year’s race. This is undoubtedly his trip, and though he may lack the ‘wow’ factor, he’s a fast improving sort with a huge chance.

If we give Charlton’s charge a chance, then we must consider Ulysses. The pair crossed the line in unison at Ascot, and Sir Michael Stoute’s contender had previously won the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown, a race won by Al Kazeem in 2013. Stoute has won this race five times, and this improving sort by Galileo looks to be another leading contender. Should the youngsters fail to impress, both he and Decorated Knight look best placed to take advantage.

This is rarely a race for an upset, with only Mukhadram winning at double-figure odds in the past 10 years. Seven of those wins have gone to those at 4s and under, with favourites accounting for five victories.

The leading five appear to have it between them, it’s merely a question of whether the Classic generation are up to scratch. I’d be surprised if one of them isn’t too good for the ‘old boys’, and it’s Barney Roy that I’ll be siding with. Cliffs Of Moher looks the main danger, with Ulysses capable of further improvement to prove best of the oldies. Should Barney win well, Godolphin would suddenly find themselves in a dominant position, having high-class Ribchester at a mile and BR at 10 furlongs. This could prove a huge day for the ‘boys in blue’.

Best of luck to all those having a punt.

Coral-Eclipse – A Clash Of The Ages

For many Flat racing fans, the Classic generation taking on their elders is when the season truly begins.

Until now the youngsters have battled between themselves, but on Saturday the Coral-Eclipse run at one mile and two furlongs, will go some way towards telling us just how good these kids are. To add to the intrigue, we have Epsom Derby runner-up, Cliffs Of Moher, stepping back in trip, and 2000 Guineas runner-up Barney Roy, stepping up. The pair take on the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes runner-up Decorated Knight. Roger Charlton’s five-year-old looks something of a specialist at the trip, having won the Tattersalls Gold Cup back in May.

The Eclipse roll of honour paints a pretty even picture, with the regards to the age of winners. A third of the last dozen renewals has gone to three-year-olds, with the remainder shared between those aged four and five. Only one horse has won from outside this age-range, and that was in the first running back in 1886, when six-year-old Bendigo claimed victory in Britain’s richest ever race.

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The Eclipse has always been a classy affair, regularly attracting the best middle-distance runners, and often proving the first mouth-watering clash of the ages. Last year’s renewal provided something of an upset, when French Guineas winner, The Gurkha, lost out to Hawkbill in a battle of the three-year-olds. Despite the Ballydoyle runner being a son of Galileo, he appeared to be outstayed by the Godolphin colt in a pulsating finish.

A year earlier, getting the trip was never going to be a problem for Epsom Derby hero Golden Horn. Ridden from the front by Frankie Dettori, he was pestered by the Grey Gatsby throughout, but finished the race powerfully to pull clear in the final furlong. His subsequent exploits marked him down as one of the modern greats, with a perfect blend of speed and stamina.

Sea The Stars took the Eclipse of 2009, during an unblemished three-year-old campaign. He opened the season with victory at Newmarket in the 2000 Guineas, and then proved his stamina by winning the Derby at Epsom, defeating Fame And Glory. Understandably sent off a short-priced favourite for the Eclipse, he was made to work hard for victory by another three-year-old, in Ballydoyle’s Rip Van Winkle. The Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion followed, before the perfect season was completed with success in the Arc. Six Group 1s in six months is testament to the extraordinary talent of Sea The Stars.

Aidan O’Brien has captured the race five times since the turn of the century, including a trio of three-year-old victories. Oratorio in 2005 and Hawk Wing in 2002 were both talented colts, but in 2000 it was the mighty Giant’s Causeway that captured Sandown’s showpiece.

Runner-up in both the English and Irish Guineas, he proved to be sensational at 10 furlongs. His victory over Kalanisi in the Eclipse was quite incredible, having looked beaten 100 yards from the post. The pair had battled head to head throughout the final furlong, in an absolute thriller. They then clashed in the Juddmonte at York, and once again fought tooth and nail to the line. In another dramatic finish, Giant’s Causeway got his nose in front when it mattered. His final run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic saw him come-off second best in just such a tussle, with American colt Tiznow winning by a neck in a thriller.

The Eclipse roll of honour is littered with the names of outstanding thoroughbreds. Daylami, Nashwan, Dancing Brave, Brigadier Gerard and Mill Reef, are just a handful that have captured this historic event in recent times. It’s hoped that Saturday’s renewal can provide a worthy winner to add to the list. Youngsters Cliffs Of Moher and Barney Roy certainly look to have the potential.

A Right Royal Day for the Boys In Blue

Ribchester and Lady Aurelia reinforced their star status, but it proved to be an off-day for Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill.

