Churchill heads powerful Guineas entry for O’Brien

Churchill: champion two-year-old heads betting for the 2,000 Guineas

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( Churchill heads O'Brien's powerful Guineas entry By Andrew Dietz 3:30PM 8 MAR 2017

AIDAN O'BRIEN has entered a typically strong contingent of colts headed by ante-post favourite Churchill for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, the opening Classic of the British season at Newmarket on May 6.

O'Brien equalled John Scott's record of seven successes in the 2,000 Guineas when Gleneagles won two years ago and is responsible for 11 of the 69-strong entry as he bids to regain the crown wrestled away by Hugo Palmer and Galileo Gold last season.

As well as general 6-4 favourite Churchill, the champion two-year-old and winner of the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes in October, the trainer has the next two in the betting with the unbeaten Caravaggio, market-leader for the Commonwealth Cup over six furlongs, and War Decree, who landed the Group 2 Vintage Stakes on his most recent start.

National Defense, runaway winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last season, leads four possibles from France for trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, who has won the 1,000 Guineas four times but has yet to succeed in the colts' equivalent.

"National Defense has done extremely well over the winter and worked on the grass for the first time [this year] yesterday," the trainer said on Wednesday.

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"He went nicely and looks really good at the moment – he has put on a lot of weight and has a shiny coat – but he does need some sun.

"I plan to run him in the Prix Djebel over the straight seven furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte on April 10 by which time I hope to have him at about 90 per cent, leaving a little to work on. After that we will decide between the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and the Poule d'Essai des Poulains."

Powerhouses to the fore in 1,000 Guineas

O'Brien has eight of the 57 1,000 Guineas entries led by favourite Rhododendron, for a race which takes place the following day on May 7.

Godolphin, whose potential 2,000 Guineas contenders include UAE 2,000 Guineas winner Thunder Snow and exciting Frankel colt Swiss Storm, who they acquired a half-share in last month, also have eight engaged for the fillies' Classic.

Charlie Appleby has four of those possibles including Prix Marcel Boussac scorer Wuheida, who is second favourite in the ante-post market.

"Wuheida has spent the winter in Dubai and has done very well," said Appleby. "She's going great and has strengthened up – she's always been a lovely scopey filly and everything that you would like to see happen in terms of physical development has happened.

"Her preparation is all being geared towards the Qipco 1,000 Guineas and it has always been the plan for her to go straight there without a prep race as she is a very clean-winded, straightforward filly.

"The stiff mile at Newmarket will suit her. We have always thought that the further she goes the better she will go and in the longer term we see her as an Oaks filly."

The trainer added he will be looking towards a Guineas trial for Grecian Light and Sobetsu.

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