Barney Roy avenged his defeat at the hands of Churchill at the 2000 Guineas by claiming victory at the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Richard Hannon Jr's charge was considered the outsider to Churchill, who was the overwhelming favourite to win the meet in his quest to emulate past greats. However, Barney Roy produced an outstanding performance to come through the field and finish with a flourish down the stretch to secure the crown.
Aiden O'Brien's charge failed to mount even a challenge for the victory as he could only muster a fourth-place finish - a disappointing result for the Irish horse that seemed on a charge to produce one of the great flat seasons to emulate the success of Galileo Gold.
Now the battleground has changed, with Churchill now in need to a victory to sway the balance of power back in his direction, although there are defining moments left in the campaign.
Barney Roy's victory has livened up the flat season, with now two top competitors striving to be remembered as the dominant horse of the term.
Both trainers will be working vigorously to get their charges ready for the challenges ahead as the next major showdown is scheduled for the end of July at Glorious Goodwood at the Sussex Stakes, although Ribchester is now considered the leading contender following his success at the Queen Anne Stakes in the early horse racing betting odds.
We'll now look back at the careers of both horses that competed at the St James's Palace Stakes along with Ribchester to see how they've been put on a collision course.
The Irish horse made his bow at the European Breeders Fund Maiden in Curragh in May 2016 and, although he was the favourite for the race, he was beaten out by Van der Decken and Magnification, failing to find the speed needed down the stretch to claim the victory.
In his first appearance at Royal Ascot, Churchill found the pace needed as he shined at the Chesham Stakes. Once again, the Bay Colt was favourite for the meet, although he got off to a sluggish start in the early stages. However, he surged through the field and finished strongly down the final furlong to record the first win of his career, narrowly beating out American horse Isomer.
Churchill arrived at Leopardstown aiming to secure back-to-back victories. The Tyros Stakes boasted a talented field, but the Bay Colt produced another fine outing as he used his pace to come through the pack to make his charge down the final furlong. He beat out his rival Alexios Komnenos only by a neck to notch his second victory.
O’Brien’s charge made his biggest impact at the Futurity Stakes in Curragh, overcoming future rival Lancaster Bomber with a commanding victory. He maintained a good pace throughout the meet before pulling away from the field down the stretch, beating out Radio Silence by two lengths.
Curragh proved to be a happy hunting ground for O’Brien’s charge as he notched another victory, this time at the National Stakes. On this occasion, he started strongly; although, when near the front of the pack, he struggled to break free of the crowd. However, jockey Ryan Moore ensured that the Irish horse was in position for the final furlong and he was able to ease to victory by four-and-a-quarter lengths.
Churchill signed off 2016 with his fourth win on the bounce, with another impressive performance as he edged out Lancaster Bomber at the Dewhurst Stakes. He was favoured to win the meet but he was forced to surge through the field before applying another strong finish to place ahead of his stable-mate to claim the victory. Expectations were high when the three-year-old returned to action after seven months away from the racecourse ahead of the 2000 Guineas. The meet was the first time Churchill and Barney Roy had faced off, while the field featured numerous talented horses that were all capable of claiming the victory, including Al Wukair and Eminent.
The Bay Colt delivered an emphatic display to beat out his rivals as Moore played out the race to perfection. Churchill allowed the early leaders to set the pace before he made his move heading into the final furlong, where he edged out Barney Roy by a length to take the crown at Newmarket.
The Irish 2000 Guineas allowed the three-year-old to return to familiar territory at Curragh. The majority of the field were horses trained by O’Brien, but Saeed bin Suroor’s charge Thunder Snow was expected to put forward a challenge to Churchill’s dominance. However, the quality of the three-year-old was clear as he gained the lead two furlongs out before cruising to victory by two lengths.
Churchill was expected to conquer at Royal Ascot and produce a performance much like his victory at the 2000 Guineas. Although he kept pace with the leaders heading into the final stages of the race, the Bay Colt failed to find the change of gears that he displayed in his seven victories on the spin, finishing well off the pace of his rivals in fourth. O’Brien would have been surprised by his charge’s failure and will certainly up the ante in his preparations for the Sussex Stakes.
Hannon’s charge did not have the experience of Churchill heading into the contest, with only three races under his belt before the race. That did not detract from his performance in his first appearance at Ascot as he pulled off a stunning display to defeat the favourite.
The result should not come as a surprise as Barney Roy has been a dominant force during his limited time in the sport. The Bay Colt made his bow only towards the end of last year when he competed at Haydock Park in September at the Maiden Stakes.
He was not considered the favourite in the opening race of his career. Fujaira Bridge led the field, while Muhajjal and Crowned Eagle were also in contention, with the three-year-old considered an outsider to triumph. However, Barney Roy pulled off a sensational ride as he pulled away from the competition towards the final furlong, winning the meet by three and three-quarter lengths.
