05/25/2017 11:30AM

Churchill will never surrender as Irish 2000 Guineas favorite

Barbara D. Livingston
Thunder Snow returns to race in Saturday's Irish 2000 Guineas, less than a month after not finishing the Kentucky Derby.

It was not the eminently quotable Winston Churchill who first noted that “discretion is the better part of valor,” but that is the sentiment guiding the management of the excellent 3-year-old colt named after him.

As soon as Churchill – the horse – won the English 2000 Guineas on May 6, there was widespread assumption that the colt would go on to the Epsom Derby. But as another statesman, contemporary and not historical, might say: “Wrong!”

Rather than going British Isle-hopping and traveling to Epsom Downs next month for the 1 1/2-mile Derby, Churchill stays home in Ireland and runs Saturday in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas. The Guineas is another race over one mile, and Churchill’s connections, Coolmore and trainer Aidan O’Brien, obviously feel that shorter is better for their colt at this point in his career.

Churchill has defeated 42 foes and lost to none in six starts since he finished third in his career debut about one year ago at The Curragh, and he will be heavily favored to add a fourth Group 1 win to his résumé on Saturday. Churchill faces just five rivals in the Irish 2000 Guineas, which is run around one very gentle right-handed bend at The Curragh.

Among his challengers is Thunder Snow, who last was seen three weeks ago attempting to buck jockey Christophe Soumillon onto the wet Churchill Downs track as Thunder Snow pitched a fit just after leaving the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. Thunder Snow’s issues that day evidently were entirely psychological, as trainer Saeed bin Suroor swings him quickly back into action, but Thunder Snow lost by two lengths last year to Churchill and is just the fourth betting choice in ante-post wagering on the race.

The general second choice is the entirely unproven Irishcorrespondent, who only made his career debut April 7. Irishcorrespondent easily beat 13 when debuting in a one-mile race at Leopardstown, then was a 4 1/2-length winner going a mile at The Curragh on May 14. Michael Halford trains Irishcorrespondent, a son of the Irish star Teofilo, but O’Brien also should have considerable insight into his form, having sent out the runner-up in both of Irishcorrespondent’s races.

O’Brien has won the Irish 2000 Guineas on 11 occasions and has saddled the winner six times in the last nine years. If not Churchill, he has a capable second-string runner in Lancaster Bomber, who has lost four times to Churchill, most recently when he finished fourth in the English 2000 Guineas, but was a good second in the Group 1 Dewhurst and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall.

Glastonbury Song and Spirit of Valor complete the lineup for the Guineas, which goes at 11:10 a.m. Eastern. The course as of Thursday was rated good to firm.