On a baking opening day at Ascot, the Royal Meeting provided a plethora of dazzling performances fit for a Queen. Track records were tumbling left, right and centre, with Ribchester setting the tone thanks to a classy performance in the Queen Anne Stakes.

Team Godolphin had a day to remember, and it was Ribchester that settled the nerves with a professional display. Taking over the running a furlong from home, he battled on bravely to see off Mutakayyef by just over a length. The runner-up had travelled powerfully into contention but was unable to peg-back Fahey’s fella. And though he wandered off a straight path in the closing stages, the winner never looked likely to be caught. Deauville put in an eye-catching performance for Ballydoyle to finish third.

Of the winner, jockey William Buick said: “I said after the Lockinge he's very versatile. He's an exceptional miler, of course he's got lots of quality but he travels so well and sees it out so well. You've got to hand it to the horse, he's an absolute jockey's dream. It doesn't get much better than this, it's the biggest week in our sport, and to wear the Royal Blue for Sheikh Mohammed here is absolutely fantastic.”

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With the course-record broken, an exceedingly proud Richard Fahey said: “I'm delighted he won, William said he's got huge gears and said that he was never in trouble. He gets the trip well and that makes him a good horse. He's got to be the best I've trained, especially breaking the track record here today, and that is not being disrespectful to the other horses. I'm in a happy place at the minute.”

Ribchester’s thoroughly professional performance was arguably overshadowed by the dazzling display from America’s Lady Aurelia. Wes Ward’s flying filly had sparkled 12 months earlier, when storming to victory in the Queen Mary. That success came on soft ground, but she found the fast ground yesterday equally to her liking. Moving to the front beyond the furlong mark, she quickly put distance between herself and the rest. Last year’s winner Profitable, now a Godolphin blue, proved best of the rest despite the ground being plenty quick enough for him. Marsha ran another cracker to finish a head further back in third.

An injury to Frankie Dettori meant that American jock John Velazquez became the lucky pilot. He said of the victory: “It's unfortunate for Frankie and a bad situation for him, but she was spectacular. I gave her a little break in the first half of the race and then when I asked her to run she responded, that doesn't always happen. Wes does a great job and he has a great team.”

For Ward, the flying filly made it eight Royal Ascot winners, and the ecstatic trainer added: “She's a very special filly. This is a Group One against the fastest sprinters in the world and to duplicate what she did last year and come back and do it again - she's a once in a lifetime horse. She's amazing and she loves it over here. We can look forward to a really big summer, the Breeders' Cup - her owners are so excited, it's wonderful for American racing.”

With mission accomplished for two leading lights, it was the turn of Ballydoyle’s latest star to shine. Churchill had won the Guineas on both sides of the Irish Sea, and was sent off a short-priced favourite to add the St James’s Palace Stakes. Held up in midfield, Ryan Moore looked to track chief danger Barney Roy as they approached the two-furlong mark. But as Godolphin’s fella responded for pressure, so O’Brien’s star faltered. Barney battled bravely to head Lancaster Bomber and Thunder Snow inside the final furlong, whilst Churchill could only manage fourth.

Many had thought him unfortunate not to have won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, though Churchill’s below-par performance here, still leaves doubts over the identity of the best three-year-old miler. Nevertheless, this was Godolphin’s day, and trainer Richard Hannon was clearly delighted: “I was confident he'd run his race, not confident he'd win - I just wanted to give him the chance to prove that, as I don't think he got that chance in the Guineas. There isn't another Guineas to go at, but that is a good pot and Sean Levey, who rides him at home, has done a good job.”

Of future plans, a step up in trip appears likely when he added: “He's in the Eclipse, he's in the Arc. He takes time to get there but he picked up well, he's a very relaxed horse and was only having his fourth run, so to beat the Guineas winner is great.”

Hopefully Churchill will bounce back at some point during the Summer. He undoubtedly ran flat, maybe feeling the exertions of those two Guineas victories. O’Brien, as ever philosophical, said of the loss: “He ran well. His form with Lancaster Bomber changed a bit from what it usually is. He should like fast ground really. It is a very hot day and maybe the heat and change didn't help. He just didn't pick up for some reason. We don't know the reason but we will hopefully know sometime.”

Godolphin completed a stunning opening day, with a one-two in the Windsor Castle Stakes. The Charlie Appleby pair of Sound And Silence and Roussel, dominated the finish, with the former getting home by a neck. The juveniles look to have a bright future, as do the ‘Boys in Blue’. It’s been a turbulent period for Sheikh Mohammed and his team, yet they have roared into the Royal Meeting, and look sure to have further success during Flat racing’s most celebrated event.

Glorious Churchill Launches A Ballydoyle Blitz

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.”

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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.