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Churchill named European champion two-year-old

24 Jan 2017

The colt becomes Aidan O'Brien's ninth winner in past 18 years

Churchill winnign the Dubai Dewhust Stakes at Newmarket. Now officially the champion two-year-old.

Churchill and Ryan Moore winning 2016 The Dubai Dewhurst Stakes Newmarket. Pic Dan Abraham – focusonracing.com

Churchill, the clear favourite for this season’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas, was today named Europe’s two-year-old champion as the classifications for 2016 were published.

Given a rating of 122, Churchill just saw off Lady Aurelia – who was bidding to become the first female two-year-old champion since Ravinella – who was given a mark of 121 for her destructive performance in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot; and National Defense (118) – the wide-margin winner of the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere in France.

The decision means Aidan O’Brien is responsible for his ninth European champion two-year-old in the past 18 years as his charge follows in the footsteps of his stablemate Air Force Blue, who took the award last year with a rating of 124.

Beaten only once – on his debut – in his career, Churchill rounded last season off with a stylish win in the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and is now a red-hot favourite to land the first Classic of the season on the opening weekend of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

Mark Bird, Irish Turf Club Handicapper and delegate at the European two-year-old meeting, said: “Churchill’s final rating of 122 sits just marginally below this century’s par rating for a European Champion two-year-old of 123. However, the progressive nature of his form allied to his obvious physical scope and impressive pedigree give rise to hope that his early career may be just the launch pad to greater success as a three-year-old.

“As his namesake once stated, “the price of greatness is responsibility”, so we hope and expect that Churchill will live up to his reputation in 2017”.

Graeme Smith, British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Handicapper responsible for two-year-olds, added: “How Lady Aurelia will fare in 2017 is one of the more intriguing questions for the season ahead. Neither her success in the Prix Morny nor her subsequent defeat in the Cheveley Park came close to substantiating her Royal Ascot performance in ratings terms. However, the step up to six furlongs following the Queen Mary may well have been a contributing factor and I for one am keeping an open mind with regard to her three-year-old prospects”.