The York Ebor Festival is a little over a week away and already there is excitement building around the Juddmonte International which will witness a mouth-watering clash between Barney Roy and Churchill.
Barney Roy, who was a nose second to Ulysses in the Eclipse at Sandown last month, was entered in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday afternoon but instead will head to the Knavesmire on Wednesday week.
His trainer Richard Hannon said: "He came out of the Eclipse fine like he normally does and he's been ticking over since. He's in great form at the moment –he did a piece of work this morning and Sean Levey seemed very pleased with him.
"It will be a good race and so it should be. You wouldn't expect anything less for the level of the prize-money that's on offer – it’s a lovely track and I think it will suit Barney.
"He's proved himself now at the top level. He proved he gets a mile and a quarter and is probably just as effective over that distance as a mile, which a lot of the good horses are.”
Barney Roy is priced at 3/1 with us here at 888sport for the £1 million Group One contest held over a mile and two and a half furlongs.
O'Brien To Give Churchill The Green Light
Just like his rival Barney Roy, Churchill also swerved the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville on Sunday in preference to an assault on the Juddmonte.
The dual Guineas winner was a late withdrawal from the Sussex Stakes at the Glorious Goodwood meeting last week due to the testing conditions but trainer Aidan O'Brien is now redirecting him to York.
O’Brien said before the French race decision: "We are looking at York with Churchill.
"It is not written in stone, but we are looking at going up to a mile and a quarter with him.
"The plan was to go to Goodwood and then go up to a mile and a quarter after that.
"If we were to go to France this week then we might not get a chance to go up to a mile and a quarter.
"If York went well then he may go on to Leopardstown (Irish Champion Stakes)."
Ryan Moore's faith in Churchill is unwavering and the number one jockey is looking forward to the three-year-old colt stepping up in trip in the Juddmonte International.
Moore believes he can bounce back with him at York.
"Things just didn't go his way in the St James's Palace Stakes," said Moore last Wednesday. "York is a lovely track and hopefully it should suit him."
Highland Reel May Be One To Consider
Aidan O'Brien has not ruled out the possibility of dropping multiple Group One winner Highland Reel back in trip for another crack at the race.
The five-year-old may now tackle the mile and a quarter distance for this race again having finished second behind Postponed twelve months ago.
O'Brien said: "It was a good run at Ascot in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but obviously he likes nice ground and always has.
"We could possibly look at York as he is in Juddmonte. It is a possible, but we won't decide for until nearer the time."
Ulysses Is A Consistent Performer
Adding another scintillating dimension to the race, should he take up his entry, is the possible participation of Sir Michael Stoute’s Ulysses.
Although the Breeders' Cup Turf remains the long-term target for the four-year-old, connections are contemplating which 10-furlong Group One contest he will take in next.
After scoring at Sandown last month, the son of Galileo found only Enable too strong when tackling a mile and a half in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Alan Cooper, racing manager to the owners, said: "We are going to have a chat with Sir Michael Stoute later this week and the plan for him will then become much clearer.
"He ran a super race in the King George, but he just met a very good filly.
"We just like to give the horse plenty of time to see how he is. He is in good form, but we would just like to wait a few days to decide if we go to York or Leopardstown.
"They are the two obvious options for him in August and September, and then we will have a chat and re-group after that. All being well, the Breeders' Cup is the long-term plan again."
So Mi Dar Will Want Better Ground
Connections of So Mi Dar expect the high-class filly to "improve immensely" for her belated seasonal reappearance in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and there has been some support for her in the betting for the Juddmonte.
So Mi Dar finished fifth of six runners on the Sussex Downs, but was not beaten far by the excellent Winter.
Simon Marsh, racing manager for owners Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber, said: "Having missed the Middleton Stakes at York because of the ground before she had this muscle enzyme problem that has kept her off the track, we had no option but to run her.
"She didn't like the ground and there was a slow pace, which didn't suit her, but she ran a perfectly fine race.
"She's come out of the race well and I'm sure she'll improve immensely. Hopefully you'll see a much better filly next time she runs on more suitable ground.
John Gosden’s charge is now a 16/1 shot in the betting.
At the time of writing, odds for the Juddmonte International at York on Wednesday 23rd August are as follows:
3/1 Barney Roy. 7/2 Churchill & Ulysses, 6/1 Highland Reel, 8/1 Winter, 10/1 Queens Trust, 12/1 bar.