05/04/2017 1:34PM

Churchill favored at Newmarket

Neville Hopwood/Dubai Racing Club
Lancaster Bomber, second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall, will be one of the contenders in the English 2000 Guineas.

Saturday is Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, and across the Atlantic Ocean at Newmarket Racecourse in England, a horse named Churchill is the favorite to win the Group 1 English 2000 Guineas, the first European classic race of the season.

The one-mile Guineas drew an unusually short field of 10 runners, and the ante-post betting market, at least, suggests this is a four-horse race between Churchill, Barney Roy, Al Wukair, and Eminent. American racing fans will recognize one of the race’s longer prices, Lancaster Bomber, who finished second last fall in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

It was in fact Lancaster Bomber who finished second to Churchill when the Aidan O’Brien-trained Guineas favorite last was seen racing, winning the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. Churchill, Europe’s 2-year-old champion, lost his career debut, but then reeled off five straight victories, twice at the Group 1 level. O’Brien does not typically give his top 2-year-old a Guineas prep, and Churchill has been prepared for this start strictly on workouts in Ireland. His backers will assume his  juvenile superiority has carried over to age 3, though that is certainly not assured.

Al Wukair could give trainer Andre Fabre his third English 2000 Guineas winner, and his most recent starter in the race, Territories, finished second in 2015. While he is unbeaten in three starts – two last year, one this spring – Al Wukair does not have anything close to Churchill’s credentials, but he has displayed strong and sustained acceleration, and was a good winner of the Group 3 Prix Djebel, his Guineas prep, about three weeks ago in France.

Barney Roy, trained by Richard Hannon Jr., was a flashy debut winner over one mile at Haydock in his only start at 2, and caught the eye wining the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Newbury on April 22 in his 3-year-old bow.

Eminent also has won both times he raced, and his two starts came at Newmarket, with Eminent most recently capturing the Craven Stakes, an April 20 course-and-distance prep for the Guineas.

While it is chilly and wet this weekend at Churchill Downs, conditions at Newmarket are forecast to be much more comfortable for Churchill’s bid to win the Guineas, a straight-course mile expected to be contested over good-to-firm going. Post time for the race is 10:35 a.m. Eastern.