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Churchill set for royal rematch with Barney Roy

18 Jun 2017

The QIPCO 2000 Guineas one-two clash again in the St James's Palace Stakes

Churchill Aidan O'Brien

Churchill seeks an eighth successive win at Royal Ascot. Picture: Racingfotos.com

Aidan O’Brien says Churchill has had a smooth preparation ahead of his attempt to enhance his already towering reputation in the £400,000 St James’s Palace Stakes (4.20pm) on the opening day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday.

Churchill will be the first of four short-priced favourites that O’Brien runs in the eight Group 1 races at the five-day meeting – all of them forming part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.

The Galileo colt lost his maiden tag at Royal Ascot 12 months ago in the Chesham Stakes and went on to win twice at Group 1 level and be crowned champion two-year-old. This year, he has extended his winning sequence to seven with victories in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. He had Thunder Snow two and a half lengths back in second on the latter occasion.

“We were delighted with him at Newmarket and again when he won at the Curragh,” O’Brien said. “Everything has gone fine since then. He’s very straightforward and he should be happy on the [good to firm] ground.”

The St James’s Palace Stakes, run over the round mile, has been billed as a match between Churchill and the Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy, who finished a length runner-up in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas. Asked if he saw it that way, O’Brien replied: “There are lot of good horses in the race and we have total respect for them all.”

The first of the Ballydoyle-based trainer’s 55 Royal Ascot winners, which include seven previous triumphs in the St James’s Palace Stakes, was achieved in 1997. “It doesn’t feel like 20 years ago, it’s been brilliant,” the 47-year-old said. “It’s a lot of hard work by a lot of people and we are very grateful to everybody. We are a very small part of the team and are privileged to be part of it.

“Royal Ascot is an unbelievable meeting and I think it’s something that everyone looks forward to every year. It’s great to be able to have the horses to compete there and we really enjoy it.”

In addition to Churchill, O’Brien will also be represented by Lancaster Bomber and Peace Envoy, while the William Haggas-trained Rivet drops back to a mile after finishing eighth in the QIPCO Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly last time. Forest Ranger and Mr Scaramanga complete the line-up.