Hannon: duel of star milers set it up for Ulysses
Churchill was bidding to repair a damaged reputation, Barney Roy was out for revenge, but neither was able to reproduce the brilliance both had shown at a mile this year.
Back in the spring dual 2,000 Guineas winner Churchill was the colt Aidan O'Brien described as "so relaxed in his races that he could probably go as far as you want".
He lasted York's extended mile and a quarter but fell two lengths short of Ulysses after edging his battle with St James's Palace Stakes conqueror Barney Roy by a neck.
O'Brien was keen to insist there were no excuses for Churchill's third defeat of his career but at the same time he put forward reasons why the colt might not have been at his best on his first run since Royal Ascot, including the consequences of him travelling over for the Sussex Stakes without running.
"He didn't wilt," he said. "We knew the ground wasn't ideal and we were happy he left his Ascot run well behind. I think he has a lot of options. He could go a mile and a quarter again or he could go a mile.
"Goodwood messed us up a little bit when we went and didn't run so we knew that we were coming here not really primed, but we were ready to run. I was worried about the change of ground. The Irish Champion Stakes is very possible but you have to be very happy with the run.
"Obviously his preparation wasn't perfect. It was hard to prime him after missing Goodwood without a run and obviously the ground has turned a little on us but I am not making excuses for it in any way, not taking away from anything."
Barney Roy had gone down by a nose to Ulysses in the Eclipse and was surging on late, suggesting he could turn the tables on the Knavesmire, but in jointly dictating the tempo in front with Cliffs Of Moher and then duelling with Churchill from two furlongs out trainer Richard Hannon suggested he could have help set the race for Ulysses.
"I think he handled the ground all right," said the trainer. "Us and Churchill took each other on a fair way out which have set it up for the winner who is obviously a very good horse. Barney Roy's run a very good race.
"He showed he was good horse and there will be other days for him. James [Doyle] said we could do with something to aim at over that trip and if it is very soft on Champions Day he could go a mile instead of a mile and a quarter. That would be the next logical step."
Shutter Speed started in the rear and was unable to mount a challenge. Frankie Dettori eased up over two furlongs out and was looking down as if there was a problem. He reported to the stewards that the filly she was never travelling.