Aidan O’Brien has rewritten the trainer’s manual dozens of times but having surpassed the 19th century achievement of John Scott by winning an eighth 2000 Guineas with the brilliant Churchill at Newmarket last weekend, he slipped away from Coolmore’s celebration party to saddle his third 1-2 in the fillies equivalent over the same Rowley Mile 24 hours later, courtesy of Winter and Rhododendron.
Vincent O’Brien, Aidan’s predecessor at Ballydoyle, is considered the greatest modern trainer of all time, but MV “only” won 16 British classics and 27 in Ireland, whereas the self-effacing Aidan has 27 British and 35 domestic on his CV, so perhaps it is time to concede racing has a new master.
Aidan is always quick to stress all of his victories are “team efforts” and although “the lads” – John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith – make all the final decisions, the trainer acknowledges the huge part being played by their amazing sire, Galileo, in this phenomenal success story.
Not only was Galileo responsible for Churchill, he can also claim 2015 Guineas winner Gleneagles as well as both Winter and Rhododendron.
“Galileo is such an incredible stallion,” declared O’Brien. “It’s what he puts into them mentally. They are all so genuine with a will to win.”
Churchill, who has won all six races since being beaten on his two-year-old debut, is a remarkable physical specimen. He carried on in the Guineas where he left us in the Dewhurst last October, dispelling the theory his contemporaries might have caught up with him physically after a winter out at grass.
Sue Magnier, Vincent’s daughter, names all the Coolmore yearlings herself but while some doubted the wisdom of choosing Churchill, earning inevitable comparisons with Britain’s most celebrated Prime Minister, she had already shown she has the illustrious classic touch with the pen, with the likes of Guineas hero George Washington and Derby winner Ruler Of The World.
In a slow-run first classic of the UK season, in which trailblazing stablemate Lancaster Bomber politely took a sidestep right entering the last 200m to allow Ryan Moore and Churchill to sweep through and nab the stands rail, backers of the 6-4 favourite never had a moment’s worry.
“The lads” want to digest the various Derby trials before deciding whether to try and stretch out Churchill’s brilliance to 2400m in the Investec Derby at Epsom, but Moore gave a hint on which route he will be recommending when saying “I know one thing – I wouldn’t get offered a better ride”.
Churchill has the temperament to take the hullabaloo of Epsom on the first Saturday in June in his stride but, while O’Brien points out that “most Galileo’s will get any trip”, the distaff side of the pedigree is speed, speed and more speed, so there are definite doubts as to how far he will stay.
Looking at Coolmore’s previous Magnificent Seven (2000 Guineas winners), only King Of Kings, who broke down, and Camelot, who emerged victorious, went on to run at Epsom, but unless Ballydoyle pull another possible middle-distance star out of the hat in the forthcoming dress-rehearsals, Churchill is likely to be allowed to take his chance.
Godolphin were again forced into the shadows by Coolmore, their much-heralded Barney Roy being run out of it after suffering interference when Lancaster Bomber took a wayward course coming out of the Dip, though Richard Hannon’s horse did not seem to enjoy the ridges of Newmarket which had to be a contributory factor in his defeat, as they were with the stable’s Canford Cliffs in 2010. The Irish Guineas could be Barney Roy’s next port of call, though much will depend on which path Churchill takes.
Andre Fabre was non-committal about Al Wukair, who came from last place to challenge on the wide outside and finished an honourable third, but the 27-times champion trainer did not seem too enamoured with his jockey, Gregory Benoist, who was clearly never told (or at least he didn’t listen) that the one place not to be when a race is run at a sedate pace is the back. Al Wukair might seek compensation in the French Derby at Chantilly.
It has felt more like winter in Britain than early May recently, so maybe we should have followed last week’s gamble on Winter for the 1000 Guineas although, like Churchill, she enjoyed the run of the race whereas stablemate Rhododendron, the hot-favourite, got stopped more times than a hooker on Hollywood Boulevard and has to go down as an unlucky loser.
Rhododendron will now go straight to the Oaks and judged on her overall form and pedigree, bookmakers were justified in shortening Ballydoyle’s top filly to favourite although in contrast, third-placed Daban, being by Acclamation, will now drop back in distance and run in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.
“Daban improved on her Nell Gwyn win, but she is sprint-bred and was outstayed by those two Galileos,” reflected John Gosden.
It proved a frustrating weekend for Godolphin, nowhere more so than at Churchill Downs, where their UAE Derby hero Thunder Snow impersonated a bucking bronco leaving the stalls in the Kentucky Derby and immediately had to be pulled up by Christophe Soumillon, leaving trainer Saeed bin Suroor “totally baffled”.
The Run For The Roses went to Always Dreaming whose trainer, Todd Pletcher, had won with only one of his previous 45 runners. Always Dreaming, being much more manageable than he had been at morning exercise in the run up to America’s most prestigious race, also gave veteran jockey Johnny Velazquez his second success in the race and the colt will now try and emulate Affirmed and American Pharoah and complete the Triple Crown.
Ryan Moore might have missed out on Winter – he opted for Rhododendron, leaving Wayne Lordan to come in for his first classic celebration – but it was still a great weekend for the jockey as besides Churchill, he won the Jockey Club Stakes with Coronation Cup possible Seventh Heaven and the Dahlia with Somehow, who might now go for the Lockinge at Newbury on Saturday week.
And Moore can continue in his rich vein of form by winning today’s Chester Cup for Irish trainer Tony Martin on the versatile GOLDEN SPEAR.
Another one for a punt is Gosden’s DABYAH, who won the Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury and then missed the 1000 Guineas to go for Sunday’s French equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, at Deauville on Saturday. She carries plenty of stable confidence.
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