Churchill to state Classic bid

Churchill heads the Guineas betting

Aidan O'Brien does not envisage the smaller-than-expected field at Newmarket on Saturday posing any problems for Qipco 2000 Guineas favourite Churchill.

Last year's leading juvenile has been ante-post favourite all winter and despite not running since October, his position has hardened in recent days – despite some impressive performances from winners of the trial events.

O'Brien ran some of his lesser lights in those trials to gauge the opposition and retains full faith in his number one hope.

"So far so good. Everyone has been happy so far and everything has gone smoothly," said O'Brien.

"There are only 10 in it but I think all the main ones are there, all the trial horses and the French horse (Al Wukair).

"He's a straightforward horse, last year he just used to follow the leaders.

"I don't see the small field as a problem – I suppose it would be better for the race if they came up in one group rather than split into two.

"It's a high-quality race. All the horses you'd expect to be there are there, whereas in other years there might be some lesser horses.

"We're very happy, he's done everything very well. Anything we've asked him to do, he's done and done very well – always.

"Obviously we haven't given him a run, but he's been away. Donnacha (O'Brien) rides him every day and is very happy with him."

O'Brien also runs Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor.

Master French trainer Andre Fabre is always respected when he brings one over, having won the race twice in three years with Zafonic (1993) and Pennekamp (1995), and saddles the unbeaten Al Wukair.

"The ground is not a worry for him as he has won on soft and it was on the fast side for the Prix Djebel," said Fabre.

"He seems well balanced so the course is not a major concern."

Al Wukair is owned by Al Shaqab Racing, who were successful 12 months ago with Galileo Gold.

Al Shaqab racing manager Harry Herbert said: "He was really impressive in all three of his races.

"Early on in the year, his work rider was saying he's the best he's ever ridden. I've been in the game long enough to take these things with a pinch of salt, but it's still very exciting to hear.

"He's inexperienced and whether he'll handle Newmarket, who knows?

"However, he does have an electrifying turn of foot, which we all saw in the Djebel, and it's exciting to watch.

"Andre plans so far in advance. He's known for some time he was pretty special, but he was desperate to get a run into him for experience."

The Martyn Meade-trained Eminent will be aiming to give his sire Frankel a landmark first Classic success and booked his Guineas ticket in style last month when he stayed on powerfully to beat a Group One winner in Rivet in the Craven.

"I'm really pleased with how he's come on from the Craven and it's all very exciting," said Meade.

"What's in his favour is that he's won both of his races at Newmarket – of the others, only Churchill has won there. Also his winning time in the Craven was very quick.

"What might be against him is that a mile is a minimum for him already. He'll definitely get further, hopefully a mile and a half later on.

"It might only be a small field but they all look very good. It's a tough ask to beat Churchill.

"There are lots of other horses, but Churchill is obviously one that I am concerned about.

"He has won on the track before when winning the Dewhurst, but we haven't seen him out this time."

Richard Hannon began his training career with a bang when Night Of Thunder caused a 40-1 shock in 2014 and while the Wiltshire handler admitted to backing his Barney Roy at that price before he won the Greenham, those who want to place a bet on him now will have to knock a zero off given how impressive he was.

Hannon also saddles Larchmont Lad, whom he insists is not running to "make up the numbers".

"Barney did his last piece of work on Tuesday and he worked well," said Hannon.

"I think he has got a good chance. Personally I can't wait for the race.

"Hopefully he runs his race to the level he can. He is a star, win or lose.

"It is exactly what you want the Guineas to be, four unbeaten colts at the head of the market.

"My pair are exactly where I want them and I believe I have a strong hand.

"Larchmont Lad certainly isn't going to make up the numbers, either.

"He was completely in the wrong place in the Craven and is better than the result."

Dream Castle, second to Barney Roy in the Greenham, is one of two runners for Saeed bin Suroor, who also saddles likely outsider Top Score.

Another son of Frankel, Dream Castle showed plenty of pace at Newbury and his trainer felt the colt's inexperience played a part in his defeat.

"He ran free at Newbury. He was far too keen," Bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com.

"Really, he was lacking experience. It was only his second race. Silvestre de Sousa has since come to ride him at home, with the hood fitted, and it is a case of so far, so good.

"I would like him to be nice and relaxed in the race."

James Tate runs Listed winner Law And Order, who has plenty to find.

Tate said: "He's had two runs this spring so he has fitness on his side and he likes fast ground, but he has a bit to find and I don't know if he's in love with the track.

"We'll give it another go."

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