O'Brien looks to Churchill to deliver record racing victory
Legendary Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien can make another piece of history on Saturday if favourite Churchill wins the English 2000 Guineas to give him a record eighth victory in the mile classic.
Churchill -- who is also favourite for the blue riband of flat racing the Epsom Derby -- arrives at Newmarket unbeaten in his last five starts as a juvenile including the prestigious Dewhurst Stakes at the same racecourse last October.
Like his previous seven winners -- which put him alongside 19th century trainer John Scott -- Churchill will be making his first start of the season.
"He seems to be fine," said 47-year-old O'Brien.
"Everything has gone well. He was a very mature two-year-old, big and strong with plenty of scope. I've been very happy with him over the winter."
O'Brien provides two of the other eight participants -- making it the smallest field since the 1998 edition when he trained the winner King of Kings -- but William Hill have taken the bold step of opposing him by edging him out to 2/1 favourite.
His two main rivals appear to be Barney Roy, trained by Richard Hannon, and Al Wukair, who travels over from France with the considerable weight of having another training legend Andre Fabre as his handler.
"He couldn't be in better form and I'm confident he will go very close," said Fabre, who has won the Guineas twice though Pennekmap his second victor was back in 1995.
"He is well balanced and will handle the track," added the 71-year-old.
Barney Roy -- bought by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Godolphin Operation on the basis of an impressive maiden win last year -- would give Hannon his second win in the race after his Night of Thunder triumphed in 2014.
- 'Most exciting horses' -
Barney Roy comes to the Guineas having won in impressive style at Newbury on his only outing this season the Group Three Greenham Stakes beating another Godolphin runner Dream Castle, who re-opposes on Saturday.
"Barney Roy is one of the most exciting horses we have had here in a very long time, and hopefully he will run a very big race in the Guineas," said Hannon.
Dream Castle is one of two runners in the race -- the other Eminent who landed the influential Guineas trial the Craven Stakes in April -- by the unbeaten Frankel whose six length victory in this race in 2011 marked him out as an exceptional talent.
O'Brien also has high hopes of taking the fillies mile classic the 1000 Guineas on Sunday.
Whilst his trio in the 2000 Guineas have martial sounding names -- Lancaster Bomber and Spirit of Valor being the other two -- his trio of fillies sport names more associated with nature with Rhododendron his standard bearer.
O'Brien has done the Guineas double twice before in 2005 and 2012 and is a big fan of Rhododendron.
"Rhododendron is a very nice filly and she won the Fillies' Mile well last year," O'Brien told Racing UK.
"She got a mile well as a two-year-old last year so you would imagine she'll get a good bit further this year.
"She's in good form, she's a clear-winded, good-minded filly and we think she's straightforward enough to ride."
The main opposition from her 13 rivals is likely to come from the John Gosden-trained Daban and adding some spice to the pot Intricately trained by O'Brien's son Joseph.
Intricately has already claimed the scalp of Rhododendron in the Group One Moyglare Stakes last year but Joseph like his father is not one for fist pumps or hyping a horses's chances.
"It's nice to have a runner," he told Racing UK.
"You can't go into a race like the 1000 Guineas expecting to win.
"It would be unbelievable if it did happen."
© 2017 AFP