Why Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill could wow the crowds next spring

By David Williams on |


Aidan O'Brien

Here we go again! Wasn’t it this week last year that Air Force Blue was being heralded as the second coming of Pegasus, the winged horse to reinvent the game? It pretty much was. Well we all know what happened (or didn’t happen) to poor old Air Force.

Mind you, wasn’t it five years ago that we were talking about the two-year-old Frankel in much the same context? And we all know what happened next.

So hope springs eternal and Saturday’s Dewhurst once again gave us the hope to burn brightly through the winter in the shape of Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill.

The Ballydoyle colt sits – inevitably – atop the market in next year’s Guineas and Derby. His National Stakes win was impressive enough and those of us who watched him ease to victory in the Dewhurst were split between the believers and the doubters.

My own eye was drawn less to the manner of his victory but as much if not more to his conformation and the effortless manner in which he took in the preliminaries before gliding to post. He looked every bit the ready-made three year old, and this is the month of assessing (and in my case investing) whether or not a horse will “train on” from two to three.

Many infamous Ballydoyle horses haven’t done so – yet just as many have done precisely so. Churchill looked a big boy, like his namesake the politician, and if he reappears on the Rowley Mile next spring, as anticipated, he will do so as a warm order to begin his campaign for his finest hour.

Political winds of change

Racing has often had a fairly privileged position with Westminster. Roll the clock back a few hundred years and many of the Classic winning owners were members of one of the houses of Parliament (admittedly the Lords, in the main).

Nowadays, politicians can be a bit hesitant about fixing their colours to a mast so often associated with privilege. One day, perhaps, I will write about the nonsense of such a position and how racing, as much as any sport I know other than boxing, is the great unifier of society at every level. Spend a day canvassing the 70,000 at the Grand National and a fairer cross-section of society you’d be hard-pushed to find. But I digress.

These days, the government and assorted political parties tentatively dip their toes into racing’s waters, through the DCMS in the main, and frequently probably wish they hadn’t bothered.

Last week, an apparent leak from Downing Street suggested that the government would look into advertising on TV by bookies during live sport. Some purists might welcome such a move, but the commentators have been out in force to remind government and readers that such a move – unchecked – would signal the end of terrestrial racing on TV.

It sounds like a Domesday scenario but we operate in a sport where the finances provided by the betting industry pulse through every aspect of the game. Many don’t like it, but only the deluded dare ignore it. These are perilous times for all concerned.

I’m a convert, for this year at least

I hold my hands up and admit I’ve been a doubter but am coming round to being a convert. For me, no race meeting has the right to rival the Arc at Longchamp when it comes to the pinnacle of European racing.

I’ve never been to the Breeders’ Cup but it lacks the whole heartedness with which Arc day in Paris consumes me. The Irish have done great things with their September Champions Day and this weekend, the British step forward once again with their own version of Champions Day. For years, Frankel propped it up with his all-encompassing appeal to reach>Tipping downTipping down

The only thing that could ruin Champions Day would be my tips, but it is a risk I am willing to bear.

I’ll be siding with Galileo Gold in the QE2 but with next to no confidence that we can overturn Ribchester, and I’ll throw Jack Hobbs into the mix as a 20/1 each way chance in the Champions Stakes in the ‘hope’ that a few of his rivals might be suffering from one race too many. It’s an affliction that comes to us all, after all!

Top image: Aidan O’Brien with his son Joseph, by Monkeywing via Flickr, CC BY 2.0


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