Churchill aims to rule in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes

The Gurkha on his way to beating Galileo Gold in the 2016 Qatar Sussex Stakes / Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Gurkha on his way to beating Galileo Gold in the 2016 Qatar Sussex Stakes / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Leading horses from home and abroad have been entered in this year’s £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes.

The contenders should ensure it is another thrilling renewal of the showpiece race of Glorious week – and it is clearly one that Irish No1 Aidan O’Brien wants to win.

A total of 15 of the 40 entries at this early stage are O’Brien-trained, and they include superstar Churchill, who has just completed an English and Irish 2000 Guineas double and who Goodwood race-goers would love to see on the Downs.

O’Brien is the current holder of the Sussex Stakes crown, having saddled The Gurkha to success last year.

There’ll be no challenge from Galileo Gold, the Qatar-owned horse who was runner-up last year. The Hugo Palmer-trained four-year-old was retired through injury earlier this week.

This year’s Qatar Sussex Stakes takes place on Wednesday, August 2 – one of three Group 1 contests at the festival in three days.

Churchill looks the pick of the Classic generation over a mile following victories in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and Irish equivalent at the Curragh.

The number in the field will be whittled down in July.

Churchill looks the pick of the Classic generation over a mile following victories in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and Irish equivalent at the Curragh, while four-year-old Ribchester made short work of his rivals in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 20.

Both colts are now on course for Royal Ascot in June, with Goodwood the big mile target after that.

O’Brien is chasing a sixth Sussex Stakes success for Coolmore partnerships. He is also responsible for exciting filly Winter, who completed the 1,000 Guineas double emphatically at the Curragh last weekend, alongside Cliffs Of Moher and Rhododendron, both strong fancies for 12-furlong Classics at Epsom Downs this weekend.

O’Brien’s successes in the Qatar Sussex Stakes have come through The Gurkha (2016), Rip Van Winkle (2009), Henrythenavigator (2008), Rock Of Gibraltar (2002) and Giant’s Causeway (2000).

Ribchester (Richard Fahey) heads a 12-strong team for Godolphin, which also includes QIPCO 2,000 Guineas runner-up Barney Roy (Richard Hannon), Irish 2,000 Guineas second Thunder Snow and Dream Castle (both Saeed bin Suroor).

Three Godolphin horses, Ramonti (2007), Noverre (2001) and Aljabr (1999), all trained by bin Suroor, have triumphed in the Qatar Sussex Stakes.

Le Brivido (Andre Fabre) is one of two French-trained entries for the Qatar Sussex Stakes this year. The three-year-old son of Siyouni just lost his unbeaten record in a thrilling French 2,000 Guineas at Deauville on May 14, going down by a short-head to Brametot.

Brametot’s trainer Jean-Claude Rouget relies on another Al Shaqab Racing-owned colt in Zelzal, a decisive winner of the G1 Prix Jean Prat over a mile at Chantilly in July last year and successful in three other races as a three-year-old.

Zelzal, by Sea The Stars, has not raced since finishing third to Vadamos in the G1 Prix du Moulin, also over a mile at Chantilly, in September.

Harry Herbert, racing manager for Al Shaqab Racing, reported: “Zelzal is in good form. He was affected by the virus [at Jean-Claude’s] and was actually one of the first to get it. Thankfully, it did not affect him anything like as badly as some of the other horses.

“He is back in the swing of things now and the plan is for him to return to action next month.

“We have got high hopes for him. He is much stronger and has really matured.

“Zelzal showed last year that he is very talented on his day. I still don’t think we saw the best of him last season, especially at the backend, and he could be anything this year.”

Al Shaqab Racing’s star miler Galileo Gold, second to The Gurkha last year, had been due to be entered in this year’s renewal but it was announced on May 29 that he had a soft-tissue injury and was being retired.

Other eye-catching 2017 Qatar Sussex Stakes entries include Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes runner-up Lightning Spear (David Simcock), who defeated Zonderland (Clive Cox) in the G2 Doom Bar Celebration Mile at Goodwood in August, and exciting three-year-old filly Dabyah (John Gosden).

The Qatar Sussex Stakes is part of the QIPCO British Champion Series.

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