Churchill heads straight to Guineas after working at Naas
In glorious sunshine at Naas on Monday champion trainer Aidan O’Brien gave a thrilling foretaste of the firepower he has to unleash.
The 80 horses he exercised were headed by hot Qipco 2,000 Guineas favourite Churchill, whom he said would head straight to Newmarket on May 6 without a warm-up run.
A top-priced 7-1 to win the Investec Derby, last year's champion two-year-old was given an outing over seven furlongs with fellow Guineas hope Caravaggio, who will test his Newmarket credentials at Dundalk next month.
Ridden by O'Brien's son Donnacha, Churchill, winner of the Group 1 Dewhurst and National Stakes, went in a group of 13 on an afternoon when his 1,000 Guineas favourite, Rhododendron, also flexed her muscles.
O'Brien, gunning for his eighth 2,000 Guineas winner in 20 years, said about Churchill, a top-priced 6-4 for this year's race: “He's a fine big, powerful colt and we rate him very highly. We haven't thought beyond the Guineas and we'll see how he gets on at Newmarket before thinking further down the line.
"We're very happy with Churchill and the plan is to send him straight to Newmarket once everything goes well over the next few weeks."
However, Caravaggio, last seen when winning the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August, is likely to run at Dundalk on April 12 before any decision is made about his Guineas participation.
O'Brien said about Caravaggio, 7-1 second favourite for the Guineas and ridden by Seamie Heffernan at Naas: "He's never raced beyond six furlongs, so before asking him to go a mile.
"We're looking at running him in the Listed Patton Stakes over seven furlongs at Dundalk and see how things go. He had a very minor hold-up after winning the Phoenix Stakes and we just ran out of time with him."
Heffernan was also on board Rhododendron, the 9-2 favourite for the first fillies' Classic on May 7.
"She's done well and I'd imagine she'll go straight to Newmarket, " O'Brien said of the Fillies' Mile winner who went in a group that included Hydrangea, Promise To Be True, Roly Poly and Brave Anna.
"Apart from Rhodendron, the other fillies entered for the Guineas will probably run in some of the trials.
"We have plenty of colts to run in the different Derby trials, including Cliffs Of Moher, Sir John Lavery, Capri, Yucatan and Douglas Macarthur."
Also involved at Naas were seven-time Group 1 winner Minding, one of the big stars of last season, and Ascot Gold Cup winner and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe third Order Of St George.
O'Brien said: "Minding might start off her campaign back here at Naas in the Alleged Stakes or maybe the Mooresbridge Stakes, and we'll probably campaign here over a mile and a quarter in the first half of the season.
"Order Of St George is likely to reappear in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan on April 23 and will be campaigned from a mile and a half upwards, with the Ascot Gold Cup again a target."
US Army Ranger, who failed to win in three attempts after finishing second to Harzand in the Investec Derby, is back to try to justify the big reputation he took to Epsom after winning the Chester Vase.
O'Brien said: "He's done well and he might start off in a Group 2 over a mile and a quarter back here at Naas."