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Thunder Snow and heavy rain not enough to deny Churchill - IRISH 2000 GUINEAS

15/06/2017
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GODOLPHIN’s UAE Derby winner, Thunder Snow, tried valiantly but he, as well as four others, were powerless to prevent Churchill adding the Irish 2000 Guineas to his victory in the English equivalent three weeks earlier. The winner, a 3yo son of Galileo and last year’s European Champion Juvenile, has now won seven consecutive races, highlighted by two Classics and four Group Ones, only tasting defeat when third on his racecourse debut, 53 weeks before this victory.

Basically, he proved himself a class apart in the mile feature and coped admirably with the ground which was softening by the minute as heavy rain hit The Curragh, which was far from ideal, given the fact Ireland’s premier racecourse is in the middle of extensive reconstruction. As a result, temporary stands, marquees and tents have replaced the concrete infrastructure for this season so the weather literally ‘put a dampener’ on proceedings. Providing trainer Aidan O’Brien with his 11th win in the race, Churchill went off hot favourite and recorded a comfortable victory under Ryan Moore, who was sealing his second success in the Classic after riding Gleneagles two years ago, also for O’Brien.

Of the previous ten, Gleneagles, Rock Of Gibraltar and Henrythenavigator also completed the notable Guineas double. O’Brien actually started his Classic haul with Desert King in this race 20 years ago and shows no signs of stopping. Thunder Snow, who played up when pulled up in the Kentucky Derby last time, at least put those antics behind him to finish a highly commendable second under Christophe Soumillon, with the previously unbeaten Irishcorrespondent third. Owned by Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, in whose orange and blue silks he runs, Derrick Smith and John Magnier, Churchill could have the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next on his agenda.

“He’s been a pleasure to ride from day one,” said Moore. “We went a good gallop today and you could tell he wasn’t enjoying the easy ground. I had to pick him up, but when I asked him he picked up Christophe and Thunder Snow a lot sooner than I expected. Guess I should know better! “I think he’s very talented and ticks all the boxes. He goes to sleep on you and is such a good mover; he has a lot of power underneath and never misses a beat. He’s always level and that’s because he’s so strong; he’s a very special horse.” O’Brien added “He’s brave and so versatile. Ground and trip all come alike to him and he has a lovely demeanour.

He saves all the petrol, and when you ask him to quicken he quickens. “Obviously we were worried about the ground but all the lads who had ridden him were confident and especially when he’d already had a run this season. “He’s a big powerful horse and nothing is a problem to him. Coming here we were thinking we’d go from here to Ascot and he’ll probably go for the St James’s Palace. “He’d have no problem stepping up to ten furlongs later in the year. He’s so relaxed and chilled.” Of Thunder Snow, Saeed bin Suroor commented: “Thunder Snow has run very well indeed. He basically did everything right but was beaten by a better horse on the day.

“We will keep the options open for him, including the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.” Over the same mile course and distance as the feature, the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes, restricted to fillies and mares, provided Killenaule trainer Andy Slattery his biggest success thus far when Creggs Pipes made all for a convincing win. The 5yo Rip Van Winkle mare, a Listed winner last year, bounced out of the stalls and really poured it on under Declan McDonogh inside the final furlong. She came right away to beat Opal Tiara, winner of Meydan’s Group 2 Balanchine Stakes in February, comfortably with Turret Rocks back in third.

Slattery said: “She was in season yesterday morning but Evan Arkwright, the course’s commercial manager, rang me just before 10am to say there were only four in the race and we said we’d take our chance. “Everything was in her favour today with the ground and the trip. That is my biggest winner, and we’ll go to Royal Ascot now for the Duke of Cambridge.” The 6f Group 2 Greenlands Stakes was weakened by the withdrawal of the O’Brien-trained Acapulco, who was running a temperature, but allowed veteran Gordon Lord Byron to roll back the years with a truly dominant performance.

The 9yo gelding was recording his 16th career victory, three of which have been gained at the very highest level, and a change of tactics proved the key on the ever softening ground. The outsider among the six remaining runners, he was prominent throughout and in front before halfway under Chris Hayes. He stayed on really well inside the final furlong to beat Only Mine by a length and a half, with Suedois another half a length back in third. Winning trainer Tom Hogan said: “He doesn’t relish that ground any longer but Chris was brave and said he’d ride him up there as nothing was going to come from behind here today on that ground.

He went through it thank God but he’s a good actioned horse. “He’s tough and he’s genuine. That’s his 16th win and I’d like to get him to 20! He’s back up there close to the level when he won the Minstrel last year, and that’s a race he’s likely to go for again. “It’s a privilege to have him and his owners. He’s a very special horse. He’ll be up in the invitation area now for races abroad again but he’s a horse who has always needed a lot of attention to keep him right. My head man, Paddy O’Brien, who led him up today takes care of him all the time.

“He gets a mile well so seeing the trip out today was going to be no problem to him but it’s nice to win over six furlongs as well.” The juvenile highlight on the card was the Listed 6f Marble Hill Stakes and Brother Bear, part of a strong juvenile team for Jessica Harrington, booked his ticket for Royal Ascot with a smooth victory under Colm O’Donoghue. The striking son of Kodiac stayed on strongly to beat Would Be King, with U S Navy Flag running on in third. Harrington’s charge impressed on his sole previous start when landing a Leopardstown maiden and is clearly progressing.

Harrington said: “That was fantastic as I was very worried about the ground. It was good to firm at Leopardstown and he skipped across it but today it was the complete opposite. “He learned from his first run as he was quick out of the stalls today. He rolled around a bit on the ground in front. “The Coventry Stakes is more than likely where he’ll go if all is alright but he has to step up again.” O’Donoghue said: “Jessie was very happy with his work. He’s tightened up and he’s improved. He’s going through stages and it’s good to see him go and win again. “I go on what Jessie is happy with, and she gives me lots of confidence every day I ride.”

The meeting opened with a fascinating 6f juvenile fillies’ maiden full of blueblooded individuals and in which three of the 15 runners flashed past the post locked together. The verdict went the way of Gasta, a daughter of Vocalised who finished well under Kevin Manning to lead in the closing strides to beat favourite Now Your Talking by a head, with Clemmie just another head away in third. The third was never really involved after a slow start but this full-sister to Churchill caught the eye when coming home strongly. The going was officially changed to good to yielding on the straight course before racing, and a further change to yielding to soft after this race. Winning trainer Jim Bolger said: “She was a bit green but the job was eventually done. I hope there is plenty of improvement in her, and two winners I had in this race before went on to win Group Ones. “The Albany is an option for her at Royal Ascot but we will decide nearer the time.” 

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