Churchill gets O’Brien nod for National Stakes
Churchill, a leading ante-post Classic fancy for the 2000 Guineas and Derby, puts his credentials on the line in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.
Aidan O'Brien's colt was backed as if defeat was out of the question in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot, having finished third on his debut, and he duly delivered on the big stage.
Since then he has added further Group-race successes in the Tyros Stakes and Futurity Stakes.
He faces Group One rivals for the first time as he aims to give his trainer an 11th win in the race.
With an eye on next year, though, O'Brien has expressed doubts about him staying 12 furlongs in the Derby.
"He ran in a maiden and then went straight to the Chesham. After the Chesham it was the Tyros and then the Futurity," said O'Brien.
"We've been very happy with him since the Futurity and we think the National Stakes will suit him very well.
"Physically he's doing very well. We thought he would be a Guineas horse – he's a horse with a lot of speed and a big, powerful individual.
"He's built like a big miler, so I'm not sure how far more he'll stay. We think he'll get a mile and a quarter but we wouldn't be sure about a mile and a half."
One horse who will make him pull out all the stops is Richard Hannon's Mehmas.
More experienced than the favourite, he has four wins to his name and has finished second twice, including to O'Brien's Caravaggio in the Coventry Stakes.
Since then he has enhanced his reputation with gritty displays to win the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and the horse he beat there, Blue Point, has subsequently won the Gimcrack.
Hannon decided to tackle the Group One in preference to going for another Group Two in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Harry Herbert, representing owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: "We are going to try Mehmas over seven furlongs for the first time.
"He has been going away at the end of his races and he is a lovely, relaxed horse.
"We looked at various options but while he is in good form we thought we would try him over seven.
"Richard Hannon and his team are very happy with him and we will give it a go and try and win a Group One with him."
Also making the trip from Britain is William Haggas' Lockheed, third in the Acomb Stakes at York.
Ger Lyons has given Psychedelic Funk a break since he was beaten at odds-on last time out but he was just behind Mehmas at Royal Ascot and a return to that form would make him a player, too.
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