Churchill was a gift for headline makers during his 13-race career even if constant mentions of him preparing for battles and, mostly, winning them got a little monotonous.
The Galileo colt was crowned champion two-year-old of 2016 and when he won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas on his first two starts in 2017 it seemed his rivals might never lower his defences.
A sequence of seven successive wins, including four triumphs at the highest level, seemed to take their toll, though, and Churchill’s career ended with a sequence of bloody noses and his reputation slightly dented.
Churchill was a relatively early starter, finishing a promising third on his debut at Curragh in May.
He lost his maiden tag in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot (landing a gamble in the process) the following month and then won Group 3 and Group 2 contests in his native Ireland before gaining successive Group 1 triumphs in the National Stakes, at the Curragh, and then Dewhurst at Newmarket.
That sequence of victories earned him an official rating of 122 and the title of Europe’s champion two-year-old, not to mention ante-post favouritism for the 2000 Guineas.
He faced three unbeaten colts at Newmarket but again proved equal to the task in something of a tactical battle – getting a near-perfect tow behind front-running stablemate Lancaster Bomber before bagging the stands’ rail and keeping on strongly to hold off the strong late challenges of Barney Roy and Al Wukair.
Three weeks later he followed up in the Irish version at the main expense of Thunder Snow and few were in a hurry to oppose him in the St James’s Palace Stakes the following month.
However, Churchill was below-par at Royal Ascot and finished a subdued fourth behind Barney Roy. Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, suggested afterwards that the hot weather might have been a factor.
Connections were hoping he could redeem himself in the Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood but pulled him out less an hour before the race after heavy rain had made the ground bottomless.
Instead, he ran next in the Juddmonte International when, stepping up to a mile-and-a-quarter for the first time, he got sucked into a prolonged battle with Barney Roy. The pair softened each other up and left the way clear for Ulysses to brush them aside in the closing stages.
Churchill stuck on to finish second at York and started 8-11 favourite to go one better in the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown but he met trouble in running and could not pick up, being beaten four lengths into seventh.
Churchill had started favourite for his first 11 races – never bigger than 5-2 – but went off 9-2 for his final race in Europe, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (sponsored by QIPCO) at Ascot on Champions Day. He gave it his all and was not far off his best in finishing a close third behind Persuasive and Ribchester.
Two weeks later he signed off his career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. It was a roll of a dice that never looked like yielding two sixes and he suffered his heaviest defeat in finishing seventh, beaten about a dozen lengths, behind Gun Runner.
It had to be the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May 2017 when he provided Aidan O’Brien with a record eighth win in the race. It was also O’Brien’s first Group 1 win of the year, with a record-breaking 27 more to follow.
The trainer was nervous beforehand that Churchill, a big colt, might need the run and as a consequence be vulnerable against three unbeaten rivals who had excelled in the traditional spring trials – Barney Roy, Al Wukair and Eminent.
Tactically, Ballydoyle got things spot-on with Churchill able to track dependable stablemate Lancaster Bomber.
Ryan Moore asked Churchill for more two out and the combination never looked like being pegged back after leading a furlong from home up against the stands’ rail. Barney Roy and Al Wukair finished well, leaving their connections thinking of what might have been, but the pair had to settle for chief supporting roles behind the length winner.
What they said:
“He’s a beautiful mover, he’s got a fantastic mind, and he fills me with confidence in the race. He feels magnificent every time I sit on him.”
Where he will he stand:
Churchill will join the star-studded stallions at Coolmore Stud, in Fethard, County Tipperary in Ireland – the headquarters of the world’s largest breeding operation. His initial covering fee will be €35,000.
Situated in the heart of the Golden Vale on over 7,000 prime acres of Ireland’s finest limestone land, Coolmore provides the ideal environment for breeding and raising thoroughbreds.
Originally inherited by Battle of Britain flying ace Tim Vigors in 1945, what was to become Coolmore Stud started out as a small agricultural farm.
John Magnier in conjunction with his late father-in-law, legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien, and Robert Sangster took over the 350-acre existing farm from Vigors in 1975 with the objective of creating a world class thoroughbred stallion operation.
Today, Coolmore is celebrated as a world-class thoroughbred stud farm which has a long list of champions on its past and present rosters.
What should we expect from his offspring:
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” said Winston Churchill. Let’s hope that Churchill, the equine version, does not have to rely on that motto at stud.
His progeny might easily develop into top-class performers over a range of distances – and expect plenty of them to excel as two-year-olds.
Churchill was himself a champion juvenile and proved himself at up to a mile and a quarter, even if a mile was probably his optimum trip.
As an imposing dual Classic-winning son of Galileo, with bundles of pace on his damline, he is sure to have plenty of suitors.
Galileo is now an eight-time champion sire and it augurs well for Churchill that 11 of his sons have sired a Group 1 winner.
Churchill’s dam was Meow, beaten a neck in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, and his second dam was Airwave, who won the Cheveley Park Stakes. And her half-sister, Jwala, won the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes.
His own-sister, Clemmie, also won the Cheveley Park Stakes – in the process becoming Galileo’s only Group 1 winner over six furlongs.
Churchill’s stock have the potential to be very fast learners. In fact, fast full stop.