Churchill beating Barney Roy in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.
It’s always a mouth-watering prospect.
This year even with only seven runners the Juddmonte International which always asks questions, asks the primary one, will Churchill get the trip of 10f? If he does will he be good enough to see off the opposition?
Let’s deal with the opposition first.
Barney Roy already has the scalp of Churchill. He overturned his Guineas run when second to Churchill by comprehensively beating him when they met over a mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He was then stepped up in trip to this distance in the Coral Eclipse last month when Ulysses sprang somewhat of a surprise to beat him a nose. Another stride would have seen Barney Roy come out on top. You can see why Richard Hannon says he’s the best he’s trained.
Sir Michael Stoute is a master with older horses and in Ulysses he has an animal who accentuates his ability perfectly. He mightn’t be noted for great patience with the media but with horses he has that in abundance. As a three-year old Ulysses offered promise but he couldn’t hit the notes required to sing at top-level. The win in the Eclipse saw him capture his first Group 1 and now his trainer who has won this five times in the past, asks him to win another. If he does he’ll follow in the footsteps of Shardari in 1986, Ezzoud in 1993 and Notnocato in 2006 who were all four-year old’s when they won it for Sir Michael. Ezzoud returned to defend it in 1994 as five year old and Singspiel also won it as a five year old in 1997.
Decorated Knight has benefited from the move from Roger to Roger. Formerly with Roger Varian he moved to Roger Charlton at the beginning of last year. He’s already contested five Group 1’s this year winning two of them. At Meydan in March he took the Jebel Hatta, the prep for the Dubai Turf. He fell short on bad ground in the main event in the Middle East but bounced back in May to take the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland. A second to Highland Reel in the Prince of Wales’s was followed by a sixth in the Eclipse.
Shutter Speed is the only filly in the field after her trainer decided to keep Enable, the best three old around, for the Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday. John Gosden’s three-year old benefits from the weight for age allowance as well as the sex allowance and being the least experienced she’ll certainly need both if she is to prevail. This will only be her fifth start. She won her first three but was 1 1/2L off Senga in the Prix de Diane in June. Senga didn’t frank the form when getting beaten at Deauville last week.
My Dream Boat will be the outsider in the field but let’s not forget he beat Found, last years Arc winner, in 2016’s Prince of Wales’s. He has not hit those heights since.
Cliffs Of Moher is nearly the forgotten horse in the line up. This year’s Derby runner-up went off favourite in the Eclipse on the back of his Epsom exploits but could only manage fourth at Sandown. You could say that was a disappointment or alternatively view it as a super performance considering he nearly came down after three furlongs.
The Eclipse form is strong, Eminent fifth at Sandown has come out and won the Prix Guliiaume d’Ornano at Deauville last week. That’s a boost for the Derby form also and on balance gives Cliffs Of Moher the edge at this distance where he deserves another chance.
Is he good enough to beat Churchill?
Churchill was champion two-year old year and is a dual Guineas winner this year yet he has something to prove. He must turn around the lacklustre run at Royal Ascot and handle the step up in trip.
That’s the question. There’s no doubt Aidan O’Brien holds both his colts in high esteem but it’s evident listening to him it’s Churchill who is the apple of his eye. His may well be matched for speed by Barney Roy but what about his stamina. There’s no question on that score for Cliffs Of Moher but is he good enough to beat both Ulysses and Barney Roy over this trip?
So many questions but back to the primary one. Will Churchill get the trip? He finished strongly at Newmarket and the Curragh suggesting he will.
If he does he wins.
Recommendations: Churchill 10/3 win
Churchill, Cliffs Of Moher RFC