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Aidan O’Brien updates on Guineas hopes

13 Apr 2017

Get the latest on Churchill, Rhododendron and all the other stars

Churchill O'Brien

The QIPCO British Champions Series kicks off at Newmarket next month with the first Classics of the season at the QIPCO Guineas Festival.

Nobody has had more winners in the 2000 Guineas than trainer Aidan O’Brien and he today delivered an update on his potential runners in both the Saturday feature and the QIPCO 1000 Guineas on the Sunday, to the Thoroughbred Daily News.

QIPCO 2000 Guineas

Churchill is the antepost favourite to land the first Classic of the season, having landed five of his contests so far and he was subsequently named the European Champion two-year-old. We highlighted him as one of the potential stars of this year’s Series earlier in the summer and O’Brien says he is ‘doing everything unbelievably well’ ahead of the race.

“He looks a different creature altogether. He’s big, he’s powerful, he has a good mind and he’s a great mover,” O’Brien told the Thoroughbred Daily News.

“He was never really tested last year, but I think what crowned him was the bump he got off Mehmas in the National Stakes, as that really seemed to wake him up. Up until then, he had been inclined to idle when in front, but that seemed to spark him up and he stretched right away from them late on. He learned from that.

“In terms of trip, I always thought he’d be fine at a mile and maybe up to a mile-and-a-quarter. I wouldn’t be sure about a mile-and-a-half for him, but his temperament will give him every chance if he’s ever asked to try it.”

With Caravaggio now aimed at the Poule d’Essai des Poulains in France, War Decree seems to be O’Brien’s chief supporting act in the 2000 Guineas. He won the Vintage Stakes very impressively at Goodwood and his performance in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket next week will be influential in his next step.

“He was a little bit off in front after the Vintage Stakes and missed a month, so we just didn’t have enough time to get him back to the track after that. He’s nearly ready to start and the Craven is what we are looking at for him. He’s a big horse and has done well in physical terms since last year. He’s done so well that you’d worry he might take a run just to tighten him up.

“We’ll see what happens in the Craven before we decide whether he’ll go to the Newmarket or French 2000 Guineas. He’s an unusually good mover, he covers a lot of ground and barely touches it, so fast ground should suit him well.”

QIPCO 1000 Guineas

Remarkably, O’Brien also saddles the favourite in this race, although Rhododendron will have many more of her stablemates to worry about than Churchill will – although O’Brien is sure the step up in trip will be in her favour.

“She’s doing everything right and it’s all going to plan with her so far. She’s a big, rangy filly that has done plenty well in physical terms over the winter. She will go straight to Newmarket for the 1000 Guineas and should have no problem stepping up to a mile-and-a-quarter in due course. I think she is versatile when it comes to ground.”

After making an impressive winning return earlier this month, Hydrangea put herself firmly in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas picture – although her trip after that is up for debate.

“She’s a solid filly that is being trained for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. She was very straight in fitness terms going to Leopardstown. She’s very genuine, very clear winded and while she might get a mile-and-a-quarter, I wouldn’t be sure about her getting a mile-and-a-half.”

A sign of the embarrassment of riches that O’Brien has was evident in last year’s Cheveley Park Stakes when he saddled the first two home in Brave Anna and Roly Poly.

The two will face off once again in the Nell Gwyn Stakes on Tuesday with a tilt at the 1000 Guineas dependant on how they perform at Newmarket.

Speaking about Brave Anna, O’Brien said: “The plan is to start her off in the Nell Gwyn at Newmarket. While she was never a magic work horse, she’s done well physically over the winter and her work has been nice this year. She disappointed us when she stepped up to seven furlongs last season, but hopefully her run at Newmarket will give us a better idea of whether we should chance running her in a Guineas or step back to a shorter trip. She likes fast ground.”

Roly Poly was very busy as a two-year-old and was last seen running at the Breeders’ Cup meeting where she disappointed in the Juvenile Turf Stakes. On her, O’Brien added: “She’s being aimed at the Nell Gwyn and could run in that along with Brave Anna. She was a hardy 2-year-old, we gave her plenty of racing and she took it with a smile on her face. If her trial goes well, we’ll look at running her in a Guineas, be it the English or the French. She’s doing everything right so far this season and I think she’ll get a mile.”

Lurking under the radar for O’Brien is Promise To Be True, who could be a horse to follow all the way to the Investec Oaks, her trainer thinks.

“I was happy with her at Leopardstown,” O’Brien told the Thoroughbred Daily News. “Seven furlongs is as short as she’ll ever want to go, as she’s a filly that will probably get a mile-and-a-half. She was forward enough in physical terms, but mentally she might not have really clicked in yet and that might have just caught her out on the day. She could go for the 1000 Guineas, the Irish 1000 Guineas and then onto the Oaks. She will progress from race-to-race and will probably improve when she steps up in trip. She’s a very solid, uncomplicated filly.”

Completing O’Brien’s line-up for the race could be Winter, who joined the yard after trainer David Wachman retired last year. She finished a head behind Hydrangea last time out and her trainer thinks she could step up in trip even further after the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.

“David always liked her last year and felt she was one of his better fillies. I was very happy with her at Leopardstown as she was drawn badly, caught wide and just ran a bit too free. Wayne Lordan was impressed with how well she kept galloping after racing as freely as she did. There’s a chance she’ll go to the 1000 Guineas and come back for the Irish equivalent before stepping up in trip after that. She’s out of a fast mare, but she should stay a mile-and-a-quarter and might get a mile-and-a-half. Physically, she looks like a middle-distance filly.”

For further updates on Aidan O’Brien’s possible QIPCO British Champions Series stars, read the full stable tour over on the Thoroughbred Daily News website.