Churchill primed for Classic double

Churchill (R) wins the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket

Churchill is long odds-on to achieve a Classic double in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday.

Last year's highest-rated juvenile lived up to his two-year-old promise as he bagged the British version of the Classic at Newmarket at the beginning of the month, on what was his first outing of the year.

Connections briefly toyed with the idea of stepping up to 12 furlongs and testing him against the best middle-distance contenders at Epsom next week, but with a raft of possibles for the Derby, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt will try to cement Churchill's position as number one in the mile division.

O'Brien last achieved the Guineas double with Gleneagles in 2015 and is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Desert King's Irish Guineas victory, which was the first Classic success for the Ballydoyle maestro.

He said: "It made sense to go to the Guineas as we had seven others for the Derby.

"We've been very happy with him, like we were going into Newmarket, but that was his first run of the year, and we've been very happy with him since.

"Donnacha (O'Brien) rides him in all his canters and he's very happy with him.

"Because we have the others for the Derby I think he'll stay at a mile as long as he's happy. He's a very fast horse, he travels very well through his races and has a very quick pedigree.

"We were obviously delighted with him at Newmarket."

O'Brien also saddles Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor, the respective fourth and eighth home in the Guineas at Newmarket.

Michael Halford's Irishcorrespondent is rated the most likely challenger to Churchill by the bookmakers, despite the fact he will be having just his third run, and his first at this level.

The Teofilo colt won a Leopardstown maiden and then another minor event at the Curragh, and Halford is looking forward to pitching his progressive colt into better company.

He said: "He was his maiden well and it's always a good sign if our horses are good enough to win first time out.

"He showed a lot of class that day and we were very impressed with him. It was a step up on what he'd been showing at home but the better ones tend to be like that.

"He was in France for a while last year, he went back to the farm as he was quite big and he came back to us last back-end. We trained him through the winter and let him come in his own time.

"We knew he'd come forward for his first run, he hit the line well, he's handled the ground well both times and the ground should be decent."

Ger Lyons fields outsider Glastonbury Song but thinks he could run better than his odds suggest.

The trainer has the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot as a target for Glastonbury Song, who was fifth to O'Brien's Orderofthegarter at Leopardstown in April, before beating Asking on the Polytrack at Dundalk.

He told At The Races: "I have him more as a seven-furlong horse rather than a mile, but I think he'll run well and I'm delighted to have a runner in a six-horse Guineas – I think he'll run a big race.

"He's 33-1. I don't bet, but if I did that would be some value."

The only British-trained contender is Thunder Snow, who will be trying to make amends after he was pulled up in the Kentucky Derby at the start of the month.

Winner of a French Group One as a juvenile last term, the Helmet colt claimed the UAE 2000 Guineas and Derby in Dubai over the winter and hopes were high he could put up a decent challenge in the American Classic at Churchill Downs.

However, he bucked his way through the early strides of the race, with Christophe Soumillon pulling him up after going barely any distance – a display which Saeed bin Suroor is keen to leave behind.

The trainer said: "He's been working really well and he's in good form.

"I think there might be some rain coming which would suit him as he won his Group One in France on soft, so good or good to soft ground would be fine for him.

"There was nothing obvious in Kentucky. The horse was 100 per cent both before and after the race.

"I don't know what happened there, he'd never done that before and he's not done it again. It has happened now though and we will move on.

"He has been working well, but he has Churchill to beat and he looks a star. We have lots of respect for him."


Read More at Sky Sports Racing

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