Racing UK

Aidan O’Brien excited at Churchill’s St James’s Palace Stakes bid 20 years on

Sunday 18 June 2017

By Geoffrey Riddle

Aidan O’Brien is looking forward to the rematch between dual Guineas winner Churchill and Godolphin’s Barney Roy in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday in a landmark year for the Irish trainer. 

Churchill and Barney Roy will engage in the exciting clash after both featured in a final field of eight runners for Group One contest over a mile on Sunday.

Asked if he saw it as a head-to-head between the two horses, O’Brien replied: "There are lot of good horses in the race and we have total respect for them all."

The Irish handler is seeking his eighth St James’s Palace Stakes and his 56th Royal Ascot winner, having saddled Harbour Master to win the Coventry Stakes at 16-1 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."

Last year's champion juvenile Churchill has made a brilliant start to his three-year-old campaign, winning both the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

The Ballydoyle handler also looks in a strong position tactically, as he also saddles Lancaster Bomber and Peace Envoy in the QIPCO British Champions Series contest.

“We were delighted with Churchill 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.”

Barney Roy is one of two Godolphin-owned runners along with Saeed bin Suroor's Thunder Snow, who bounced back from a shocking effort in the Kentucky Derby to finish second to Churchill at the Curragh. 

Barney Roy was just a length behind Churchill on the Rowley Mile and sidestepped a trip to Ireland, with trainer Richard Hannon keen to ensure his charge is at his best in Berkshire this week.

Richard Fahey's Forest Ranger, the William Haggas-trained Rivet and Simon Dow's outsider Mr Scaramanga complete the line-up.

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