A champion at two, Churchill (3c Galileo-Meow, by Storm Cat) became a Classic winner on his first start at three with a brilliant victory in front of a bumper crowd watching the G1 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
The Galileo colt, a dual G1 winner last season, was settled in mid-division in what looked a high-class renewal of the mile Classic.
Ryan Moore asked his mount for an effort on the rising ground, eventually finishing a length clear of the first-crop Excelebration colt Barney Roy (3c Excelebration-Alina, by Galileo), putting in a superb run to come second.
“He’s a beautiful mover with a fantastic mind,” said Moore. “He gave me a lot of confidence all the way through the race. He’s very straightforward and has done everything right through his whole career and got better. He’s improved with every run. He beat the best there was at two and so far he’s done the best performance at three. I think he’ll improve on today.
“He was always racing comfortably – he was there a little bit early. It always feels like there’s more every time you ask him.
“He’s such a lovely horse and he’ll never be ultra-impressive. He has so much power there. He has a magnificent mind. I think he has everything you want in a racehorse – he travels, he’s got speed and loads of class.
“When I saw him in the paddock I was happy, watching him walking around the ring. Then when you get on him he just feels like a different type of horse, he floated to the start. He couldn’t have felt in better shape. He’s just a beautiful athlete with a great mind.”
Aidan O’Brien has always held the winner in high regard and, although bookmakers make Churchill favourite for races such as the G1 Derby and G1 St James’s Palace Stakes, the Ballydoyle trainer stated that no decision had been taken on future plans.
“I was very worried about it being his first run. He’s a big horse and we knew he would come on for it,” said O’Brien. “Everyone at home around the horse was happy, which gave us confidence.
“He was always a big, mature horse last year and with those you sometimes worry about going from two to three. But he looks great and has a marvellous mind. He’s very relaxed and his demeanour was very good when we were tacking him up
“We always thought he was a horse with a lot of speed. Ryan was very happy to be handy if they weren’t going very quickly. The pace was sensible.
“We could go a lot of roads with him, the lads will decide. He has speed, but he has a very relaxed way of racing. Horses by Galileo very rarely lack stamina. I think he’d get 10 furlongs well but you wouldn’t know about a mile and a half.”
Trainer Richard Hannon was delighted with the run of Barney Roy and reported that his next start will come on the opening day of Royal Ascot.
“I’m very proud of him. The G1 St James’s Palace Stakes is likely to be on the cards for him now,” said Hannon.
Barney Roy’s jockey James Doyle added: “I’m really proud of him, we were hoping for a better pace. He’s still a big baby, green and raw. He didn’t handle the dip but when he hit the rising ground he was finishing fast at the finish. It was a cracking run.”
Galileo’s daughter Seventh Heaven (4f Galileo-La Traviata, by Johannesburg) had started the day on a bright note for Galileo, O’Brien and Moore when winning the G2 Jockey Club Stakes.
Last season’s G1 Irish Oaks and G1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine came home five lengths clear of One Foot In Heaven (5h Fastnet Rock-Pride, by Peintre Celebre) in the 12-furlong contest.
“She’s a lovely mare, she gets a mile and a half well and she loves good ground or better and is progressing all the time,” said O’Brien. “We came here today with one eye on the G1 Coronation Cup. Hopefully, she’s a mare to look forward to this year.”
Ryan Moore added: “She felt fantastic today and is a better filly than last year. She’s done remarkably well from three to four.”