Onwards To Victory

Like his namesake, Churchill (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has taken some knockbacks but Saturday’s G1 QIPCO Irish Champion S. at Leopardstown appears an ideal opportunity for the G1 English and Irish 2000 Guineas hero to enjoy an all-important boost to his morale. All was going perfectly to the battle plan as he readily supplemented his juvenile gains in the G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National S. and G1 Dewhurst S. with victories in the Newmarket and Curragh mile Classics in May, but Michael Tabor’s imposing bay met his first snag in searing heat at Royal Ascot. Fourth in the June 20 G1 St James’s Palace S., he was forced to miss the Sussex due to the torrential rain that hit Goodwood and was again scuppered by the weather when second in York’s G1 Juddmonte International S. last time on Aug. 23. “Ryan was very happy with him [at York], other than he didn’t win,” the Ballydoyle trainer said. “We said that he would improve for York, fitness-wise, but it will be interesting. Ryan was always very happy that he would get a mile and a quarter. He always had a lot of confidence in him and he rode him like that. That was the right thing to do. He’s a big, solid horse and that race was over a mile and a quarter. It looked like he got it, but, obviously, Leopardstown is a stiffer mile and a quarter. We always felt we’d be very happy going back to a mile any time we wanted to. He was a Chesham winner as a 2-year-old and very few horses that turn out that early keep going the way he’s going.”

As he was there, Churchill is once again aided by the more-than-capable Cliffs of Moher (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who was fourth after helping to carve out the early pace. Earning ‘TDN Rising Star’ status at this track when storming to a resounding maiden win over seven furlongs in October, Ballydoyle’s second string has Seamie Heffernan in the saddle and that combination will be dangerous if left alone on the lead. Cliffs of Moher is priced up here on the basis that he was soundly beaten at York, but he did finish in front of Sir Peter Vela’s Eminent (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) on two occasions prior to that when they were second and fourth in the June 3 G1 Epsom Derby and when fourth and fifth with a short head separating them in the G1 Eclipse S. at Sandown on July 8.

Eminent, who was only sixth behind Churchill on the only occasion that their paths have crossed in the 2000 Guineas, seemed to step up notably on his Derby and Eclipse efforts when sent to the front by Ryan Moore in the G2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano over this trip at Deauville on Aug. 15. He duly turned that race into a procession and with an inside draw, ideal ground conditions and trip and ace pilot Frankie Dettori on board, a career-best is in the offing. “We’re really looking forward to it,” trainer Martyn Meade’s son and assistant Freddie said. “We’ve been very happy with him since his run in France. We achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve there–it served as a nice confidence-booster for him. I think this horse has done well to achieve what he has already this year, as he’s only just starting to mature and grow into his frame. He’s seems to be getting there now. It’s a massive plus to have Frankie Dettori on our side. He’s won this race a few times and he’s one of the world’s best. We’ve drawn in stall one, so tactically it should be fairly simple and Frankie will ride him as he finds him.”

Despite having less-than-ideal credentials for this test, Saeed Suhail’s Poet’s Word (Ire) (Poet’s Voice {GB}) is nevertheless thrown in by Sir Michael Stoute and if the rain comes will be less inconvenienced than some having overcome testing ground when winning the G3 Glorious S. over 12 furlongs at Goodwood last time on Aug. 4. That also applies to Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez’s Zhukova (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) and now that Dermot Weld’s stable has emerged from the doldrums it is impossible to ignore her at the meeting at which she captured the G3 Kilternan S. 12 months ago. Subsequently disappointing when seventh in the G1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies Mares S. at Ascot in October, the imposing bay took full advantage of a favourable weight and yielding going when dominating the GI Man o’ War S. at Belmont Park on May 13 and may have needed her return to action when fourth in the G1 Pretty Polly S. at The Curragh on July 2.

Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar’s May 28 G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Decorated Knight (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) was fifth in the Juddmonte International and has questions to answer, while course specialists Success Days (Ire) (Jeremy) and Moonlight Magic (GB) (Cape Cross {Ire}) have to improve off latest wins in the July 29 G2 York S. and July 20 G3 Meld S. respectively. Success Days’s trainer Ken Condon commented, “He was very tough at York. He did it the hard way and he wasn’t for passing. He’d been chinned a couple of times earlier in the season, so it was nice for him to get his head in front and he’s come out of the race super.” Jim Bolger said of Moonlight Magic, “He’s won two Group 3 races and we’re optimistic that he can win a Group 1 race before the year is out.”

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