Churchill fails to fire in the heat of battle for bemused O'Brien
Last year it was a masterclass from Frankie Dettori that denied Aidan O'Brien an odds-on winner of the St James's Palace with The Gurkha. For this year's vanquished favourite, Churchill, the reasons for defeat did not appear so immediately obvious.
Seeking an eighth straight win, the British and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner had already mastered Barney Roy and Thunder Snow in those Classics, yet they, and stablemate Lancaster Bomber, all finished ahead of him in the baking Ascot sunshine.
With course records tumbling left right and centre, the quick ground was posed as a possible reason for the reverse, but O'Brien did not think it had inconvenienced the son of Galileo.
"He should like fast ground," the trainer said.
Instead, O'Brien wondered whether the occasion as a whole had been to hot to handle for the colt, adding: "It's a very hot day and maybe all the heat, I don't know."
Churchill's string of wins had been built on solid, rather than spectacular performances, always doing enough to see off his rivals. However, he was unable to get to grips with the leaders under Ryan Moore and looked beaten a fair way from home.
"He just didn't pick up for some reason," O'Brien added.
That view was shared by Moore, who said: "He was never comfortable. I'm not sure why."
Perhaps Goodwood's Sussex Stakes, a likely site for a rematch between Barney Roy and Churchill, will provide revenge for O'Brien and Coolmore, as it did last year when The Gurkha turned the tables on Galileo Gold.