The Aidan O’Brien-trained Churchill justified 6/4 favouritism to land the first British Classic of the season, the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and provide Ballydoyle maestro O’Brien with a record eighth victory in the Newmarket Group One.
Winner of the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at the track last term, doubts were raised as to whether the son of Galileo would be fit enough to do himself justice on his seasonal reappearance, but the three-year-old quelled those doubts with an authoritative victory under Ryan Moore.
The strapping colt tracked stable companion Lancaster Bomber early on in the mile contest and when approaching the cut-away, Moore angled his mount towards the near-side rail, with Churchill showing a potent turn of foot to quicken clear decisively in the final furlong to register a comfortable length success from Richard Hannon’s Barney Roy, who didn’t handle the dip very well and Andre Fabre’s fast-finishing Al Wukair back in third.
Churchill had a lofty reputation to live up to not just on his ability, but also winter talk and his name, but he duly delivered and has now set up a potential tilt at the Investec Derby in June despite doubts remaining as to whether he will get the trip.
A delighted O’Brien who once again showed why he is rated as possibly the best trainer of all time, said:
It was brilliant and I’m delighted. We were a bit nervous coming here with him. He is a big horse and it was his first run and it was a very competitive race.
Donnacha (O’Brien) does all the work with him. Everyone was very happy with him and that was what was giving us confidence at home. I think Ryan was very happy with him.
He said going out if the pace was not quick, he was going to be handy and that if the pace was going to be fast, he was going to take his time.
He is a big, imposing horse with an unbelievable mind. He is very relaxed and when we were tacking up, his demeanour was very good. He was very confident and in no way anxious about anything.
O’Brien played with a straight bat when asked about whether the colt would handle the step up to 12 furlongs, for which Churchill is now a general 6/1 favourite, adding: “If he got a mile well today, you would say he would get a mile and a quarter well. Obviously a mile and a half you are not sure, but I think he can go a lot of roads.”