A seven-month break prevented Barney Roy building on his early success but he was held out of action until April by Hannon. The Greenham Stakes boasted a talented field at Newbury, which included Bin Suroor’s charge Dream Castle who was considered the favourite for the meet, despite the three-year-old’s impressive outing at the Maiden Stakes on his debut.
Hannon’s charge proved a point as he made a strong start to the race and kept pace with the leaders before making a charge down the final furlong. His pace was too much for Dream Castle down the stretch, defeating his rival by two lengths to claim the second victory of his career.
Due to the calibre of his performances in the opening two races, Barney Roy was touted as one of the horses that could challenge Churchill at Newmarket. However, he could not muster the pace to match the Bay Colt down the stretch as O’Brien’s charge was able to secure the narrow win.
Although Barney Roy was defeated by Churchill, the slim margin of his loss would have given Hannon and jockey James Doyle confidence that could close the gap in the next meeting. Hannon’s father Richard was a two-time winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes – as a result there was no finer team to get the horse into gear for the rigours of the meet.
With six weeks to recover from his exploits at Newmarket, missing the Irish Guineas along with The Derby at Epsom, Barney Roy was in prime condition whereas Churchill had competed at Curragh. The time away from the course appeared to knock Barney Roy out of rhythm in the early stages as he had an awkward start to the meet.
He recovered quickly and matched the pace of the pack through the middle of the race before he made his charge ahead of the final furlong. The three-year-old upped the ante to surge down the final stretch to beat out Lancaster Bomber by one length, with Thunder Snow narrowly behind. Churchill was well off the pace, finishing in fourth, highlighting the quality of Barney’s Roy’s display.
After defeating the favourite for the race with such ease, Hannon and Doyle will be confident that the Bay Colt can rise to the occasion once more later in the season when he competes at Goodwood.
Ribchester’s win at the Queen Anne Stakes has seen his odds fall dramatically for the Sussex Stakes. The Irish horse has more experience than the duo that competed at the St James’s Palace Stakes with 12 races under his belt in his three-year career.
The Bay Colt made his debut in 2015 at the Maiden Stakes in Doncaster, where he competed well, but finished narrowly behind the winner Melabi by three-quarters of a length.
He suffered the same fate in his second outing at the Gimcrack Stakes, although he was considered a rank outsider. Richard Fahey’s charge put in another good performance, but he finished off the pace of Ajaya, who claimed victory by one-and-three-quarter lengths.
Ribchester did make his breakthrough at the Reef Stakes claiming victory by one-and-a-quarter lengths, rising to the occasion after being named as the favourite for the race.
In his first appearance at Newmarket, he was unable to match the pace of Galileo Gold as he just lacked the pace down the final stretch to win the 2000 Guineas. However, in his opening outing at Ascot he proved his quality with a fine performance, winning the Jersey Stakes in a talented field by a comfortable margin.
Ribchester was tested once again at Goodwood as he competed in the 2016 Sussex Stakes. The Gurkha and Galileo Gold’s presence highlighted the talent of the field that the Bay Colt was competing against. Fahey’s charge ran an impressive out as he matched the pace of the leading group throughout before they made their charge down the stretch.
However, The Gurkha did just enough to see off Galileo Gold and Ribchester, with the latter finishing only a short head behind the winner.
The four-year-old returned to winning ways at the Jacques Le Marois Group 1 in Deauville, defeating Galileo Gold in the process. Fahey hailed the triumph as the “biggest win” of his career as he edged out Vadamos down the final furlong with a strong surge to the finish, winning by half a length.
Ribchester was unable to capitalise on his form towards the end of the season as he finished second at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, despite another good run. Fatigue appeared to cause issues in the final throes of the meet as he just lacked the clinical edge needed to beat out Minding.
On his return to action at the start of 2017 in Meydan, he could muster only a third-place finish behind Vivlos and Heshem even though he was considered one of the leading contenders to take the crown.
Fahey and jockey William Buick ensured there would be a response to the disappointment at the Lockinge Stakes in Newburg. The Godolphin-owned horse was pitted against his old foe Galileo Gold and the two competitors duelled it out at the front of the pack for the majority of the meet.
Buick upped the ante in the closing stages and the Irish horse responded with a surge of speed that his rival could not match – allowing him to canter to the victory with relative ease, while Galileo Gold fell back and could only claim fourth place.
The stage was set for his return to Ascot and Fahey’s charge responded to his favourite tag with a complete performance. He matched the pace of the early leaders, settling into a rhythm before he made his move one furlong out. No competitor could match his speed to put forward a challenge, allowing him to secure the crown.
Ribchester and his team will now be determined to return to the Sussex Stakes and right wrongs from last term, although it will take another complete performance to beat out two strong competitors in Churchill and Barney Roy, who are looking to forge their own legacies.